We have been discussing the curious start of the academic career of Saida Grundy, an incoming assistant professor of sociology and African-American studies at Boston University, who released a series of tweets denounced by many as racist and sexist. “White masculinity isn’t a problem for america’s colleges, white masculinity is THE problem for america’s colleges.” In a January tweet, Grundy wrote: “Every MLK week I commit myself to not spending a dime in white-owned businesses. and every year i find it nearly impossible.” Previously, she posted comments like “Deal with your white sh*t, white people. slavery is a *YALL* thing.” With many objecting that the University would have fired a male or white professor for such comments directed against blacks or women, donors have begun to revolt and the University was forced to issue a statement condemning the comments. Now, after a surprisingly long period of silence, Grundy has apologized but may have aggravated the situation further. She has called the statements “indelicate” and says that they were in response to unidentified events. The response has been withering with many saying that few would view the comments “indelicate” if a white professor encouraged people not to buy things from black people or calling black males as the problem on colleges.
Boston University president Robert Brown expressed “disappointment” with her statements and his concern over “statements that reduce individuals to stereotypes on the basis of a broad category such as sex, race, or ethnicity. I believe Dr. Grundy’s remarks fit this characterization.”
Grundy wrote that the tweets were the result of “personal passion” to “events we now witness with regularity in our nation.” She added “I regret that my personal passion about issues surrounding these events led me to speak about them indelicately. I deprived them of the nuance and complexity that such subjects always deserve.” She further promised to be fair to whites and males in her classes, acknowledging her duty “to create an inclusive learning environment for all of my students. Both professionally and ethically, I am unequivocally committed to ensuring that my classroom is a space where all students are welcomed.”
My greatest concern remains the question of equal treatment for other faculty in making controversial statements. As previously discussed, we have seen actions taken against faculty for comments viewed as racist or sexist in social media. I believe that Grundy should be protected as a matter of free speech in such comments, but I also believe that Boston University has created a bright line here for future such cases. In such future cases of “delicate” speech, I hope that Grundy will now be the first to step forward and defend the right of those making such comments. With the new effort to punish “micro aggressions” on college campus and regulate speech, such macro aggressions can still be matters of free speech.