DeJohn vs. Temple U free speech case

Posted in the Wyncote Forum

Christian DeJohn

AOL

#1 Sep 29, 2007
Called to active duty after September 11, 2001, when Christian DeJohn interrupted his graduate studies to serve in Bosnia, he was sent invites to protests sponsored by Temple’s History Dept. When he objected, Temple retaliated. Talk show Radio Free Penn State:“While serving our country abroad, DeJohn-- who had established himself as a student in good academic standing before he was deployed-- was marginalized and maligned as a serviceman for disagreeing with some of his professors’ anti-war views.”

Temple’s ongoing retaliation, ignored by the media: welcoming him home with a form letter expelling him, destroying his credit by falsely reporting his graduation, delaying his graduation by refusing to evaluate his MA thesis, contacting “about a dozen” potential employers to sabotage his job search, threatening to expel him for bringing a civil rights suit.

Defendant Professor Gregory Urwin’s response to DeJohn’s free speech concerns? That veterans are “mentally imbalanced” from being “trained to kill.” Urwin has stooped so low as to compare DeJohn (a decorated, disabled Army veteran) to the Virginia Tech mass murderer.

Defendant Professor Richard Immerman, History Dept. chair, says he didn’t help because his only duty is to see that profs return library books. He’s written of his hope that DeJohn will “self-destruct,” while a Temple witness wrote that DeJohn “should be dealt with in the Sicilian manner;” i.e., murdered.

When DeJohn testified before the PA Academic Freedom hearings in 2006, Temple Pres. David Adamany- though DeJohn asked for his help- denied any knowledge:“If students were going to complain about this I would know it but I just do not know of any retaliation. I would be upset if intimidation was going on.” Adamany has never been held accountable for his untruth, but when the controversy led to Temple Trustees adopting a new policy, the Washington Times wrote that for the academic freedom movement, this was “the biggest victory in its three-year history.”

DeJohn brought suit in Federal court for Temple’s violations of his and other students’ rights. While claiming Temple’s speech code is not unconstitutional, Temple attorney Joe Tucker (who insists “This case has nothing to do with DeJohn’s First Amendment rights”) scrapped and rewrote it on the eve of a crucial deadline. At one point Temple’s “defense” was that they had no idea how their own policy appeared on Temple’s official websites.

In March 2007 a Federal judge ruled in DeJohn’s favor, issuing a permanent injunction against Temple for violating the First Amendment. Center For Academic Freedom senior counsel David French wrote,“Every Temple student enjoys greater free speech rights as a result of Christian DeJohn’s stand.” This historic free speech victory has been ignored by the media.

Though DeJohn has a 3.2 (B plus) GPA, Temple attorney Tucker, trying to deflect attention from the bedrock 1st First Amendment issues involved, refers to him in The Chronicle of Higher Education as “a marginal learner, barely passing.” A decorated, disabled Army veteran who has risked his life overseas to defend the civil rights of foreigners through service on five continents is now being denied the most basic Constitutional rights in Philadelphia- the "cradle of democracy."
The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education writes,“While taking a stand for free speech is vital for the health of our democracy, doing so often entails untold costs, as Christian’s story demonstrates all too clearly. That’s why it’s crucial to remember that when courts consider the constitutionality of speech codes on campus, every discussion of principle and precedent has a tremendous impact on the daily lives of real students.”

DeJohn has faith that if his story can get out to average Americans, justice will be served through the court of public opinion.

