Must Read: University Ex-Admin Alleges She Was Pressured to File False Harassment Claim Against Faculty Critic

 

Ever since FIRE launched its Stand Up For Speech Litigation Project last summer, I have been telling everyone to keep an eye on the Chicago State University case. And last week, we were able to learn a little more about why the Chicago State administration needs more public scrutiny. As the Chicago Tribune reports:

The president of Chicago State University tried to pressure a high level administrator to file false claims of sexual harassment against an outspoken professor to help the college try to silence him, according to court documents filed Thursday as part of an ongoing lawsuit. In a sworn statement, LaShondra Peebles, the college’s former interim vice president of enrollment and student affairs, said before she was fired that President Wayne Watson pushed her to accuse Phillip Beverly of sexual harassment, though Peebles said she was never harassed.

As you may remember, Chicago State University made it onto FIRE’s “worst” list earlier this month. The list provided a quick recap of what occurred prior to Peebles’s statement:

Two professors have sued Chicago State University (CSU) as part of FIRE’s Stand Up for Speech Litigation Project for attempting to censor their blog, CSU Faculty Voice, which is highly critical of CSU’s administration. CSU’s attempts to silence the two professors have been heavy-handed and contrived and include disciplinary charges for “cyber-bullying” based on a two-minute face-to-face conversation. That’s not all, however: Two students filed a lawsuit against CSU alleging that the university shut down the independent student newspaper, invalidated their election to the student government, and ultimately expelled one of them, all as part of a campaign to stop them from drawing attention to corruption within the administration.

But nothing I can say compares to simply reading LaShondra Peebles’s sworn statement. Take the time to read the whole thing (it’s only 8 pages), and tell a friend. And, most of all, keep your eyes on Chicago!

There are 9 comments.

  1. Merina Smith Inactive

    Greg, do you have opinions about the Marquette case? There was some bad behavior all around in that one, but I still think the professor was wronged. What do you think

    • #1
    • March 23, 2015, at 10:12 AM PDT
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  2. Greg Lukianoff Contributor
    Greg Lukianoff Post author

    Yes! We covered that case and are continuing to follow it closely. Check out my recent Ricochet post on Marquette which is full of links to FIRE’s coverage: https://ricochet.com/fires-worst-free-speech-spotlight-marquette-university/

    • #2
    • March 23, 2015, at 10:31 AM PDT
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  3. Kristian Stout Inactive

    Reading the statement, I am shocked by how much effort went into railroading one professor. It’s incredibly brazen as well – how could a senior administrator involve so many people in an obviously fabricated scheme to oust the teacher and not expect that the information would come out.

    • #3
    • March 23, 2015, at 11:00 AM PDT
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  4. Larry3435 Member

    If it was someplace other than Chicago, I would have been hoping for criminal charges to be filed. Maybe Eric Holder’s Justice Department will investigate the civil rights violation.

    Excuse me now, I think I just injured myself laughing at that thought. Eric Holder’s Justice Department… Oh, my.

    • #4
    • March 23, 2015, at 12:34 PM PDT
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  5. Greg Lukianoff Contributor
    Greg Lukianoff Post author

    Kristian Stout:Reading the statement, I am shocked by how much effort went into railroading one professor. It’s incredibly brazen as well – how could a senior administrator involve so many people in an obviously fabricated scheme to oust the teacher and not expect that the information would come out.

    It, in fact, reminds me of this epic, classic and, amazingly, still on-going FIRE case: http://www.thefire.org/cases/valdosta-state-university-student-expelled-for-peacefully-protesting-parking-garages/

    • #5
    • March 23, 2015, at 3:43 PM PDT
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  6. Kristian Stout Inactive

    Greg Lukianoff:

    Kristian Stout:Reading the statement, I am shocked by how much effort went into railroading one professor. It’s incredibly brazen as well – how could a senior administrator involve so many people in an obviously fabricated scheme to oust the teacher and not expect that the information would come out.

    It, in fact, reminds me of this epic, classic and, amazingly, still on-going FIRE case: http://www.thefire.org/cases/valdosta-state-university-student-expelled-for-peacefully-protesting-parking-garages/

    I can’t believe the Barnes case is still ongoing! I love point I(B) of the Appellant’s brief: “The District Court Erroneously Decided Summary Judgment Because it Misread the Complaint.” I would say so.

    It’s surprising that the district court missed the point so badly in all of the briefing on the issues. For instance:

    As discussed above … Barnes’s complaint alleges that all of the individual defendants participated in a conspiracy to retaliate against Barnes for exercising his rights under the First Amendment. In order to prevail on such claim of conspiracy, Barnes has the burden of proving that each of the defendants conspired by reaching an agreement with someone else to retaliate against him.

    OK … so that’s odd, because, if I recall correctly, there was plenty of evidence in the record to support that Zaccari was working with others to force Barnes out of school. However, even with that said, the district court clearly took a strange and pinched reading of the complaint. The complaint said:

    73. Defendants actions in conspiring to expel Barnes from VSU were taken in retaliation for Barnes s exercise of his First Amendment freedoms.

    However, the heading of the section doesn’t indicate it is for a conspiracy claim, even though the word “conspiring” appears in ¶73. Further, ¶¶74 & 75 say

    74. Defendants stated reasons for expelling Barnes from VSU were pretextual and had no rational basis …

    75. Because the law is clearly established in this area, and because Defendants had (and have) fair warning that expelling a student from a public university in retaliation for the exercise of First Amendment freedoms is unconstitutional, Defendants are liable, and the individual Defendants are liable in their official capacities, for violating Barnes’s First Amendment rights.

    Technically there is a small amount of ambiguity in the phrasing of the claim in ¶73. However, the whole section taken together is clearly a general First Amendment violation claim. If the court was really hung up on the conspiracy, they should have rejected the initial pleadings as insufficient rather than dismissing the entire claim, which was clearly not limited to a conspiracy claim, on a motion to dismiss.

    Its great that the case didn’t end there. Good luck with it!

    • #6
    • March 23, 2015, at 5:00 PM PDT
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  7. Greg Lukianoff Contributor
    Greg Lukianoff Post author

    Thanks Kristian! We even made this video about it right before HD was a thing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZVOF1eM2gL8 And a big plus? I look like a 12 year old!

    • #7
    • March 23, 2015, at 5:21 PM PDT
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  8. John Paul Inactive

    I read Ms. Peebles’ statement. I am dismayed, but not shocked. I heartily recommend Greg Lukianoff’s excellent book, Unlearning Liberty: Campus Censorship And The End Of American Debate to everyone. The content of the book is bracing and is a call to stand up for freedom of speech, association, and conscience.

    I am truly grateful for FIRE’s defense of the First Amendment.

    • #8
    • March 23, 2015, at 7:36 PM PDT
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  9. Greg Lukianoff Contributor
    Greg Lukianoff Post author

    John Paul:I read Ms. Peebles’ statement. I am dismayed, but not shocked. I heartily recommend Greg Lukianoff’s excellent book, Unlearning Liberty: Campus Censorship And The End Of American Debate to everyone. The content of the book is bracing and is a call to stand up for freedom of speech, association, and conscience.

    I am truly grateful for FIRE’s defense of the First Amendment.

    Thanks John and, as I always have to pitch, all author’s royalties from Unlearning Liberty go to FIRE and Amazon makes an extra little reward to FIRE if people use this link: http://fir.ee/M7g3Hi. Thanks for spreading the word, the more people who know what is happening on campus, the better, and FIRE needs all the help it can get!

    • #9
    • March 24, 2015, at 6:23 AM PDT
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