California State University Randa Jarrar is facing calls for her termination after she appeared to celebrate the death of former First Lady Barbara Bush. A petition calls for the “Immediate termination of Professor Randa Jarrar for racism and inflammatory comments regarding a former First Lady of the United States, Barbara Bush.” Jarrar’s comments were disgraceful and hateful, but there remains a question of the free speech rights of teachers and professors in their private lives.
Jarrar called Bush “an amazing racist” and said she was happy that “the witch is dead” not long after her passing.
The school put her under investigation and leave over her postings. She responded with defiance and bravado to critics, saying “I work as a tenured professor. I make 100K a year doing that. I will never be fired. I will always have people wanting to hear what I have to say.” (The school later noted that Jarrar’s salary is less than $100,000).
I cannot imagine what possessed Jarrar to say such vile things but this was on her social media account. As we have previously discussed (including the recent controversies involving an Oregon professor and a Drexel professor), there remains an uncertain line in what language is protected for teachers in their private lives. The incident also raises what some faculty have complained is a double or at least uncertain standard. We have previously discussed controversies at the University of California and Boston University, where there has been criticism of a double standard, even in the face of criminal conduct. There were also such incident at the University of London involving Bahar Mustafa as well as one involving a University of Pennsylvania professor. For example, we previously discussed the controversy surrounding Trinity College Professor Johnny Williams and his posts against white people, including an inflammatory reference to people considered bigots and how we should “Let Them. F**king Die.” As I am mentioned in the earlier post, I did not believe that Williams should have been punished for his postings as a matter of free speech and academic freedom. The College reached the same conclusion but the question remains whether the College will take a similar principled position for academics espousing such views about other races.
Just as some of us have opposed speech limits and regulation for students, the same protections should extend to faculty. Jarrar’s view of a historical figure does not have bearing on her status as an academic. If the university believes that academics should be placed on leave and investigated, the faculty and students deserve a clear standard as to what personal views and positions will not be tolerated outside of the university.
Many of us find Jarrar’s comments offensive, but there are many such views expressed across the political and social spectrums that are unpopular or disturbing. As an academic institution, Fresno State has a core responsibility for protection of free speech rights for its faculty and students alike. By placing Jarrar on leave and putting her under investigation, it creates a chilling effect of all academics in expressing their views outside of the school. For a school for professes “diversity” as one of its goals, diversity of opinion should also be included in their noble mission.
56 thoughts on “Fresno Professor Faces Calls For Termination After Declaring “The Witch Is Dead” Hours After The Passing Of Barbara Bush”
They should FIRE the person/persons who hired her, as well!
I’m sure professor Jarrar probably just had a rough day and she will feel better after she attends her next meeting with the daughters of the American revolution.
Any response from the
Since the governing body are incapable of reaching a rational decision.
Public worker unions are unconstitutional.
Freedom of association.
Fired when you fail to appear for duties.
Associate all you want.
The first workforce of every nation is its military. No one, with the exception of geniuses, would posit that military unions are constitutional or otherwise rational or legal.
Unions shall not usurp the power of elected officials to hire, fire, pay and direct the public workforce for the benefit of the taxpayers.
Public worker unions engender little or no quantifiable productivity and are merely vessels for unconstitutional redistribution of wealth.
America is deep in unpayable debt and numbers of public workers must be reduced by 50% initially.
Were the numbers and prestige respectable, the NEA would promulgate median GPA’s and post-graduate corporate hiring. They want neither known. The cost per student tops the world at $13K for secondary. Ridiculous. Teachers would be summarily thrown/laughed out of a private market corporate boardroom. Teachers assume an alollf and superior posture because of striking thugism not discernible merit and performance. The material, the students, that teachers have to work with is ineducable. Firemen spray their hoses for $150 – $400K. Ask the chief to show you his bank account. Seriously?
It appears that most commenters here fail to comprehend tenure.
No, we comprehend tenure. We don’t think it should ever exist.
Then you don’t actually understand it.
Oh, you might be in favor of kakistocracy….
No, I understand it, and I understand you have no arguments for it or for any other proposition you support, which is why you’re reduced to supercilious drive-bys.
Teaching is the most important profession in the world. Entrusting someone to guide, someone to open up minds to all types of thinking could make us a great world.
Guaranteeing someone a job for life is not how to accomplish that goal. There are too many other things besides free speech, that make a quality teacher.
But nothing will change until this unconscionable benefit is eliminated.
You fail to understand tenure.
He understands it perfectly well and he understands you perfectly well.
Thus spake the ignoranti.
Not an advisable thing to do but certainly no firing offense. Millions held their tongues when Mrs. Bush died out of common respect despite having sleight regard for her in life. Just saying something mean about a dead public figure in a tweet is silly.
