Trinity College Losing Money, Students, Following Professor’s Facebook Post

Printed from: http://newbostonpost.com/2017/08/07/trinity-college-losing-money-students-following-professors-facebook-post/

HARTFORD — Trinity College, the elite liberal arts school where earlier this summer a black sociology professor kickstarted a fiery controversy after firing off a social media post appearing to endorse an online article calling on non-white people to let white people die, purportedly advocating the killing of white people, is now losing money and students.

In her July 31 letter to the Trinity College community, President Joanne Berger-Sweeney confirmed the school recently learned “that 16 students in the incoming Class of 2021 have withdrawn and cited this incident as the reason” but claimed that the withdrawals are “well within our usual summer ‘melt,’ as we call it, as some students make different decisions about where and when they might matriculate.”

Berger-Sweeney also noted that previously dependable college donors have now backed out “in response to the controversy” and pegged the loss at “roughly $200,000.”

“Finally, we incurred some cost to manage the crisis, including for additional security on campus for a few weeks,” she added.

The “crisis” apparently arrived after a conservative college news website, CampusReform.org, caught wind of Professor Johnny Eric Williams’s online musings and published screenshots of them.

Williams’s #letthemf—ingdie hashtag happened to be the title of a Medium.com thought piece published by a black activist writing under a pseudonym. The writer, who goes by the name Son of Baldwin, claimed that the black lesbian Capitol Hill Police officer who in June helped save the life of a Republican congressman from Louisiana during an attempted political assassination should instead have let him to die.

Williams later insisted that his posts were in response to a fatal police-involved shooting in Seattle. At that point, however, Williams had fled the campus after reportedly receiving death threats, while the campus itself experienced a 24-hour lockdown after administrators were apparently alerted to a bomb threat.

Williams later landed a semester-long suspension, albeit with pay. Administrators cited Williams’s tenure and academic freedoms protections as reasons for not cutting the professor loose.

A more detail examination of the episode was conducted prior to announcing Williams’s punishment. Tim Cresswell, Trinity’s dean of faculty and vice president for academic affairs, performed the examination and published his analysis in the form of a 32-page review (posted in its entirety below).

Cresswell wrote that Williams told him his decision to use the #letthemf—ingdie hashtag was because that was what others on “black Twitter” were using, referencing fellow activists. Williams told Cresswell that he did not share this view regarding white people but simply inserted the hashtag as a means of engaging in “the discussion of the race relation issues that are central to the article with that title.”

Williams meanwhile attempted to his explain his post immediately following the negative fallout.  

“I never intended to invite or incite violence,” Williams wrote “My only aim was to bring awareness to white supremacy and to inspire others to address these kinds of injustices.”

As for the threats that ensued, and the campus lockdown those threats prompted, Cresswell blamed the fallout not on Williams but on those that he upset.

“I conclude that inappropriate and in some instances extreme reactions to professor Williams’ statements, more than the statements themselves, were the proximate cause of the threats to the safety on campus and any related reputational harm to the college,” Cresswell wrote.

Cresswell also noted that Williams’s “two short posts… made general observations in the realm of public discourse that targeted no individuals” and concluded that “they are not ‘severe’ or ‘pervasive’ enough to constitute racial harassment.”

“Professor Johnny E. Williams’s Facebook posts of June 18th, 2017, constitute ‘extramural utterances’ that are protected exercises of academic freedom under Trinity College policy,” Cresswell wrote. “His statements are not true threats or fighting words, they do not violate the law, and the do not threaten violence against specific individuals or, more generally, advocate violence.

“Moreover his statements fall squarely within his area of scholarship and teaching, and are consistent with his published works.”

Lastly, Cresswell claimed “there are no grounds to institute disciplinary action against Professor Williams.”

Cresswell also dismissed Campus Reform, citing a Chronicle of Higher Education report — which he surmised from the report — “is a website focused on what it claims are incidents of liberal bias in American education.”

“It has aims of changing college policies and promoting the firing of professors with whom it does not agree,” Cresswell wrote. “According to reporting in the Chronicle of Higher Education it consider such actions that result from its reporting as ‘victories.'”

Cresswell adds:

“Given the present political climate and the desire of organizations such as Campus Reform to identify  what they see as liberal bias in higher education it might reasonably be argued that Professor Williams might have exercised better judgment and exhibited more self-restraint. Balancing the responsibilities in this part of the statement on professional ethics can be difficult, and, after careful analysis, I do not believe that Prof. Williams’ statements on social media violated his ethical responsibilities under this provision.”

Berger-Sweeney, meanwhile, apparently blamed the fallout on Campus Reform and not Williams’s social media activity, electing to describe the matter as “the Campus Reform incident.”

Read Cresswell’s final report:

2017-07-17 Williams Report Trinity by Evan on Scribd

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