College Reinstates Professor Who Said White People Should “F***ing Die”

Aug 04, 2017 |  Dion J. Pierre, Peter Wood

Font Size  


College Reinstates Professor Who Said White People Should “F***ing Die”

Aug 04, 2017 | 

Dion J. Pierre, Peter Wood

Peter Wood and Dion Pierre's article originally appeared in The Federalist. We post an except below; read the full article here.

Because Trinity is a private university, it could draw up rules that prohibited such speech as outside the zone of academic freedom. Most Americans would probably agree that Williams crossed some kind of line in making his death wish (“#LetThemFuckingDie”) and compounded it by denying the humanity of other people (“inhuman assholes”). The First Amendment might protect Williams’ right to say such things, but academic freedom does not, and the college has a duty to its students to provide instructional faculty who possess enough self-control to tell the difference.

Trinity College may find some comfort in knowing that it is only one college among a great many to have made the kind of compromise that led to its Johnny Eric Williams moment. Trinity President Berger-Sweeney did her best in playing a bad hand when she distinguished between defending Williams’ “right to express his opinions” and her distaste for some of those opinions.

If colleges are to be more than platforms from which people can shout their disordered fury, more than stages for the perpetual reenactment of racial and other grievances, we should be working now to draw some lines. A man like Johnny Eric Williams should not be a professor at a college that claims the public trust. He has, however, fairly won his fight, given the rules we accepted in higher education. That simply means it is time to change the rules.

Image: The Chapel by Decaseconds // CC BY-NC 2.0

Patrick Crotty

| August 05, 2017 - 12:30 PM

It’s disappointing to see NAS leaders make basically the same argument, up to a few details, that campus leftists make for censoring or disciplining conservatives like Charles Murray and Mike Adams.  If Prof. Williams did not bring his views into his classes or harass or discriminate against white students and colleagues, then he should not be punished for expressing those views elsewhere, no matter how offensive we find them.  Otherwise, freedom of extramural speech will be determined by whoever gets the most loudly offended—and no one is better at that than the illiberal left.

george seaver

| August 14, 2017 - 11:28 AM

The difference that the above responder does not see is that academic freedom and freedom of speech are not the same. Dr. Wood has persistently explained this difference.

This dilemma was brought about by a federal judge in 1974..the “Lois Lamphere decision” at Brown University. He ruled that Brown University could not discriminate between political involvement and academic performance in awarding tenure.

Patrick Crotty

| August 14, 2017 - 10:16 PM

I am aware of that distinction.  But Dr. Wood’s take on it is very much at odds with that of groups like the AAUP and FIRE, which have long recognized freedom of extramural speech as essential for academic freedom.  Otherwise, whom are we supposed to trust to “draw up rules” delineating acceptable extramural speech, and adjudicate violations?  The history of campus speech codes does not inspire confidence that these things would be done fairly or competently.

John Wenger

| August 21, 2017 - 11:38 AM

I am disappointed in this article because important distinctions were ignored.  We can all despair at the crudity and downright stupidity of the professor’s speech, but we need to know if he was infecting his class with these opinions or simply speaking out in public.  If it is the latter, i don’t see why anyone would use it to fire him; if he showered such bon mots at a captive audience, especially a classroom, that is another story.  How can we begin to make judgments without knowing the facts?