In the last week, a college in Connecticut has reported a decrease in donations from alumni and enrollment from accepted students following their decision to reinstate a professor of sociology. This professor, a longtime tenured professor at [this college], experienced major nationwide backlash following the publication of some of his own Facebook posts on the site Campus Reform. In his posts, this professor shared an essay on how the ‘racially oppressed in America’ should handle bigotry in society. The article, ‘Let them Fucking Die’ references the shooting of Republican congressional members at a practice for their annual charity baseball game in June. As the title suggests, the article proposes that victims of the shooting should have been left for dead because of their inherent racism as white conservatives. Following death threats sent to the professor and vast negative response received by the school, the professor was placed on indefinite leave, that is, until early last week.
The Hartford Courant reports that reactions varied between this college’s alumni in response to the professor’s suspension; some believe that this professor was making a genuine point in his posts and did not deserve to be put on leave, while others state he should have been fired outright. In response to the university’s lack of immediate action in reinstating the professor, a statement from the American Association of United Professors slammed the administration, stating “[This University’s President] statement confirms our suspicion that the administration’s primary concern has been the bottom line, rather than the protection of scholarly inquiry and academic freedom.”
Of course, colleges are places where protection of freedom of thought, even the deeply controversial, should be the highest priority. While I certainly don’t agree with this professor’s ideas (in fact, I find them deeply troubling), I believe that he should absolutely have the right to express them without fear of harm (such as the death threats he received). However, it must be understood that as a long-time faculty member, this professor represents the morals and values of the college in the public eye. Since this university’s decision to reinstate the professor, the Hartford Courant reports that 16 incoming students have withdrawn their entry, and an approximate $200,000 in donations have been withheld by alumni. The decision to keep this professor has been a costly one for the college, so it would be understandable if the administration had decided to let him go instead.
Colleges find themselves in a strange place, where the moral and intellectual integrity of their programs can rely on making decisions which may contradict maximization of profit. The road to a truly free and diverse exchange of ideas at Universities across America is a long one, and we can only hope that the same leniency experienced by this professor would be afforded to a conservative professor as well.
Author: Brennan Dourdoufis