Controversy in Law School is more complex than it appears at first glance


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I spend an unfortunate time Writing about law school professors ’use of the word n. You might think it wouldn’t happen often, but you are very wrong. What about the suspense of misconduct that causes a white law professor to wear the mantle of “academic freedom” and let the whole word fly?

However, when Above the Law received a speech on UIC John Marshall Law Professor Jason Kilburn’s “Dark and Bad Speech on the Civil Procedure Test II” and that the question “contained racial contempt summarized as follows:” no “” b____ “(expressions Cursing African Americans and Women) ““ I fired my keyboard and prepared to go after the professor. ”However, as I delved into the issue, it became clear that a lot was going on.

The petition It is a call to action for the “insensitive and racist content” of the exam, and when I first read the petition, it was my impression that the professor used complete slander on the exam. (And I bet a lot of the other people who read – and maybe signed – believed that too.) But this petition does not “summarize”[]“The exam is presumably – it provides a straightforward quote. By that I mean that the exam did not use the full n word (or the b word for that), choosing instead the euphemism. Which is … the subtle kind of adaptation and awareness of potentially painful racial issues Which people have historically asked when professors claim the right to delete the n-word entirely just because it is an academic environment.

Nobody wants to be in a place where discussion of the way racism shapes the legal system is out of reach. Turn on the news, and it’s pretty clear that white supremacy is far from back and continues to influence the law. Legal education needs to have these challenging discussions, but finding the right balance is essential.

Kilburn provided the following context for the decision to use the question (and notes that he used the same question with euphemism for 10 years without incident):

Work discrimination is among the most common topics in federal civil litigation, and our textbook authors use this context frequently, so it is definitely appropriate contextual. I was also trying to acknowledge the challenges still faced by women of color in the workplace and the important role of civil procedures in discovering and remedying these errors. The only question seems to be whether it has been difficult for me to be specific (in abbreviated form, to avoid using those really horrific words) about what the manager heard of others. I don’t want to make anyone feel needlessly upset during a super-dangerous exam, but I’m amazed at the reaction here for the first time in ten years of administering this very question to completely different classrooms like the ones I sat on this exam in this semester (though That I do not know exactly why the World Health Organization has reacted in this way or why, since no one in leading this campaign against me has attempted to contact me in any way).

As a white person, I can’t tell what it would be like to read a brief form of slander on the exam. According to the Law School Black Law Students’ Union, students who took the exam were bothered by the language:

Here’s BLSA’s full statement on this issue:

Unlike other professors who faced inappropriate language, Kilburn did not rush Metaphor for Academic FreedomOr, he insists he knows what it is Best for students Or file a lawsuit against the College of Law Reverse discrimination (All actual feedback from professors, nach). It looks like he’s really upset about the whole issue, and he apologized for using the abbreviated form of the word on the test (something else specializes in law unknown). He told Kilburn Above the Law:

I am quite willing to accept the responsibility of using context and a brief reference from the first letter to make anyone feel upset – I never did nor want that, I expressed my regret about it, and I learned something valuable here. But the correct way for BLSA and others to respond here is anything other than what they did, and I hope you don’t add to this unnecessary, unwarranted, and unconstructive attack on me. If someone accidentally bumps you on the street and says “Hey, sorry about that” quickly, I hope none of us think the appropriate response is to pounce on that person, hit him ruthlessly, and spread all kinds of insults related to him to his employer and all over the internet. BLSA actively pursued a campaign against me by contacting (1) UIC Central Administration, (2) My Dean, (3) Instagram, (4) LinkedIn, (5) Channel 2 News, and possibly other news outlets as well, and (6) filing a complaint Officially to the Office of Access and Equity. This is the office at UIC that deals with alleged cases of discrimination and harassment. When my dean reminded me that there was something wrong with my question, she suggested the idea of ​​expressing my sorrow to bothering anyone, and the dean put me in contact with OAE to find out their point. A representative from that office was provided with the question and context, and we had a Zoom call that particular evening, in which the rep assured me that I had never done anything wrong, but she endorsed my idea to express regret if I reuse this question to make anyone feel uncomfortable. I did, and we are still …

I love my students – every one of them, and I have done my best to be supportive of the careers of women of color and others. I did my best to use the same reference from the first letter to that word that I see online, including in the comment of people who made it clear that it was completely inappropriate to use the word – and referred to it as a “-word” – again, and that’s exactly what I did . For me to be a kind of insensitive bigot because I used the same reference from the first letter to a horrific word that civil procedures are designed to eradicate and address … damaging the role that law plays in our troubled society and the role that we lawyers must play in eradicating and eliminating it.

The Law School made this statement about the incident:

The Law School recognizes the impact of this problem. Before winter break, Dean Dickerson apologized to students who expressed hurt and distress over the exam question. The School of Law acknowledges that the racist and sexual references on the exam were extremely offensive. Faculty members should avoid potentially harmful or distressing language for students. Those who enjoy academic freedom should always remember their position of authority in our legal education system.

The School of Law is working with UIC’s Office of Access and Equity to conduct a comprehensive review of this issue, and Dean Dickerson and other leaders at Law School and University have scheduled a meeting with student leaders. We remain committed to ensuring that all of our students enjoy a safe and supportive environment and that all members of the law school community adhere to our shared values.

It seemed like an open, honest conversation was exactly what we needed. Whether you thought Kilburn should have included those particular details on the test is a fair question, but he at least tried to be aware of the sensitive nature of the subject and seemed to be committed to a better job.


head shotCatherine Rubino is Senior Editor, Above the Law, and host of The Jabot Podcast. AtL Tips are the best, so please get in touch. Feel free to email to her For any advice, questions or comments and follow it on Twitter (@Catherine 1).


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