Trinity Professor’s Facebook Posts Spark Furor And Campus Shut Down

pennine: What a charming man, what is he professor of? -Toxicology? Pity his poisoned mind & venomous heart

Courtesy of Ms Kathleen Megan- Reporter & Courant

http://www.courant.com/education/hc-trinity-campus-closed-threats-20170621-story.html

June 22nd. 2017

After a Facebook post with a “reprehensible” hashtag by a professor led to a campus shutdown Wednesday, Trinity College President Joanne Berger-Sweeney said the school would investigate whether college policies were violated.

The Facebook posts by Johnny Eric Williams, which spread quickly on social media, were made in reaction to a fatal police shooting in Seattle, he said. A conservative website, Campus Reform, suggested that Williams was instead writing that victims of the Congressional shooting in suburban Washington should have been left to die.

Along with his Facebook posts, Williams included a profane hashtag connected to what Berger described as an “inflammatory article” that included “a call to show indifference to the lives of bigots.”

“The Dean of the Faculty will review this matter and advise me on whether college procedures or policies were broken. I told Professor Williams that in my opinion his use of the hashtag was reprehensible and, at the very least, in poor judgment,” Berger-Sweeney wrote in a letter to the Trinity community Wednesday. “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 posts led to threats against the college and death threats against Williams, causing college officials to shut down the campus Wednesday and police to investigate. The campus is expected to reopen Thursday morning. About 170 students are living on campus this summer.

The firestorm over Williams’ posts was ignited by the Campus Reform post, which seemed to conflate Williams’ use of the hashtag with his Facebook posts, saying that Williams “appeared to endorse the idea that first responders to last week’s congressional shooting should have let the victims … die because they are white.”

Williams, who teaches about race and racism, said Wednesday this was not what he was writing about.

“This is about free speech as well as academic freedom,” he said. “From my perspective, I’m considering whether I should file a defamation against these guys.”

“The black community is beside itself all over the country with the constant killing. It doesn’t matter what we do, we still be killed, we still go to jail. Just being black and living is a crime. That’s what seems to be the problem,” Williams said.

As a scholar, he said, he feels its his obligation to “speak up about the kind of destructive behavior that white supremacy is dealing on people on a daily basis.”

Hartford Deputy Chief Brian Foley said police department “analysts and detectives are assisting Trinity College with an investigation regarding nonspecific, noncredible threats from around the country. He said the threats are “related to potential alleged comments being attributed to a [Trinity] staff member.”

Williams’ post on June 18 said, “It is past time for the racially oppressed to do what people who believe themselves to be ‘white’ will not do, put end to the vectors of their destructive mythology of whiteness and their white supremacy system.” That post carried the inflammatory hashtag.

Berger-Sweeney said she spoke with Williams, who has been a sociology professor at Trinity since 1996, to hear directly what had happened.

She said that on June 16, a writer who goes by the name of “Son of Baldwin” wrote a piece for Medium.com that cited another writer’s perspective on the shooting that occurred at the Congressional baseball practice in Virginia last week.

“The Medium piece went on to explore broader issues concerning race and the relationship between ‘victims of bigotry’ and ‘bigots,'” Berger-Sweeney wrote. “The piece culminated with a call to show indifference to the lives of bigots. That call was reprehensible, and any such suggestion is abhorrent and wholly contrary to Trinity’s values.”

Berger-Sweeney said that while Williams did not write that article, he did share it on his personal social media accounts and did so with the use of a hashtag that connected directly to the “inflammatory conclusion” of the article.

The posts, which Williams said were not meant to be public, were made in reaction to the fatal police shooting of Charleena Lyles in Seattle this week and not the Virginia shootings.

“They are thinking I’m talking about a Congressman,” Williams said, referring to the shooting last week of a member of Congress. “That’s not at all the case.”

“I’m calling for the death of a system, white supremacy, not the death of white people,” Williams said

In a second Facebook post on June 18, Williams also said he was fed up with “daily violence directed at immigrants, Muslims, and sexually and racially oppressed people. The time is now to confront these inhuman [expletive] and end this now.”

In a statement emailed Wednesday night, Williams said, “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.’ I merely attached the hashtag to my post derived from a blog article … This was an admittedly provocative move to get readers to pay attention to my reasoned, reasonable, and yes angry argument.”

Berger-Sweeney said the incident has caused “distress on our campus and beyond” and that “threats of violence” have been directed at Williams and the campus community.

House Republican leader Themis Klarides of Derby and state Sen. George Logan of Ansonia, both Trinity graduates, wrote Berger-Sweeney and said Williams should be permanently removed from the faculty.

“We are calling upon the school to immediately, and permanently, remove Mr. Williams from the ranks of the school’s faculty,” Klarides and Logan wrote.

Courant staff writers Christopher Keating and Nicholas Rondinone contributed to this article.

Copyright © 2017, Hartford Courant

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