Karega Settles Lawsuit Against College

The 2018 lawsuit that Joy Karega, former assistant professor of Rhetoric and Composition, filed against Oberlin College was settled Jan. 31. Karega was dismissed after posts on her personal social media accounts were characterized as anti-Semitic by the Board of Trustees and others.

The College fired Karega in November 2016, citing a failure to meet academic standards and demonstrate intellectual honesty. This decision sparked debates regarding Karega’s First Amendment rights and her position as the only Black tenure-track professor in her department. Her initial suspension began in August 2016 after her posts, including one which claimed that Israel was responsible for the terrorist bombings of 9/11, received widespread criticism on a national stage.

“In the face of Dr. Karega’s repeated refusal to acknowledge and remedy her misconduct, her continued presence undermines the mission and values of Oberlin’s academic community,” read a statement from the Board of Trustees sent to students on Nov. 15, 2016. “Thus, any sanction short of dismissal is insufficient and the Board of Trustees is compelled to take this most serious action.”

Karega claimed breach of contract and employment discrimination on the basis of race and gender and leveled accusations at the College for conspiring to remove her from her position. Karega said that Oberlin officials filed false professional misconduct charges against her, solicited complaints from students, blocked Black employees from authority positions within the College, and tolerated racist language and behavior from white faculty and staff members.

Karega identified former President Marvin Krislov, former Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences Tim Elgren, and former Board of Trustees Chairman Clyde McGregor in her lawsuit against the College. The original lawsuit sought $855,000 in damages in the U.S. District Court in Cleveland. The terms of the recent settlement and the amount Karega received have not been disclosed.

Both Oberlin College and attorney Gary Benjamin, who represented Karega, declined to comment.