University of Illinois (Chicago) Law Professor Sues Over Exam Controversy

We previously discussed the treatment of Professor Jason Kilborn, who was put on indefinite administrative leave after using a censured version of the n-word in an exam question at the University of Illinois Chicago (UIC). He is now suing the school over his treatment, including the required participation in sensitivity training and denial of a standard pay increase for faculty. We discussed today another free speech controversy at University of Illinois (Urbana Champaign) over the student government seeking to bar former Attorney General Jeff Sessions from campus.

Kilborn wrote a Civil Procedure exam based on an employment discrimination hypothetical. Kilborn’s Civil Procedure II exam describing how an employee quit “after she attended a meeting in which other managers expressed their anger at Plaintiff, calling her a ‘n___’ and ‘b___’ [sic].”

The use of the censored references led to a complaint in a letter from the Black Law Students Association and later a petition which called for Kilborn to be stripped of his committee assignments and other reforms. The Petition stated:

The slur shocked students created a momentous distraction and caused unnecessary distress and anxiety for those taking the exam. Considering the subject matter, and the call of the question, the use of the “n____” and “b____” was certainly unwarranted as it did not serve any educational purpose. The question was culturally insensitive and tone-deaf. It lacked basic civility and respect for the student body, especially considering our social justice efforts this year.

The integration of this dark and vile verbiage on a Civil Procedure II exam was inexcusable and appropriate measures of accountability must be executed by the UIC administration.

I previously objected to the measures taken against Professor Kilborn, which I do believe undermine academic freedom. He was suspended and put on administrative leave because of a complaint that in my view was a denial of his pedagogical privileges. The matter could have been investigated further by the university after an initial determination not to change his status. Instead, he was suspended — a decision that clearly will create a chilling effect on other academics at the school.

Kilborn is being represented by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), which announced the First Amendment lawsuit against the school. The lawsuit notes that “This same question had appeared on Plaintiff’s exam in exactly this way for the previous ten years, administered to at least a dozen classes that included numerous Black and other non-white students. No one had ever suggested the question was objectionable.”

It also recounts how he was later told that his suspension was due to a conversation that he had with a member of the Black Students Association:

Plaintiff participated in that conversation which was generally cordial and constructive, and at one point about an hour into the conversation, the student asked why the law school dean had not shown Plaintiff a student petition criticizing his exam question. Plaintiff responded, using the same common metaphorical expression he had used in a similar conversation with his dean days earlier, that perhaps she had not shared the petition with him because she feared that if Plaintiff saw the hateful things said about him in that petition, he might “become homicidal.” The conversation continued with no indication that the student felt in any way distressed or threatened…

It was reported to Plaintiff that on the following Monday, January 11, 2021, several students met (electronically) with the law school dean and other UIC administrators during which meeting the student with whom Plaintiff had spoken misreported that Plaintiff had exclaimed that he “was feeling homicidal” or “would become homicidal.” . 21. The law school dean, along with other defendants, invoked UIC’s Violence Prevention Plan to convene a Behavioral Threat Assessment Team (“BTAT”) to assess this purported “threat” of imminent physical violence. Without communicating with Plaintiff or any other person with firsthand knowledge, the BTAT authorized the law school dean to take the most extreme measures.

When he met with OAE, Plaintiff openly admitted the “become homicidal” comment; at which time Defendant Bills revealed to Plaintiff that this comment was the basis for his summary and previously unexplained “indefinite administrative leave.”

Kilborn was later informed that he was the subject of an investigation into “allegations of race based discrimination and harassment” for allegedly “creat[ing] a racially hostile environment for … non-white students between January, 2020 and January, 2021, particularly during your Civil Procedure II course.”

After concluding that allegations of racial discrimination had not been substantiated, the university found that Plaintiff had nonetheless violated the harassment aspect of UIC policy because his final exam question and his “responses to criticism of the final exam question” had “interfered with Black students’ participation in the University’s academic program and therefore constituted harassing conduct that violates the Policy.”

Besides his suspension and pay raise denial, Kilborn was informed that he

would be subjected to an 8- week diversity course 20 hours of course work, required “self-reflection” papers for each of 5 modules, plus weekly 90-minute sessions with a trainer followed by three more weeks of vaguely described supplemental meetings with this trainer. The trainer would provide “feedback regarding Professor Kilborn’s engagement and commitment to the goals of the program.” Only upon satisfactory completion of this program would Plaintiff be allowed to return to class in Fall, 2022.

