OPINION: Jason Hill does not speak for DePaul

Controversial remarks on Generation Z directly attack the student body he teaches


Xavier Ortega | The DePaulia

Students protest Professor Jason Hill in May 2019 in response to his controversial statements on Palestine.

I’ve been debating whether or not to respond to Jason Hill’s recent article. It seems everything he publishes is specifically written to provoke outrage and gain him some publicity. However, it’s important that someone call him out for his behavior. His words are damaging, and as a member of the DePaul community, he has a responsibility to consider the effects of his statements.

The article, published on Nov. 8, is an open letter to climate activist Greta Thunberg published through the right-wing site Front Page magazine. Though I do want to stay serious in this piece, if you don’t feel like reading any further, my opinion could probably be summed up as, “Ok, boomer.”

What is initially presented as a piece criticizing young climate activists quickly becomes a tirade against Thunberg’s entire generation, Gen Z, widely agreed to be people ages 7-25.

Halfway through, he switches into a general degradation of all young people. He makes snide remarks about trans and nonbinary people. He does not hold back his opinion that the generation is full of intellectually bankrupt, oversensitive, insular children. He repeatedly insults young people for not being curious or innovative while simultaneously dismissing so many movements supported by youth activists. This is insulting to the student body of DePaul, so many of whom engage in activism and community service, and who care to change our world for the better.

“College students during Vietnam were the ones working to stop that unjust war,” said Brandon Tejeras, president of the DePaul Democrats.

“The DePaul Democrats will stand with Greta and with those who value our planet and who continue to fight against climate injustice.”

This spring, when Hill first came under fire for Islamophobic comments in another article, DePaul’s Office of the President sent out an email stating that the university “will not censure professors for making unpopular statements.” But his articles have exceeded the severity of “unpopular.” Since last spring, Hill has published several articles on various right-wing sites that express Islamophobic, ethno-centrist and transphobic ideas.

Whether or not these statements fall under the umbrella of ‘free speech’ is unclear, but DePaul has no constitutional obligation to keep Hill on the faculty. The mission statement of DePaul University states:

“We form and educate students dedicated to the common good and the service of others, especially to people and communities who suffer from poverty and marginalization … this service [includes] an advocacy for systemic change and social justice.”

When I decided to go to DePaul, I genuinely appreciated this statement. It made me expect respect from the faculty and staff at the school as an LGBTQ student, and that other historically marginalized students would be treated warmly and respectfully. It also clearly advocates for student activism and addresses the need for systemic change to counteract inequality. Despite this, Hill has repeatedly expressed, in his writing and his interviews on Fox News and other right-wing media sources, that he does not share this mission.

It would be one thing if Hill was sharing these thoughts completely independently, but in interviews and articles he is almost always introduced as a “professor at DePaul University,” immediately associating his work with our school.

AP Photo

The university encourages and often rewards professors for being active in public discourse, but this should not be without discretion. Hill’s latest article is simply a summarization of his disdain for social justice and those who stand for it. I don’t know that, at a university that advertises itself as a diverse and supportive community, Hill should continue to be supported by DePaul.

“We don’t believe that Professor Hill’s statements in his articles are reflective of the Vincentian Mission that the university aligns itself with,” said Gisselle Cervantes, president of DePaul’s Student Government Association. “The DePaul Student Government Association stands by the resolution we passed in the spring condemning Jason Hill’s hateful remarks.”

What is the point of our community if professors are free to vilify students instead of fostering innovation and open minds? What is the value of a professor who seems to have such contempt for so many of his students?

Hill is going to continue to write essays that he knows quite well will offend historically marginalized communities, which DePaul University claims to support. 

“Professor Hill’s article is weird, poorly written, poorly argued and totally dishonest, which I’ve come to learn is about par for the course for his writing,” said Scott Paeth, a professor of religious studies specializing in ethics and moral theory. “I’m flummoxed as to how someone producing sub-Limbaugh quality arguments for a rag like Front Page magazine imagines he deserves the respect of anyone at DePaul.”

Stop telling DePaul students, who pay to come to this school, that they should ignore that a professor with national presence who continues to tear them down. Hill is insisting that nearly all of his students — mostly Gen Z at this point — need to sit down and shut up.

Freedom of speech is supposed to allow people to share their political and religious views without being persecuted by the government; it does not allow professors to unabashedly hate on their students.

Why do we continue to include Jason Hill in our community when he seems to be actively antagonizing its members? I ask only that we consider this when thinking about who we as an institution employ. I do not believe we should silence all faculty who people disagree with; we wouldn’t have much of a university if that were the case. I am asking that we take a critical look at whether or not certain voices are more damaging than constructive.