Christian DeJohn may be contacted at: TankerCMD@aol.com
Christian DeJohn

Drexel Hill, PA

#2 Apr 12, 2008
Temple University's Civil Rights Violations Are A Disgrace. Chris Freind, Philadelphia Bulletin
White males aren't a protected class under the Constitution, and veterans don't have First Amendment rights...their concerns should be ignored because they're "mentally unstable" from being "trained to kill." Disagreeing with one's professors can result in insults such as "gnat," "liar," and "fool." As far as academic freedom of speech, forget it. Welcome to taxpayer-funded Temple U. Temple finds itself the center of a firestorm in an appalling case of squashed academic freedoms and restricted First Amendment rights. The victim of Temple's suffocating speech code is a grad student simply trying to earn an MA in history. He's also one of our ultimate defenders of freedom, a decorated SGT in the PA National Guard. This man's civil rights were violated not overseas in a hostile fire zone but right here in Phila: birthplace of the nation, cradle of liberty. How's that for irony? But since this is still the USA, and PC profs don't rule the day, this grave injustice is on track to be rectified. All it took was a huge dose of courage. Meet Sgt. Christian DeJohn. DeJohn was called to active duty by the Army after the Sept. 11 attacks while at Temple grad school. When he served in Bosnia, Temple did the unconscionable and sent him invitations to weekly "Dissent in America" anti-war "teach-ins" sponsored by Temple professors. Sgt. DeJohn objected and immediately became the target of retribution and retaliation that continues to this day. What did Temple do? Dismissed him from the school, denied guidance and advice during his thesis work, obstructed his graduation, contacted potential employers to sabotage his job search, and even destroyed his credit by falsely reporting that he had graduated. This led to his testimony to the PA Select Committee on Academic Freedom, which brought about reform called "the biggest victory in the history of the academic freedom movement." Then he filed a federal civil rights lawsuit, challenging the school's "speech codes" through which Temple restricts and denies students' First Amendment rights. Sgt. DeJohn won. A federal judge issued a permanent injunction against Temple. With its tail between its legs, Temple is appealing. Arguments were heard April 10 at the Federal Court of Appeals in Philadelphia. What's really troubling in this whole affair is that Temple, an institution of higher learning, is supposed to be run by intelligent, objective people. Yet they actually argued in court that Sgt. DeJohn is a "marginal learner, barely passing-" knowing full well that he had a 3.2 GPA and never got a grade lower than B-minus. When called on this, Temple attorney Joe tucker referenced a failing grade DeJohn received in high school. Go figure. In a display of uncommon maturity, history department chair Richard Immerman wrote of his hope that DeJohn will "self-destruct." In his "professional" critique of DeJohn's 300-page thesis, Prof. Gregory Urwin wrote abusive comments such as these: "You use juvenile argumentation"; "a monotonous agony"; Sgt. DeJohn sounded like a "crackpot"; and the thesis came across as a "comic book for five-year-olds." If that's not constructive criticism fostered in an open atmosphere conducive to learning, I don't know what is. Interestingly, DeJohn's fight for academic freedom is not a partisan one; he has allies across the spectrum who have filed amicus briefs with the court, from the ACLU and Feminists for Freedom of Expression to the Alliance Defense Fund and the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. And Temple's allies? None. Nada. When Sgt. DeJohn wins, his efforts and courage in the face of fire both at home and abroad will result in a landmark case for the academic freedom movement. Sir Edmund Burke stated, "All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing." Thanks to people like SGT DeJohn, such evil is being vanquished, and he deserves our salute.
Daryl

Hackensack, NJ

#3 Sep 1, 2009
As a Temple MA Alumni I was disturbed, but not surprised by Sgt. Christian DeJohn's story. Your reporting on the situation however has much to be desired. First of all, with a 3.2 GPA and a B- he is barely passing. Not to burst your balloon but earning a graduate degree is a lot harder than a BA. In graduate school a 3.2 is nothing special considering you have to have at least a 3.0 to earn a Masters. Second, a C+ is failing at the graduate level so a B- is, as Temple stated, barely passing. Moving on. For argument sake, it is disingenuous to say, "Temple did the unconscionable and sent him invitations to weekly" to the anti-war protests if only one professor sent them. I was at Temple immediately after 9/11 working on my masters and was never once invited by the University to any anti-war protests, so it would be a stretch to say that the University sent the e-mails when only one person was responsible. As for his dismissal from school; you never say why they dismissed him from school. I would imagine that more than a few B minuses would be the cause since at the graduate level you are only allowed 2 before you are dismissed, but I guess that part of your academic exorcise got skipped. Regarding his denial of counseling during his thesis. The student to teacher ratio is not 1:1 so the Sgt. must wait like everyone else. I hated going to my adviser and could never get a hold of him, so I did the next best thing and talked to the professors with whom I had a better working relationship. In the real world you have to do these things. Obstructed graduation...what did they do, put a blockade on the stage? He's a soldier, jump over it! this was one fo my favorites, Temple or any University can't destroy your credit by reporting that you graduated. Not paying your student loans will destroy your credit. Even without a masters degree you should be able to figure that one out. Finally, in the professional world, people can say whatever they want about you to potential employers. Most people develop relationships so that they can count on them to give glowing references when needed. If the Sgt. made a bad impression on his professors (for whatever reason) that's his fault and is in now way a violation of his civil rights. They are not forced to recommend him for anything, including receiving his Masters. They can exercise the same freedom the Sgt. did when he expressed his displeasure with their political views. And about the comments on his thesis; this isn't kindergarten. We all know what our professors expect and they hold the key to your grades. Either step up or step out! If they hated his thesis, guess what, they are the PhD's and that's what they are paid to do. I am no fan of Temple, but your argument against them is weak to say the least. In fact, I would say "You use juvenile argumentation" and the whole article comes across as poorly researched attempt to discredit a University that doesn't share your views. Finally, your opening paragraph has no relevance to the actual situation, as it never appears that his race was an issue. Maybe you were planning on making that argument but since you didn't it only furthers the notion that "you use juvenile argumentation"
Gregory Urwin

