Students lead the conversation at DePaul Listens

Faculty gave students a space to voice their concerns with the university, including the recent Jason Hill decision.


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Jason Hill appearing on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News show in 2018.

DePaul students got a chance to publicly address their concerns with the university at DePaul Speaks on Wednesday.

The event was organized by Matthew Girson, a professor of art, media and design. Girson was prompted to organize the event following the scandal surrounding Jason Hill’s article in The Federalist, which was deemed by many to be Islamophobic and in support of ethnic cleansing. 

Girson felt the response of the university was less than sufficient and did very little to address the concerns of students.

“Students have been saying they’re not being heard by the administration,” Girson said. “Jason Hill published [the article] and [President Esteban] offered a response which was all about protecting Jason and not acknowledging at all the students who feel threatened or vulnerable by Jason’s words.” 

The university publicly responded to the situation by way of an email from President Esteban. The email took a more neutral position, reading, “Should faculty be allowed to express a provocative position? The short answer is yes. Yet, DePaul aspires to be a community marked by mutual respect, always aware of the potential impact of our words and actions. Both of these outcomes are achievable.”

This response angered many students, who felt that the university was not adequately responding to the situation and that the administration chose to protect Hill over students. Students called for the university to condemn Hill, and several protests were held regarding Hill’s article.

In turn, Hill went on Fox News’ “Tucker Carlson Tonight” criticizing the controversy, claiming that students and faculty were attempting to censor him and stated, “I will not be silenced.” Carlson weighed in on the issue during the broadcast, referring to the protesting students as “hysterical children.”

Hill’s article was ultimately condemned by the university, but he was not censured on the basis of free speech. Hill remains a tenured professor at DePaul, despite the scandal.

Girson felt the situation was worsened after the forum held on the controversy, in which free speech was a central topic. 

“The provost then hosted a panel discussion, which was all faculty sitting on a stage sharing their insights and things, but it was never about listening to the students,” Girson said. “As soon as it ended and they opened it up for questions, the students started asking questions for the president, who had already left. He wasn’t there to hear them.”

Girson tried to get traction for the event by sending invites out to colleagues at the university, with “around 20 faculty and three staff” attending to hear the concerns of students. President Esteban was not invited to attend the event, nor were any other administrators. 

Many of the students who attended expressed concerns about Hill’s article and the university’s failure to adequately respond to the situation.

“The students [who were there] are very active, very vocal, and some of them, at least one of them, is in a class that Jason Hill is teaching now, and other students have taken him previously,” Girson said.

In order to respect the privacy of those in attendance, Girson chose not to name any of the students who spoke at the event. 

Girson hopes that when similar scandals occur, students will have a better chance to have their voices heard by the university. 

“This event sprang up as a reactionary measure because of limitations in the communications [to what was happening] in the university,” Girson said. “What I would love to be able to do, and I’m not sure what the mechanism would be, is to set these things up as regular check-ins, and that way, when something flares up again in the future, that we’re already on the same page and ready to address the situation.”