UPDATE: Suspended professor who was forced to take diversity training sues university

Jason Kilborn has been the subject of backlash after using redacted words in a test question about employment discrimination.

After being suspended and forced to undergo diversity training, Kilborn has filed a lawsuit against the school.

A professor who was targeted and suspended after using censored language in a test question to make an example of employment discrimination just filed a First Amendment lawsuit against the University of Illinois Chicago (UIC).

The controversy began in 2020 when Jason Kilborn, a law professor at UIC, posed a hypothetical question in an exam surrounding illegal discrimination in the workplace. The question referenced anti-black and anti-women slurs, but were not fully spelled out. Instead, they were simply displayed by their first letters, “n” and “b.” 

Despite keeping the words censored, a petition was launched against Kilborn condemning him for the contents in question. A short time after, UIC suspended Kilborn and announced he would be forced to take a five-week diversity training course in order to return to teaching. 

Yesterday, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) announced their partnership with Kilborn in a First Amendment lawsuit against the school. In the announcement, they claim that the diversity training Kilborn was subjected to “uses the exact same redacted slur in the training materials.”

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“The only thing that will hold UIC accountable for its unconstitutional actions is a lawsuit,” Kilborn stated. “FIRE’s Faculty Legal Defense Fund gave me the strong medicine of real legal action, and UIC has given me no choice but to use it.” 

Kilborn is represented by Wayne Giampietro, one of FIRE’s defense attorneys. 

The lawsuit details that when Kilborn was called into a dean’s meeting following student complaints about the question, he voluntarily sent an apology letter to his upset students. But nonetheless, the professor was soon placed on “indefinite administrative leave” and was barred from stepping foot on campus and participating in remote school activities.

A black colleague suggested Kilborn speak with a member of the Black Law Students Association regarding the incident, to which Kilborn agreed. The meeting allegedly went on for four hours.

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The following Monday, One of the students who had also met with Kilborn, met with the dean -- along with several other students -- and falsely claimed “that [Kilborn] had exclaimed that he ‘was feeling homicidal or ’would become homicidal,’” the lawsuit states. This prompted the dean and other defendants to invoke UIC’s Violence Prevention Plan to summon a BTAT (Behavioral Threat Assessment Team). 

”Without communicating with [Kilborn] or any other person with firsthand knowledge,” the lawsuit continues, “the BTAT authorized the law school dean to take the most extreme measures.” 

The lawsuit claims for counts of illegal misconduct by the University, including First, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendment violations, a violation of UIC statutes, and a violation of Illinois’ Violence Prevention Plan. 

Campus Reform contacted Kilborn, UIC, and FIRE for comment on the legal challenge. This article will be updated accordingly.

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