Prof stops teaching after backlash to anti-Trump test question
A professor has stopped teaching classes, saying school administrators have not done enough to protect her from the backlash she received after asking an anti-Trump question on an exam.
According to The Los Angeles Daily News, California State University-Northridge political science professor Karin Stanford has absented herself from the classroom since mid-January after receiving hate mail in response to her controversial exam questions on Hillary Clinton and President Trump.
"While these comments are disturbing, they were found to not rise to the level of a criminal threat and were considered free speech."
The university, however, has maintained that the comments reported to officials were investigated but did not constitute a criminal threat.
“Why should I be forced to leave the workplace because of a concern for my safety and my students?” Stanford told the publication. “Why am I making this choice by myself?”
As previously reported by Campus Reform, the online final exam for an African Studies 161 course taught by Stanford asked students to describe political statements made by both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton in two similarly formatted questions.
“Donald Trump frequently made statements of an _____ nature throughout this presidential campaign,” one question asked, with answer choices that included “anti-Mexican,” “anti-Muslim,” “anti-woman,” and “all of the above.”
In contrast, the question about Clinton took a different political tone, asking the students to list groups that she addressed during her concession speech “in terms of breaking down barriers and bringing people together.” The exam then gave students answer choices of “races,” “religions,” “genders and sexualities,” or “all of the above.”
According to the Daily News, Stanford was disturbed by comments on the Campus Reform article, one of which advocated violence against the professor.
“This is government abuse,” the comment read. “Somebody shoot her in the face.”
Stanford also noted that she received hate mail and other hateful messages since her exam questions became public, and complained that the school was not doing more to investigate them.
CSUN spokesperson Carmen Chandler, however, told the Daily News that the school is “very much aware of the issues that arise in the current contentious political environment” and that the administrators are taking the professor's concerns “very seriously.”
“While these comments are disturbing, they were found to not rise to the level of a criminal threat and were considered free speech,” Chandler told the publication.
According to the report, the university rejected Stanford’s worker’s compensation claim, compelling her to use sick leave for the time she has missed.
Chandler pointed out that the school provides “a variety of resources” for employees in Stanford’s situation, including law enforcement escorts “to ensure safety” of faculty who may feel threatened, as well as counseling.
Mike Uhlenkamp, a spokesperson for the CSU Chancellor’s Office, also told the newspaper that while there is no specific policy governing online threats against a professor, it is possible for universities to grant professors leave when the circumstances warrant, though he noted that the determination is made on a case-by-case basis.
Neither Stanford nor CSUN responded to Campus Reform’s request for comment.