Once upon a time when professors, no matter how homicidal their statements, or writings, or today, their tweets, could always avoid career trouble by hiding behind the tried-and-true protection of claiming their comments were “satirical.”
And college administrations, composed of former professors, often closed ranks behind one of their own, particularly if the professor was a leftist, and was expressing politically correct sentiments, no matter how homicidal the content.
But bring money into the mix in the form of donors and prospective students, and sometimes such protection only goes so far.
Such is the case with Drexel University. Back in December, when George Ciccariello-Maher, an associate professor of history and politics, tweeted “All I Want for Christmas is White Genocide,” the professor claimed that the Drexel administration supported his right to “vigorous public debate.”
And such was the impression, as, although the University denounced the tweet as “utterly reprehensible” and “deeply disturbing,” nothing else was done. Maher took the familiar route of claiming the tweet was simply engaging in “satire.”
Fast-forward to February, and Maher was at it again, with a series of tweets that was hardly the stuff of satire, but of deadly, in all senses of the word, seriousness. In two tweets, he urged the murder of police officers, “Off the pigs,” and to “do” one of them “like #OldYeller.”
The next month, March, Maher was urging the community to use any and all means to shut down an upcoming speech at Villanova University by conservative Charles Murray:
“Philly! white supremacist ideologue @charlesmurray will be speaking @VillanovaU on Thursday. Please do what you can to make this impossible!”
Maher followed up recently with a tweet reporting his desire to “vomit” when he witnessed an airline passenger traveling first class give their seat to a uniformed soldier.
Maher’s sincerity in these tweets is all the more evident in that the University had been rebuking him in letters sent as early as February. In response to the “white genocide” tweet, Drexel Provost Brian Blake sent Maher “a cautionary letter,” stating that his tweets gave the impression of “advocating for the murder of police officers.”
By April, the use of cautionary letters was dropped, and sterner measures were adopted. In an April 3 email, Blake told Maher that the University was forming a “special committee of inquiry to investigate your conduct and provide findings and recommendations to me concerning your extremely damaging conduct.”
The “damage” in this case hit the university in the paycheck. Acknowledging that professors have “freedom of academic expression,” Drexel informed Maher that professors also have a “special obligation” to “act responsibly, particularly where the speech has the potential to affect community safety and the right of all our community members to live, work, and learn in an environment free of undue harassment, hostility, or danger.”
In particular, Maher’s tweets drove away money in the form of prospective students and the all-important donors.
“Numerous prospective students whom the university has admitted have written to the university stating that they will not attend,” Blake wrote, adding that “at least two potential significant donors to the university have withheld previously promised donations.”
Moreover, the University, Blake stated, had received such an “unmanageable volume of venomous calls” over Maher’s latest tweets that the school had considered “turning off its phones” for a week.
No matter that the motivation for this investigation of Maher may be financial, it is encouraging in our age where leftists, many of whom are academics, proclaim they are incapable of hate speech, and assert that only “fascists”—re: anybody else—voice it, that one University is investigating one of its own for uttering it.