University of Texas at Austin Classics Department Professor Thomas Hubbard, in a federal lawsuit filed in Austin this week, accused junior Sarah Blakemore and 10 unnamed people of libel for allegedly creating and distributing a flyer that claimed Hubbard advocated for pedophilia in his research on pederasty.
"No college student should ever find themselves in this situation–being sued by a university professor," Blakemore said. "It took my breath away."
The lawsuit also alleges acts of vandalism and attacks on his reputation that forced him to leave Texas and, he says, damaged his career.
Hubbard, a longtime professor at UT Austin, called the flyer's claims about his research and writing "completely false in every imaginable way."
Blakemore declined to offer a response to the specific allegations, saying only she was surprised that a professor would sue a student.
"I never imagined my education would have to extend to the federal courthouse," she told Austonia in a statement. "A university campus is a place for the free exchange of ideas and for young people to learn."
UT Chief Communications Officer Gary Susswein said it is "highly unusual for a professor to sue a student."
"We support robust discussion and debate about the merits and results of academic research, and believe those should happen on campus and not in the federal courts," Susswein said.
The lawsuit seeks unspecified monetary damages.
Fall of 2019 saw many protests from students at UT who argued that a number of professors who violated the university's sexual misconduct code should be terminated. At the time, the university said Hubbard had not violated the code.
In a statement from his attorney, Hubbard said the incident was violent and caused him to flee his house.
"They vandalized (Hubbard's) home, distributed leaflets to neighbors falsely accusing him of pedophilia, and chanted threats of violence against him," the statement read. "Dr. Hubbard has never committed such a crime, and has never before been accused of doing so."
Hubbard's statement said the university has not taken enough action against students who came to his home or against the "blatant libel and slander he has suffered through a systematic and coordinated effort by UT students both on campus and off."
"He reluctantly takes this step to defend himself because UT Austin leadership has not taken sufficient action," the statement reads.
According to Hubbard's lawsuit, Blakemore and the 10 John Does authored a flyer on November 21, 2019, and it was subsequently circulated around the UT campus. Hubbard's lawsuit alleges the flyer made the following claims:
- Hubbard has been "advocating for pederasty [pedophilia] for as long as he has taught" at UT. Hubbard's lawsuit says this is "completely false in every imaginable way."
- Hubbard has "used his position to further a community of individuals hoping to prey on underage boys."
- Hubbard, in his academic writings, "describes physical relationships between men and young boys as 'proper learning experiences.'"
- Hubbard wrote a publication titled, "Boy's Sexuality and Age of Consent" in which he "encourage(d)" illicit acts between adults and children.
- Hubbard taught a course entitled "Mythology of Rape," indicating that Hubbard advocated that rape is a mythological concept.
- Hubbard is "heavily associated with the North American Man/Boy Love Association."
- Hubbard "advocates for violent crime against teen boys" and has "no business teaching the leaders of tomorrow."
In his lawsuit, Hubbard alleges the above statements are "completely false" and that the defendants acted with negligence and actual malice, meaning they made defamatory statements without regard for whether they were true or not.
The lawsuit will test whether Hubbard's writings fall within academic freedoms or if Blakemore's interpretation of his work is legitimate, said David Donaldson, a media law lecturer at Texas A&M University.
"The lawsuit will allow other voices and other eyes to examine the work and decide … whether it's a reasonable interpretation or whether it's academic freedom and his true intent has nothing to do with pedophilia," Donaldson said. "It's a great lawsuit to explore this issue."
This story has been updated from the original.
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