DePaul students claim victory, Hill vows to continue writing


Xavier Ortega / The DePaulia

Students watch a speech at the pit in the Schmidt Academic Center in Lincoln Park.

On the 23rd day of Ramadan, students sat in the Schmitt Academic Center pit listening to speeches during a celebratory iftar dinner — speeches questioning how to support students that feel unsafe on campus, DePaul’s need for reform and how they felt their activism led to DePaul professor Jason Hill’s censure. But for the wider university community, it remains unclear whether Hill was officially censured and condemned by DePaul’s administration. 

“It was us saying, ‘This is a really big win for us and we’re not stopping here,’” said junior Rifqa Falaneh, a board member of Students for Justice in Palestine and one of the organizers of the student coalition against Hill, which sponsored the May 28 iftar dinner.

What the group says is a win came in the form of an email statement sent to the DePaul community by Acting Provost Salma Ghanem on May 15. The statement reads in part that “professor Hill’s views are his own and do not represent the views of the university.”

Ghanem’s email statement comes after DePaul’s Faculty Council passed a resolution May 1 condemning the contents of Hill’s article in The Federalist calling for the Israeli annexation of the Palestinian West Bank, which students and professors have called equivalent to ethnic cleansing.

“I won’t be silenced,” Hill said in a phone interview with The DePaulia. “I won’t be stopped, I will continue writing my op-ed pieces, I will continue pursuing my very ambitious scholarly works.

“So they can issue formal censures or informal censures or whatever they want to call it,” Hill said. “It will not stop me and it will not prohibit me from expressing my freedom of speech in any way or form.”

Whether the May 15 email statement from Ghanem qualifies as an official condemnation from DePaul remains a matter of confusion for members of the community.

 Quinn Mulroy, a member of DePaul Socialists and an organizer with the student coalition, said, “I think that’s as close as we’re going to get to an official condemnation from the university.”

“So the president has not formally censured me,” Hill said, “but there have been two organs within the university, the provost and Faculty Council, which have made statements that feels [sic] to me very much like a formal censure.”

When asked whether Hill has been formally censured by the university, Ghanem responded in a phone interview by saying, “I don’t even know what you mean by that question.”

On May 13, Ghanem and the dean of the College of Liberal Arts met with organizers from the student coalition, including Falaneh and Mulroy. According to Falaneh, the students expressed their full list of demands to the administrators, including formal censure of Hill.

“But a censure, I don’t really know what it means,” Ghanem said. “I don’t even know what they mean. I think the meeting went really well with the students. I think the students had the right to be heard. I was very impressed with the students.

“We definitely did mention it in the meeting and went over exactly what we meant by ‘censure,’” Falaneh said. “It was kind of like we had to go over that it’s not censoring, it’s censuring. She more so understood it when we put it in those terms.”

While Falaneh and Mulroy are pleased with Ghanem’s statement, they have more long-term demands of the university going forward. One of these demands is that none of Hill’s courses should be mandatory for students.

“He shouldn’t be the only option that students have,” said Falaneh.

For now, it seems like the students are finding success on this issue. According to Hill, a capstone course he was scheduled to teach in the fall has already been canceled.

“I think because students, from what I’ve heard, have been reporting that they do not want to take [my] classes,” Hill said. “One of my senior capstone classes and that class has been cancelled.”

Another demand from students is that all faculty, including Hill, be required to participate in racial sensitivity training as part of annual compliance training.

“I most certainly will not be attending a racial sensitivity training workshop,” said Hill. “Emphatically not. You can quote me on that, because I’m not a racist, and I think it’s a completely inappropriate, outrageous, almost mysterious claim.”

In Ghanem’s statement, she also mentions that “the article by Professor Hill has also brought out the other extreme and emboldened some to hide behind the cloak of social media anonymity and attack our students and faculty on the Internet.”

According to Falaneh, student organizations have been receiving threats over Twitter.

One tweet Falaneh identified to The DePaulia as a threat reads, “REAL Americans support Prof Jason Hill. We know that SJP is nothing but a racist, terrorism-supporting organization, and we look forward to new laws that put SJP in the same category as Hamas, Hezbullah, Nazis and other vermin.”

After reading Ghanem’s statement, Hill said he hadn’t heard of any harassing messages on social media towards the organizers. “I have no idea what she’s talking about,” Hill said. “I can only speak to the harassment that I have faced and the harassment that certain Jewish students have expressed to me privately.”

“I can’t speak to online harassment,” Hill said. “My physical safety was threatened on campus.”

“I think it’s very ironic what he’s saying,” Falaneh said. “He’s kind of making us, the students at DePaul, the ones who are inciting this violence, whereas he’s the one who published this article, and that whole article is inciting ethnic violence and inciting genocide.”

The same day that students staged an anti-hate rally outside Arts and Letters Hall to support students that felt unsafe, Hill appeared on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News show to discuss the protests.

“Who was made to feel unsafe here?” Hill told The DePaulia. “The professor who wrote an article and needed [police] protection, or the students who claimed to feel unsafe but were free to roam around campus and take over buildings with impunity?”

“Right after that interview, we got a bunch of threats on our social media outlets,” Falaneh said.

For now, Falaneh and Mulroy will continue organizing with the student coalition to pursue their long-term demands, such as mandatory racial sensitivity training for all faculty and the clear availability of student resources for reporting discrimination in the classroom.

“Let’s recognize this win and keep going,” Falaneh said.

“I think they’re missing one important fact,” Hill said. “Whatever they’re taking offense to, that’s protected by free speech. I think this is what’s missing.”