OPINION: 8 weeks later: how the student coalition to #CensureHill won


Courtesy of Rifqa Falaneh

Rifqa Falaneh (second from the left) speaks with other student coalition organizers against Professor Jason Hill on her Radio DePaul show “Fresh Eyes.”

This quarter at DePaul has been an absolute mess, to say the least. At the same time, however, it has also been one of immense growth and community. 

Earlier this quarter, a coalition of student organizations released a statement condemning Professor Jason D. Hill for his pattern of racist, anti-Palestinian, xenophobic, sexist and Islamophobic statements.

Hill has called Middle Eastern and Muslim people “uncivilized,” “barbaric” and “primitive” in his tweets. He has also attacked the Black Lives Matter movement, and in an article for The Federalist, openly called for the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians. So, as you can see, he’s an overall problematic dude caught while holding a position of power. Don’t believe me? Just scroll through his Twitter to see for yourself. 

From the start, this campaign has caught widespread attention not only from DePaul’s campus, but also from local, national and international media as well. Moreover, it has garnered support through a petition of more than 3,400 signatures and the coalition hosted a rally of over 200 students, faculty and others to pressure DePaul’s administration to censure Hill and have him commit to racial sensitivity training.

Many have tried to misconstrue this message under the guise of academic freedom and the whole free speech debate, and it’s simply ridiculous. The overall message from students is simple: Condemn hate speech and create a safe environment on campus. As a DePaul student myself, I am constantly reminded of the Vincentian mission, but with this situation, DePaul was hesitant in upholding their Vincentian values.  As students maintained the pressure and continued to mobilize and organize for their demands, the administration had no choice but to confront this issue. 

Courtesy of Rifqa Falaneh
Signs hanging on the stairwell of Arts and Letters Hall during an April 23 “Dump Hill” protest.

This resulted in a meeting between Acting Provost Salma Ghanem, LAS Dean Guillermo Vasquez de Velasco and leaders of the coalition. The meeting was productive overall and two days following it, Ghanem released a statement condemning Hill. This was a big win for students and, to celebrate, the coalition, with the co-sponsorship from multiple departments, held a celebratory dinner/iftar in the SAC Pit. 

Although Hill was censured, this is just the first step. The coalition is continuing strong and will not stop until their long-term demands are met. This is to ensure that another “Milo incident” doesn’t happen and that DePaul addresses racism and other issues appropriately. 

Hate speech today is very different than hate speech historically and should be treated as a serious offense. In the age of social media, words travel and negatively impact the lives of many. Hate speech is an alarm we cannot afford to snooze or ignore. We must wake up and actively work against it. 

Rifqa Falaneh is a junior majoring in international studies. As a Students for Justice in Palestine board member, she is one of the leading organizers for the student coalition for #CensureHill.