Lawmakers want Trinity prof ousted for 'reprehensible' remarks
Connecticut GOP lawmakers are urging Trinity College to fire a sociology professor over his controversial remarks following the shooting of Rep. Steve Scalise.
In their letter to the school’s president, State Sen. George Logan and House Leader Themis Klarides called for the immediate and permanent ousting of professor Johnny Eric Williams for his “reprehensible” comments on social media, WTNH reported Wednesday.
The pair of Republican lawmakers, who are both alumni of Trinity College, wrote that they are “calling upon the school to immediately, and permanently, remove Mr. Williams from the ranks of the school’s faculty,” declaring that “His reprehensible suggestions that white people in general need to ‘die’ and that they be confronted for their white supremacist attitudes and mores goes beyond any imaginable level of social discourse.”
In a series of posts last week, Williams appeared to endorse the notion that first responders to the congressional shooting should have let the victims "fucking die,” first sharing a Medium article making exactly that argument, then attaching the hashtag “#LetThemFuckingDie” to the end of a post calling for “the racially oppressed” to “put [an] end to the vectors of [the] destructive mythology of whiteness.”
The lawmakers demanded that Trinity “immediately, and permanently, remove Mr. Williams from the ranks of the school’s faculty,” arguing that Trinity’s initial response to Williams’ comments—asserting its right to remove inappropriate Facebook comments—fell “well short of the mark of what should reasonably be expected” from an academic institution.
“Professor Williams’ opinions are simply outrageous and racist in and of themselves,” they concluded. “We would urge you to consider this request as in the best interests of not only ‘members of the greater Trinity College community,’ but of society at large.”
In response to the outrage generated by Campus Reform’s coverage of the posts, Williams defended his comments in a Facebook post Wednesday night, denying that he had called for “the death of all self-identified ‘whites’” and saying he had merely intended to provoke his readers.
“It is evident to anyone who carefully reads my posts on Facebook and Twitter that I did not call for the death of all self-identified ‘whites,’” Williams wrote. “I merely attached the hashtag to my post derived from a blog article written by Son of Baldwin entitled ‘Let Them All Fucking Die.’ This was an admittedly provocative move to get readers to pay attention to my reasoned, reasonable, and yes angry argument.”
Later on Wednesday evening, Trinity President Joanne Berger-Sweeney issued a statement condemning “hate speech or calls to incite violence,” and explained that the professor’s status at the school is under review.
“The Dean of the Faculty will review this matter and advise me on whether college procedures or policies were broken,” Berger-Sweeney announced. “I told Professor Williams that in my opinion his use of the hashtag was reprehensible and, at the very least, in poor judgment. No matter its intent, it goes against our fundamental values as an institution, and I believe its effect is to close minds rather than open them.”
The president also underscored that while the college is committed to upholding “our fundamental belief in academic freedom and support our community members’ constitutional right to free speech,” it is still incumbent on members of the school community to “take particular care” with how they exercise that freedom.
“I denounce hate speech in all its forms,” Berger-Sweeney concluded. “I will explore all options to resolve this matter, and I will be back in touch with our community members with our decisions.”
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