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Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Terry Smith, Distinguished Research Professor Facing Termination For Bullying Other Faculty Of Color, Sues DePaul For Discrimination

SmithABA Journal, DePaul Law Prof Who Defended Colleague in N-Word Controversy Sues School For Alleged Bias:

An African-American professor at DePaul University's College of Law is back in the news after coming to the defense of a white colleague over his controversial use of the N-word in class.

Terry Smith had backed Donald Hermannthe subject of student complaints for using the racial slur in a criminal law hypothetical about a white supremacist.

Smith told the Chicago Sun-Times that Hermann’s use of the N-word “was not gratuitous,” and that Hermann was perhaps the most progressive of his white colleagues.

Smith’s regard for Hermann does not extend to the law school and its dean. In a civil rights lawsuit filed last Wednesday in Chicago federal court, Smith claims the school retaliated against him because of his advocacy for racial diversity at the school. Among the defendants is law dean Jennifer Rosato Perea, Law360 reports in an article noted by Above the Law.

“For the better part of a decade,” the suit said, “Professor Smith has complained about an environment at the law school that is hostile to him. This has caused faculty to retaliate by freezing him out of the law school’s power structure.”

Law360, DePaul Law Prof Says Fighting Racism Hurt His Career:

A DePaul University College of Law professor who is facing termination from the school hit DePaul with a civil rights lawsuit Wednesday, detailing allegations that DePaul's law school is a hostile and racist environment for himself and other faculty of color as well as for black students.

Terry Smith, who holds the title "Distinguished Research Professor of Law" at DePaul, alleged in his Wednesday complaint that DePaul University as a whole, along with College of Law Dean Jennifer Rosato Perea and former DePaul President Reverend Dennis Holtschneider, engendered and continue to engender racism at the institution, which has led to disciplinary actions against him. 

In his seven-count complaint, Smith alleges he has been repeatedly blocked from university leadership in retaliation for speaking up for other faculty and students of color and generally being outspoken about racial issues. In his complaint, Smith laid out several situations in which he alleged he was retaliated against for his activism within the law school and university since his hiring in 2010. Smith now faces termination.

"As a result of his participation in these causes and his association with Professor Sumi Cho (a tenured full professor of Asian descent at the law school who also advocates for racial diversity and who opposes discriminatory practices at the law school and DePaul generally), he has suffered retaliation by administrators and faculty at the law school and at DePaul more broadly," the complaint said. "Manifestations of this backlash include systemic and ongoing exclusion from committee and administrative posts both within the law school and the broader university [and] professional ostracization by his colleagues at the law school."

Most recently, Rosato Perea investigated claims of faculty handbook violations after a particularly tumultuous vote on tenure within the law school. After Smith had openly campaigned against the tenure of two fellow professors — who ultimately received tenure anyway — Rosato Perea allegedly opened an investigation into bullying and discrimination, which Smith took to mean an investigation into his behavior.

"On Nov. 16, 2017, after the conclusion of her so-called 'investigation,' Dean Rosato issued a statement of charges ... against Professor Smith, which concluded that Professor Smith had, indeed, engaged in 'misconduct' in violation of the handbook by engaging in 'a pattern of bullying that rises to the level of extreme intimidation and aggression,'" the complaint said.

Smith's complaint characterizes the disciplinary allegations against him as having "attempted to destroy the careers of Professors [Julie] Lawton and [Daniel] Morales — both faculty of color — by opposing their applications for tenure for reasons having to do with racial politics," the suit said. The complaint said Smith's understanding of the dean's interpretation for his motives opposing tenure for Lawton and Morales was "that Professors Lawton and Morales do not subscribe to Professor Smith’s views on race or the existence of institutional racism at the law school," the complaint said.

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