Professor accused of racism for talking about race on twitter

Incoming Boston University professor Saida Grundy is being publicly accused of racism over remarks she made about race on Twitter (remarks her university is now saying were ‘offensive’ though still part of her protected free speech.) Prof. Grundy – who is Black – made a sarcastic comment on Twitter about it being time we admit that white college males are a ‘problem population’ due to their tendency to riot about sports (in response to the repeated claims, in the coverage of recent events in Baltimore, that young black men are a ‘problem population’). She also mentioned that every MLK day she tries to spend money only in black-owned businesses, and finds this nearly impossible. For these kinds of remarks – which Fox News has gleefully gotten wind of – she’s being accused of racism and bigotry and her qualifications to be a university professor are being called into question. Even worse, BU seems increasingly willing to throw her under the bus.

UPDATE: There is now a change.org petition, directed at the president of BU, in support of Prof. Grundy. Please consider signing! BU’s president weighed in on the controversy earlier today, apparently objecting to Prof. Grundy’s ‘rancor’, among other things.

UPDATE: Prof. Grundy has issued a brief statement in BU’s student newspaper.

5 thoughts on “Professor accused of racism for talking about race on twitter

  1. FROM IHE: But what about the concerns that Grundy’s position may make her biased against white male students, and therefore affect her teaching? John Wilson, co-editor of the American Association of University Professors’ “Academe” blog and an independent scholar of academic freedom, called such an argument — which he said was used against Salaita by Illinois — “utterly wrong.”

    “If you say that alleged bigotry expressed in personal remarks disqualifies a professor from teaching, then virtually all professors would need to be fired,” he said. “Faculty who oppose gay marriage would be biased against [gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender] students. Faculty who criticize Islamic terrorism would be biased against Muslim students. Faculty who are fundamentalist Christians and believe that atheists, Jews, etc. will be condemned to eternal hell might be feared by Jewish or non-Christian students. Faculty who criticize Israel or Palestine might be biased.”

    The only way to know, Wilson added, “whether Grundy’s classes are taught with an illegitimate bias that violates the rights of her students is by looking at her teaching, not her tweets. But you can’t assume that controversial professors are bad teachers. Quite the opposite is usually true.”

    MY QUESTION: Does anyone worry that we might want to argue that a Professor who does post racist content on twitter is eroding the classroom environment? Ditto homophobic comments? Anti-transgender comments?

  2. Anon, that’s an interesting and complicated question about what should count as protected speech for academics. But I think that’s a separate question from the most important issue here, which is that tweets that clearly – if read in context – aren’t racist are getting construed as racist by conservative media, and a successful black woman is getting publicly maligned as a result. Whether racist tweets should be protected under academic freedom is largely orthogonal, imho, since I don’t think Prof. Grundy has said anything remotely racist. That’s what makes her university’s response (basically: what she said was racist but it counts as her free speech) so terribly disappointing.

  3. 1) Does Fox News think that what they say is racist when they call the protesters in Baltimore “a problem population?

    2) Do they worry that, though their speech is protected, it indicates that they are unqualified to deliver the news in a fair and balanced way?

    I’m going with “no” and “no”(though parity of reasoning would commit them to “yes” and “yes”).

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