The Chronicle of Higher Education’s Andy Thomason supports academic freedom. In How One Professor’s Tweets Got Her Fired — or So It Seemed at First Thomas makes no bones about his opinion: academic freedom should be respected no matter how racist a woman of color (Zandria Robinson) may be. The University of Memphis’s questionable handling of the situation is secondary; Thomason clearly thinks academic freedom is the essential element of the debate here, not Ms. Robinson’s racism. This is different from the plain, matter-of-fact reporting about another incident where a student hung a noose on a civil rights statue at the University of Mississippi. In both cases someone expresses overt racism out side of the academic setting (not in class, not in any official capacity of a university function). But, the woman of color gets a pass and the white student gets punished.
Saida Grundy, another racist (and sexist) woman of color working at an American university, who also happened to express vile hatred and racism via social media, also drummed up a little storm but also got a total pass from her employer and from the Cronicle of Higher Education where Thomason again has no criticism for the racism of the instructor in question, but certainly makes a plug for academic freedom by quoting a Boston U official whose more concerned about allowing anti-white racist professors “latitude to express their opinions and provoke discussion” and “supporting a new colleague”.
But, as is common knowledge, former Harvard president Lawrence Summers lost his job (as president of Harvard University) because of comments that, by many, were deemed sexist. Why the outrage there? What happened to academic freedom there?
An athletic coach at U of North Carolina gets fired after working to defend men accused of rape (given the almost complete absence of due process for the accused). The university claims his firing pertains to the athletic team’s performance over the years, and has nothing to do with his advocacy for the men he’s trying to help. So we are apparently supposed to take the university’s word for it, rather than assume the worst. But if someone accuses white males of rape, oh there’s no need to verify any facts or anything, is there?
Apparently there are different standards in place. If you’re a white male, even if you hold and promote a progressive world view, there is very little forgiveness for you. But if you’re black or female (especially black and female) you can be as venomous and hateful as you want and you’ll suffer no professional set back because of it. In higher education, academic freedom means nothing in the former situation, but it means everything in the latter. Privilege is a wonderful thing. Never mind of education itself is corrupted in the process.
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