Suit alleges campus officials violated scholar’s Constitutional right to freedom of speech and association
An ousted New Jersey Institute of Technology lecturer has filed a $25 million lawsuit against the school and some of his former colleagues, alleging college officials did not renew his teaching contract because of his previous alt-right affiliations, and for defamation.
Philosophy lecturer Jason Reza Jorjani was placed on administrative leave last fall following a column in The New York Times that detailed highly controversial statements the educator made during a conversation with an undercover documentarian.
In February, campus officials told Jorjani they would not renew his annual teaching contract, and the lawsuit was filed in mid-July.
Jorjani states in the lawsuit his views were misrepresented in the Times column, comments obtained by a surreptitiously recorded pub conversation that was then deceptively edited. The lawsuit also claims campus leaders and colleagues subsequently defamed Jorjani in campus-wide emails and in the student newspaper, citing the column.
The civil suit seeks damages, alleging campus officials violated Jornani’s Constitutional right to freedom of speech and association. Jorjani did not respond to a request for comment from The College Fix.
Denise Anderson, a spokeswoman for the school, denied the allegations in an email to The College Fix.
“Dr. Jorjani’s claims of wrongdoing by the university or its representatives are untrue, and we intend to vigorously defend against any such claims,” Anderson said.
As reported by The College Fix last fall, Jorjani was placed on leave after The New York Times column dubbed Jorjani the “architect” of the alt-right and noted that he co-founded the Alt-Right Corporation.
The column also featured a video of Jorjani having a conversation with Patrik Hermansson, an undercover journalist with the Hope Not Hate watchdog group. In the video, Jorjani says:
“We will have a Europe, in 2050, where the bank notes have Adolf Hitler, Napoleon Bonaparte, Alexander the Great. And Hitler will be seen like that: like Napoleon, like Alexander, not like some weird monster who is unique in his own category — no, he is just going to be seen as a great European leader.”
Jorjani railed against the video’s authenticity in a personal blog post, saying his views were taken out of context due to deceptive editing.
He refuted the context of his words in the video, saying he was referring to a “nightmarish prediction of a future that would follow from Western policymakers’ failure to address the Muslim migrant crisis.” He said he was made to look like he is advocating for “concentration camps and expulsions and war…at the cost of a few hundred million people.”
Just six days after the publication of the New York Times op-ed, with no prior hearing or notice, Jorjani received a letter notifying him of being place on leave. It stated campus officials were aware of his response but the column had caused “significant disruption at the university” and that he had not disclosed his outside activities to administrators.
Jorjani claims in court documents that his views and political interactions are protected by the First Amendment, and that New Jersey Institute of Technology violated his rights when they ratified President Joel Bloom’s action to suspend and investigate Jorjani.
Jorjani partly attributes the rapid action in his suspension to Bloom and Dean Kevin Belfield, who, within 24 hours of the op-ed’s publication, sent out a faculty-wide email condemning Jorjani’s comments, the lawsuit states.
“NJIT is a university that embraces diversity and sees it as a source of strength. The statements made by Mr. Jorjani in a video recently published by The New York Times are repugnant and antithetical to our institution’s core values,” the email stated.
Jorjani alleges the email is libelous and exposed him to “hatred, contempt and ridicule,” and that Bloom and Belfield “implied that the sensationalized views falsely attributed to [Jorjani] were accurate” and that they were “clearly signaling that they supported an intellectual witch hunt” against him.
Jorjani is suing Bloom and Belfield for defamation. In addition, Jorjani is suing Chair of the Biology Department Gareth Russell, President of the Faculty Senate Andrew Klobucar, and Chairman of Federated Department of History Neil Maher, for allegedly falsely attributing false views to Jorjani in op-eds published in the school’s student newspaper, The Vector.
In their articles, the defendants castigated Jorjani as a racist, the lawsuit states. They also took issue with Jorjani’s ties to the alt-right. Though, as reported by The College Fix, Jorjani says in his blog post he left the alt-right corporation when the “comments sections of our website devolved into a cesspool filled by the most despicable pond scum, former 4-chaners who would routinely pile on in trolling attacks against me every time I published something with a bit of intellectual content.”
Jorjani’s lawsuit alleges loss of income, loss of professional stature, loss of profession, and public humiliation.