(NEW YORK)— PEN America today criticized the firing of an adjunct faculty member at DePaul University who used the terms “genocide” and “ethnic cleansing” in reference to Palestine in an optional course assignment. The free expression organization called on the university to investigate the incident and reinstate the professor.

Dr. Anne D’Aquino taught Health 194, Human Pathogens and Defense at the Illinois university and was fired midway through the semester after receiving complaints about an optional course assignment focused on Palestine. The assignment and accompanying email to students about the assignment were screenshotted and shared on social media. The professor has appealed the decision. The assignment was offered after students had erected an encampment on campus to protest the Gaza conflict.

Kristen Shahverdian, program director for campus free speech at PEN America, said: “This is a clear cut violation of academic freedom. Adjunct faculty should enjoy the same freedoms as their colleagues in determining what content is germane to their course. The university’s response was extremely punitive and failed to follow any established disciplinary process; if the university has cause for concern, the onus is on them to make it exceedingly clear and to follow normal investigative procedures. We call on the university to conduct a full investigation and reinstate the instructor, pending results.”

About PEN America

PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect free expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible. Learn more at pen.org.

Contact: Suzanne Trimel, [email protected], (201) 247-5057