Students, donors fleeing Drexel over prof's inflammatory tweets
The professor who tweeted that “all I want for Christmas is white genocide” is now under investigation by Drexel University for his “extremely damaging conduct” on social media.
George Ciccariello-Maher recently tweeted that he wanted to “vomit” after witnessing someone give their first-class airline seat to a uniformed soldier, and later made his Twitter account private following Campus Reform’s reporting on his recent tweet encouraging Philadelphia residents to shut down a recent Charles Murray lecture at Villanova University.
Although Drexel initially defended his right to freedom of expression, the administration appears to have reconsidered that commitment in the face of increased scrutiny into Ciccariello-Maher’s social media activity.
According to documents obtained by InsideHigherEd, Drexel Provost Brian Blake informed Ciccariello-Maher in an April 3 email that the university intends to commission “a special committee of inquiry to investigate your conduct and provide findings and recommendations to me concerning your extremely damaging conduct.”
Blake told Ciccariello-Maher that his “behavior has left me with no choice but to ensure that an appropriate review is conducted in order to deal with this serious distraction to the important academic mission of the university.”
Moreover, Blake noted that the professor’s behavior is “even more concerning” in light of the “cautionary letter” he had sent in February warning Ciccariello-Maher about not only the “white genocide” tweet, but also several others that appeared to be “advocating for the murder of police officers.”
In one of the tweets, Ciccariello-Maher had written “#BringBackFields, then do him like #OldYeller,” which Blake noted was widely interpreted as calling for “the murder of Ben Fields, the South Carolina deputy school resource officer who violently arrested a female high school student.”
The other tweet simply stated, “Off the Pigs.”
In his most recent letter, Blake asserts that while social media communications are “protected speech” under the university’s academic freedom policy, the policy also imposes a “special obligation” on professors 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.”
Ciccariello-Maher’s failure to abide by that obligation in his tweets, Blake explained, has resulted in “significant negative feedback” for Drexel, even driving away students and 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.”
Indeed, Blake asserted that “the nearly unmanageable volume of venomous calls” that the administration received in the wake of the professor’s latest tweets even forced the school to “consider turning off its phones” for several days.
Niki Gianakaris, executive director of Media Relations at Drexel, told Campus Reform that “any review of Drexel University Professor George Ciccariello-Maher is a personnel matter and as such will not be discussed publicly.”
Ciccariello-Maher and Blake did not respond to media inquiries.
Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @Toni_Airaksinen