Doylestown, PA

#4 Feb 27, 2011
The assertion that Temple University rejected Christian DeJohn's M.A. thesis is just one of many lies that appear on this page. I insisted that DeJohn revise his thesis because, among other things, he failed to prove that President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Generals George C. Marshall, Lesley McNair, Dwight D. Eisenhower, George S. Patton, Jr., and others willfully conspired to kill American G.I.s during World War 2 by knowingly sending them into battle in inferior tanks. The truth was much more complicated than that. Instead of taking two weeks to fix the thesis' most glaring problems, DeJohn decided to declare he was being persecuted for being a veteran and a conservative, and he found a conservative foundation to provide him with free legal representation. In other words, he was not flunked -- he quit working on his thesis and tried to sue for his degree. For the record, DeJohn lost his case alleging that my request he revise his thesis was an act of persecution and an attack on his First Amendment rights. In addition, the trial transcript shows that I went to extraordinary lengths to get DeJohn admitted to our M.A. program in the first place. I was his staunchest advocate initially, but there is only so much one can do for a student who is not willing to follow instructions and produce M.A.-level work.
Christian DeJohn

Philadelphia, PA

#5 May 5, 2011
Temple University's Civil Rights Violations
Are A Disgrace
by Christopher Friend, the Philadelphia Bulletin
WHITE males are not a protected class under the Constitution, and veterans do not have First Amendment rights. After all, their concerns should be ignored because they are "mentally unstable" from being "trained to kill," according Temple University's Dr. Gregory Urwin.
And disagreeing with one's professors can result in insults such as "gnat," "juvenile" "liar" and "fool."
As far as academic freedom of speech, forget it.
Welcome to taxpayer-funded Temple University.
Temple finds itself at the center of a firestorm regarding an appalling case of squashed academic freedoms and restricted First Amendment rights. The victim of Temple's suffocating speech code is a graduate student simply trying to earn a master's degree in military history. He also happens to be one of our ultimate defenders of freedom, a decorated soldier in the Pennsylvania Army National Guard.
This man's civil rights were violated, not overseas in a hostile fire zone but right back here in Philadelphia, birthplace of the nation and cradle of liberty. How's that for irony?
But since this is still the United States of America, and politically correct professors don't rule the day, this grave injustice is on track to be rectified. All it took was a huge dose of courage.
Meet Christian DeJohn.
DeJohn was called to active duty by the Army after the Sept. 11 attacks while attending Temple graduate school. When serving in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Temple did the unconscionable and sent him invitations to weekly "Dissent in America" anti-war "teach-ins," sponsored by Temple professors. DeJohn objected and immediately became the target of retribution and retaliation—which continues to this day.
What did the university do? According to DeJohn, he was dismissed from the school (later reinstated), was denied guidance and advice during his thesis completion, obstructed his graduation, contacted potential employers to sabotage his job search and even destroyed his personal credit by falsely reporting that he had graduated.
This situation led to DeJohn testifying before the Pennsylvania Select Committee on Academic Freedom, which ultimately brought about reform referred to as "the biggest victory in the history of the academic freedom movement." He then filed a federal civil rights lawsuit to challenge the school's "speech codes," through which Temple claims it has the right to restrict and deny students' First Amendment rights.
DeJohn won, and a federal judge issued a permanent injunction against the speech codes. With its tail between its legs, Temple appealed, and arguments were heard on Thursday at the Federal Court of Appeals.
What's really troubling in this whole affair is that Temple, an institution of higher learning, is supposed to be run by intelligent, objective people. Yet they actually argued in court that Sgt. DeJohn was a "marginal learner, barely passing" with failing grades, knowing full well that he had a 3.2 GPA and had never received a grade lower than a B-minus. When called on this, Temple defense attorney Joe Tucker referenced the failing grade Sgt. DeJohn received—in high school. Go figure.
In a display of uncommon maturity, history department chair Richard Immerman wrote about his hope that Sgt. DeJohn will "self-destruct."
In his "professional" critique of Sgt. DeJohn's 300-page thesis, Professor Gregory Urwin wrote abusive comments such as these: "You use juvenile argumentation"; the thesis was "a monotonous agony"; Sgt. DeJohn sounded like a "crackpot"; and the thesis came across as a "comic book for five-year-olds."
If that's not constructive criticism fostered in an open atmosphere conducive to learning, I don't know what is.
Christian DeJohn

Philadelphia, PA

#6 May 5, 2011
Temple University's Civil Rights Violations
Are A Disgrace, continued

By Christopher Friend, the Philadelphia Bulletin

...Interestingly, this fight for academic freedom is not a partisan one.

DeJohn has allies across the spectrum who have filed amicus briefs with the court, from the ACLU and Feminists for Freedom of Expression to the Alliance Defense Fund and the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.

And Temple's allies? None. Nada. Can't imagine why.

When DeJohn wins, his efforts and courage in the face of fire—both at home and abroad—will have resulted in a landmark case in the academic freedom movement.

Sir Edmund Burke stated, "All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing."

Thanks to people like Christian DeJohn, such evil is being vanquished, and he deserves our salute.

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