DePaul Gives Professor the Boot for Assignment on How 'Genocide in Gaza' Affects Health and Biology

AP Photo/Kin Cheung

DePaul University has fired a part-time biology professor after she gave students an optional assignment making a statement against Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza.


Anne d’Aquino offered an assignment in May in which students could write about the effect of the “genocide in Gaza on human health and biology.” The overall theme of the course centered on how microorganisms cause disease, according to KSTP.

In an email, the university said some students “expressed significant concern” about d’Aquino’s decision to infuse politics into a science class.

“We investigated the matter, spoke with the faculty member, and found it had negatively affected the learning environment by introducing extraneous political material that was outside the scope of the academic subject as outlined in the curriculum,” DePaul said Friday in a statement.

The school noted an email with the assignment expressed support for people “resisting the normalization of ethnic cleansing.”

“The class was provided a new instructor, and the faculty member has been released from their appointment as a part-time faculty member,” DePaul said.

D’Aquino is appealing her dismissal.

At a Thursday press conference, the instructor said her “termination was a breach of my academic freedom and another example of this administration’s efforts to twist any discussions of Palestine and Palestinian liberation language into false claims of antisemitism.”


In support, about 50 demonstrators gathered on the corner of Seminary and Belden avenues. They waved Palestinian flags and held signs that read “Academic freedom includes Palestine.”

Students delivered a petition to the administrative office in the Monsignor Andrew J. McGowan Environmental Science and Chemistry building, calling for the reinstatement of d’Aquino. The printed copy of the petition extended 24 pages long with 1,500 signatures.

D’Aquino filed an appeal May 14, which Kristin Mathews, a university spokesperson, said will be “completed soon.”

The assignment recommended that students read articles related to the “intersection of biological sciences, health and history in Palestine.” The students would then write about the impact of “genocide on biology.”

The instructor defended the assignment, claiming that she had been “trying to incorporate contemporary topics for students to connect their basic biology knowledge to something that’s currently happening in the wider world.”

While several students have sided with d’Aquino, others pointed out that she was clearly trying to infuse politics into a subject where it does not belong.

But Sarah van Loon, the regional manager of the American Jewish Committee Chicago, said the firing shows the “limits of protected academic freedom.”

Even if the assignment was optional, Van Loon believes d’Aquino introduced a topic that was “outside the bounds” of the class description.

“We’ve got a biology professor discussing politics in the Middle East or creating a comment about Gaza,” she said. “It really isn’t in line with what it is that they’re there to be teaching on and opens up the university to risk too.

“It doesn’t surprise me that the university felt that this was not something that upheld their standards,” Van Loon said.


This move comes amid widespread antisemitic and pro-Hamas sentiment spreading on college campuses across the country. Students and professors have participated in protests and demonstrations calling on universities to cut ties with Israel. Schools have struggled to address the matter as Jewish students have been targeted by the anti-Israel elements on campus.


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