Actually, ordinary employees are fired for a lot less if a company is PR conscious. It’s not a ‘firing offense’ because faculty members are a privileged class. They shouldn’t be, but they are.
Tenured faculty should be. Some reading of history explains why.
Public entities are constrained be the First Amendment, and she is employed by one.
Why is that they lobbied for it and were granted it. It does not a blessed thing for ‘academic freedom’ and ‘academic freedom’ is over-rated in any case.
Offensiveness is a necessary consequence of opinions strongly held and openly expressed, and free societies should treasure and protect it. An idea that offends no one is not worth entertaining.
Philip Agee was accused by U.S. President George H. W. Bush of being responsible for the death of Richard Welch, a Harvard-educated classicist who was murdered by the Revolutionary Organization 17 November while heading the CIA Station in Athens. Bush had directed the CIA from 1976 to 1977. This accusation was included in Barbara Bush’s 1994 memoir, but was removed from its paperback edition after Agee sued her for libel.
Former President George H. W. Bush, a war criminal and common criminal, stated many times that he read Mrs. Bush’s book proofs many times to protect her. Consequently, he contributed to and caused Mrs. Bush’s libel ( and numerous defamations ) as well as his own defamations.
Mrs. Bush’s publisher and Mrs. Bush settled Mr. Agee’s libel action in a confidential settlement agreement for an undisclosed sum.
Although the settle was confidential, Mr. Agee’s attorney asserted numerous times that the monetary settlement greatly exceed seven ( 7 ) figures.
Above all of us stands a table of our values which are made clear, simple and direct by our actions.
Bush the elder isn’t a war criminal and you, sir, are making the world worse by taking up space.
“I cannot imagine what possessed Jarrar to say such vile things” – bigotry and hatred, the same as what motivates similar political hatred.
If the university stands behind Professor Jarrar’s bigotry, then it would have to similarly protect the speech if a professor makes bigoted, racist remarks against Michelle Obama. I condemn both Jarrar’s comments and this hypothetical example. If they take a free speech purist view, then it has to be applied equally – to the Klan, Antifa, Conservatives, Communists…
This area has always been a bit of a struggle for me. I believe in the First Amendment, which protects citizens from the government discriminating against them for speech. Most Universities are federally funded, so perhaps they are included. From a business owner’s perspective, I believe an employee can be terminated if their private actions or speech impacts upon the employer’s reputation, profits, or otherwise materially damages them. For instance, I would never knowingly hire anyone affiliated with the KKK or Neo Nazis. Not only do I consider such people of low character, and therefore not good candidates, but public expression of such twisted beliefs could drive a company out of business. An employer should not be forced to go bankrupt and lose everything because their employee destroys their reputation.
In this case, Ms Jarrar bragged about being a tenured professor who makes 6 figures and could not be fired, no matter what she said. That drags the university into the repercussions of her behavior. In the same way, the kneeling football players dragged all of the NFL sponsors into politics, with devastating financial repercussions for some. They just wanted to support sports.
Will Ms. Jarrar’s statements impact enrollment and donors? As a parent, this university will forever be linked to her hatred. I will remember this when he’s older and we’re looking at colleges. Other parents will, too. I also believe that she is a reflection upon their hiring practices. She is so egregious, I doubt she behaved like some moderate during the interview process. They hired someone with serious hatred, and poor writing skills, to the English department. The university is responsible for whom they hired. Fresno is still a cow town. This is not going to go over well with country people.
I would respect a university if they took a pure free speech approach to everyone and did not censor based on content bias. They would have to ensure that no teacher discriminated against students based on differing politics. It has been well established that there is a double standard for Liberals and Conservatives, both as employees and students of universities around the country. Even when I attended university, all of us knew we had to skew papers Left to get a good grade. Conservative viewpoints were punished.
How about universities hire the most qualified people for the job, and demand that all professors leave their personal political opinions at the door? Why don’t universities stop discriminating against qualified conservative job applicants?
The answer to your last question is that they don’t.
David Benson’s lying as much as you can hold him responsible in his demented state, as usual.
As for the answer to your question, see Erin O’Connor’s commentary. In effect, disciplines have been redefined to rule out consideration of aught but a circumscribed range of perspectives. The remainder are deemed unacademic and as occurring outside the discipline. See KC Johnson’s commentry on the evolution of American history as a discipline, Dr. O’Connor herself on the evolution of English literature. People are excluded from graduate programs, then ejected from graduate programs, then unable to get references for job searches, then passed over by search committees looking for people who replicate their shticks. Others are subject to harrassment on bogus charges (see the American Sociological Associaiton’s treatment of Mark Regnerus).
Jonathan Haidt’s been writing on the decay of disciplines as disciplines. I don’t imagine he’ll have much success.
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