Classics professor Thomas Hubbard is suing 11 people, including at least one UT student, for libel and slander after they accused him of advocating for pedophilia and called for his removal from the University in fall 2019.
According to court documents filed Monday, the defendants damaged Hubbard’s career and reputation by passing out flyers accusing him of promoting pedophilia. Hubbard denied advocating for sexual relationships between men and children, according to his filed complaint.
The flyer quoted an article from Hubbard on pederasty, sexual relationships between men and boys, in ancient Greece entitled, “Sexual Consent and the Adolescent Male, or What Can We Learn from the Greeks?”
“Rigorous social science and historical comparanda suggest that we should consider a different ‘age of consent’ for boys and girls,” he said in the article.
The flyer claims that Hubbard said such relationships were “proper learning experiences.” According to court documents, Hubbard has never advocated for sexual relationships between men and boys in modern contexts.
Sarah Blakemore, rhetoric and writing junior, is the only named defendant in the lawsuit. Blakemore said in a statement to the Texan that she did not expect to be sued for what she saw as free speech on a college campus.
“A university campus is a place for the free exchange of ideas and for young people to learn,” Blakemore said in an email. “No college student should ever find themselves in this situation – being sued by a university professor. It took my breath away.”
According to the suit filed by Hubbard, the defendants made multiple false and harmful claims about Hubbard and following these claims, a separate “explicitly revolutionary organization” vandalized his home in December 2019, forcing him to relocate to California.
“He has suffered significant damages to his reputation, mental anguish, and emotional distress,” the court documents said. “He is unable to resume teaching in anything but an online format.”
Last fall, multiple protests were held demanding action on faculty sexual misconduct policies. Faculty found in violation of misconduct policies by the University but still teaching on campus were also brought up during the protests, including Sahotra Sarkar and Coleman Hutchison. Hubbard has not been found in violation of any University policies.
Hubbard is pursuing legal action because the University did not discipline the students involved in vandalizing his home, according to a statement from Hubbard’s lawyer, Joseph Sibley.
“Dr. Hubbard feels that he has no other avenue for finding out who was involved and clearing his name than to resort to the courts,” Sibley said in an email. “He takes this step with great regret in the absence of responsible administrative leadership from the University, which is failing both its students and faculty.”
UT spokesman J.B. Bird said the University does not release details about individual student discipline cases due to privacy concerns. Chief communications officer Gary Susswein said a libel suit on campus was out of the ordinary.
“It is highly unusual for a professor to sue a student,” Susswein said. “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.”
Correction: a previous version of this story stated incorrectly that Hubbard is suing 11 UT students.