The complaint describes a process that lacked specificity and basic due process for a faculty member to be able to understand and to challenge allegations. These lawsuits can play an important role in reinforcing basic fairness in the handling of such allegations.

Here are the four counts and the complaint:

COUNT I Violation of the First and Fourteenth Amendments

COUNT II Violation of University of Illinois Statutes

COUNT III Violation of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments

COUNT IV Violation of the Illinois Violence Prevention Plan

Here is the complaint: Jason-Kilborn-v.-University-of-Illinois-Chicago-—-Complaint1



171 thoughts on “University of Illinois (Chicago) Law Professor Sues Over Exam Controversy”

  1. UIC is public and fully under the unrestricted dominion of the Constitution.

    Freedom of speech shall NOT be infringed or abridged by any means or method, or in any form or fashion.

    That one does not like or enjoy speech, in whole or in part, does not nullify the absolute freedom of speech provided to Americans by the Constitution and Bill of Rights.

    Enough unconstitutional affirmative action, and special and superior treatment of and for piteous, dependent minorities.

    Like the CSA, all citizens are free to secede, understanding that the Constitution, by design, does not prohibit secession, the erroneous opinion of the despot and dictator, Abraham Lincoln notwithstanding.

  2. Indeed, a comment about the Rio N-word is slammed into moderation.

    So much for free speech on a “free speech” blog.

  3. How could a law professor discuss a case in which the n-word was used, if he can’t even mention the censored n-word?

    How are these fragile law students supposed to do battle for their clients in their future career in the law, if a censored word made them crumble?

    Grow. Up.

    1. Karen+S,

      I would call you the C-word to see if you would take offense, but I would be banned from this blog. Instead, I will call you “darling.”

      1. Go for it, Jeff. Follow the lead of Obama’s elegant and refined deputy chief of staff Alyssa Mastromonaco, who just last week used it to describe Kristen Sinema. The old expression used to be he has a mouth like a sailor. But in the spirit of change and gender equality, we’ll say that you have a mouth like a progressive woman. Change. Count me in!

      2. Not much for decorum are you Jeff…..reminds me of exactly why you are just background noise and a waste of bandwidth at the Professor’s Blog.

        1. Ralph,

          Decorum? You have the chutzpah to talk about “decorum” in this cesspool of hate? Don’t make me laugh.

      3. As I understand it, if you are a dyke, it is woke-acceptable to use the C_ _T word…..and you definitely sound like one. You go, gurl!

  4. The slaves, who became illegal aliens subject to immediate compassionate repatriation in 1863, said all they wanted was their freedom.

    Now, the only thing their illegal alien descendants want is unambiguous and incontestable dominion over America, its territory and treasure, oh, and the “cancellation” and removal of Americans.

    Sure. Why not? Give it to them.

  5. EXAMPLES IN PROGRESSIVE COURAGE, 21ST CENTURY EDITION: UIC’s attacks on Professor Kilborn are typical of progressives’ sad, dead-end ideology. Progressive apparatchiks everywhere, at every level, are living in fear of the people. They are terrified they are losing their grip on power, and they don’t know what to do. The latest example?

    ‘Justin Trudeau and family move to secret location as Canada trucker protests spark security fears, report says.’

    1. EPDNYKILSF – He claims the truckers are “fringe”, you would never think that by the support their getting along the way. What did he mean “unacceptable views”, not his??

      To enigma – can you tell us where BLM’s office is apparently according to a reporter it’s not there nor did it exist and again according to reports there’s large sums of donation money unaccountable, something like 90 mil.

      1. BREAKING NEWS: Sources are reporting that members of the Biden regime are in high level talks with their Canadian counterparts to finalize a plan for sending men and material to Ottawa to aid in barricading the Canadian capitol from the Canadian people. The assistance is expected to include National Guard troops, supplies from the US Capitol’s strategic barbed wire reserve, and dismantled sections of the border wall between US and Mexico. The remaining sticking point is the FBI’s reluctance to provide technical assistance staging an insurrection on foreign soil absent sufficient assurances that FBI assets and methods will remain confidential. NPR and CBC are hailing the talks as a the beginning of a new era in US-Canadian cooperation in the fight against terrorism. Administrators at the University of Illinois-Chicago called for the emergency detention of Professor Kilborn, Jonathan Turley of the GWU law school, and other free speech advocates for their role in precipitating the crisis.

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