United States District Court, D. New Jersey
WILLIAM J. MARTINI, U.S.D.J.
matter comes before the Court on Defendants New Jersey
Institute of Technology, Joel S. Bloom, Kevin J. Belfield,
Gareth J. Russell, Andrew Klobucar, and Neil Maher's
("Defendants'") collective Motion to Dismiss
Counts Two through Five of the Complaint with Prejudice. ECF
No. 9. For the reasons set forth below, the Motion is
GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN
Jason Jorjani ("Plaintiff) brings this action for
First-Amendment retaliation (Count One) and defamation
(Counts Two through Five) against the New Jersey Institute of
Technology ("NJIT") and various NJIT professors and
officers ("Defendants"). Compl. ¶¶ 4-11,
ECF No. 1. Defendants move to dismiss the defamation counts.
Mot. to Dismiss, ECF No. 9 ("Motion")
is a New York resident formerly employed as a lecturer by
NJIT, a public university in Newark, New Jersey. Id.
¶¶4-5. In fall 2016, Plaintiff "formed
alliances within . .. the Alt Right" to promote his
philosophy of "affirmation of the Indo-European
Tradition" or "the idea that European cultures are
intimately related to those of Greater Iran . .. and are the
sources of the world's greatest scientific, artistic and
spiritual developments." Id. ¶ 30. To
broaden his message, Plaintiff formed the "Alt Right
New York Times Op-Ed
summer 2017, a graduate student purportedly named Erik
Hellberg interested in "how the Left persecutes and
silences Right wing thought in academia" set up a
meeting with Plaintiff to discuss the topic. Id.
¶ 21. In actuality, Hellberg was an agent of the
ideological watchdog group "Hope Not Hate," which
has the goal of "deconstructing" individuals it
labels fascists or extremists. Id. ¶20.
Hellberg (real name Patrik Hermansson) secretly videotaped
their conversation, which touched on matters of race,
immigration, and politics. Id. ¶¶ 19, 22.
September 19, 2017, the New York Times ("NYT")
published an op-ed ("Op-Ed") containing an edited
version of the recorded conversation ("Recording").
Id. ¶¶ 23-24. In the Recording, Plaintiff
states, inter alia: "We will have a Europe, in
2050 where the banknotes 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's just
going to be seen as a great European leader." Jesse
Singal, Undercover With the Alt-Right, NYT Op-Ed
(Sept. 19, 2017), https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/19.
(incorporated by reference in the Complaint).
to Plaintiff, the Recording was "cut and spliced from
many different parts of multiple conversations, then
restitched together to falsely portray Plaintiffs views as
extreme or sensational." Compl. ¶ 24. "The
fact that the snippet.. . had been heavily edited was an
obvious fact." Id. ¶ 27. The Recording
thus "falsely attributed views to Plaintiff."
Id. ¶ 25.
Public Rebuke by NJIT Leadership and
viewing the Op-Ed and Recording-and allegedly knowing it was
heavily edited- Defendants Joel S. Bloom (President of NJIT)
and Kevin J. Belfield (Dean of the NJIT College of Science
and Liberal Arts) sent a faculty- and staff-wide email
("B&B Email") stating:
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 [NYT] are repugnant and
antithetical to our institution's core values.
Id. ¶ 35 (Count Two). Five days later, NJIT
suspended Plaintiff and launched an investigation.
Id. ¶¶ 43-45.
October 4, 2017, Defendant Gareth J. Russel (Chair of the
NJIT Biology Department) published a statement ("Russel
Statement") in NJIT's student newspaper, the Vector:
On current events, we strongly object to the use of
pseudoscience to support racist ideology. In particular, we
object to attempts to use details related to human evolution
to support eugenics and white supremacy. Such opinions have
been expressed by Jason Reza Jorjani, who until recently
taught some of our students in courses on science, technology
and society. What we have learned in the last decade and a
half of human genomics, and more than a century of human
paleontology, is that humans share much more than they
differ; and that epigenetics, development and environmental
factors can have as much effect as the slight genetic
difference among individuals. We believe that Dr.
Jorjani's beliefs, as revealed by his remarks, cannot
help but produce a discriminatory and intimidating
educational environment for our diverse student body. This
makes him unfit to teach at NJIT, or indeed at any academic
institution that considers its students to have equal value
Id. ¶ 47 (Count Three).
October 12, Defendant Andrew Klobucar (Chair of the NJIT
Biology Department) stated in the Vector ("Klobucar
Statement") that "NJIT is a university that
embraces diversity and sees that diversity as a source of
strength. The NJIT Faculty Senate finds racist pronouncements
made by University Lecturer Jason Reza Jorjani to be morally
repugnant. Hate and bigotry have no place on the NJIT
campus." Id. ¶ 48 (Count Four).
on October 25, Defendant Neil J. Maher (Chairman of the NJIT
Federated Department of History) published a response in the
Vector ("Maher Statement"):
We, the faculty and staff of the Federated Department of
History at New Jersey Institute of Technology, are writing to
denounce NJIT University Lecturer Jason Jorjani's views
on race in his comments, writings, and interviews. A recent
[NYT] expose, 'Undercover with the Alt-Right,'
highlighted his association with the alt-right, a white
supremacist movement, and his apparent enthusiasm about the
redemption of Adolf Hitler as a great world leader.
Troubling as those comments are, they are consistent with his
other public statements, which indicate that Dr. Jorjani is a
proponent of racist ideologies. Dr. Jorjani's online
article, 'Against Perennial Philosophy,' in which he
identifies himself as an NJIT faculty member, expresses a
view of race and intelligence harking back to eugenic beliefs
and 'scientific racism' long since debunked by
As scholars of the past, we are well-prepared to provide
historical context to the Aryan supremacism, eugenics, and
theories of race put forth by Dr. Jorjani. In the 20th
century alone, race theories and eugenic beliefs were used to
support forced sterilization laws, Jim Crow legislation,
restrictive immigration quotas, and the Holocaust. These
ideas are not valid science but rather are reflective of
prejudice and power. Just as slave owners in antebellum
America utilized the now-debunked science of phrenology to
justify the bondage of African-Americans, so Jorjani utilizes
discredited scientific studies on intelligence and heredity
in order to segregate people into racial and ethnic
hierarchies on the basis of his unscientific assumptions
about their fitness for participation in civilized society.
How can we trust Dr. Jorjani to educate and evaluate our
students? Are we to assume that his published views on the
'innate capacities' of different racial and ethnic
groups will not influence his judgment about the diverse
student body at NJIT? Dr. Jorjani's published beliefs
create a hostile learning environment for students of color
in particular, and his presence on the instructional staff at
NJIT appears to legitimize discredited race-based ideas about
intelligence and citizenship that have no place in academia.
It is our collective belief that Dr. Jorjani's ...