Thursday, May 14, 2015
Professor Saida Grundy of Boston University Joins Professors Susan J. Douglas (Michigan), Steve Salaita (Virginia Tech/Illinois), and Ward Churchill (Colorado) as Poster Childs for Academic Intolerance
Professor Saida Grundy expressed her personal feelings on white racism on tweeter. She tweeted a few days after the racist video of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon Fraternity at the University of Oklahoma became public: “White masculinity isn’t a problem for America’s colleges, white masculinity is THE problem for America’s colleges.” A white racist chant does not justify a black racist response. The Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. received his Ph.D. from Boston University. His “I Have a Dream” Speech spoke to the future: “I have a dream where my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” Professor Grundy’s take on the distinguished BU Alum is: “Every MLK week I commit myself to not spending a dime in white-owned businesses and every year I find it nearly impossible.” She also tweeted that white males are “a problem population.” White males, white masculinity will pay her salary at Boston University, where she joins the faculty on July 1. Why would a highly educated, intelligent person tweet such statements on a public site? African American Studies and Sociology are not campus bastions of Western Civilization Studies. Conservatives do not teach in these programs. The faculty and students exist in a cocoon or echo chamber where they do not realize how far outside the mainstream of America their beliefs lie. They will also not usually be called to answer for these remarks, especially on campus. They know the media will crucify Paula Deen, Donald Sterling, SAE, Rush Limbaugh and even the Duck Dynasty for racist, sexist or homophobic remarks while the academic left will normally receive a pass from the media. Professor Saida Grundy now joins the ranks of Professors Susan J. Douglas, Steven Salitia, and Ward Churchill. Professor Churchill delivered an incendiary speech attacking the victims of 9/11. Professor Douglas wrote an article, which started out “I hate Republicans” and went downhill from there. Professor Salita tweeted anti-Semitic comments and Professor Grundy tweeted anti-white racist remarks. All four publicly uttered their deep-seated, intolerant, inflammatory biases. Their racism, anti-Semitism, and political intolerance were expressed outside the comfortable cocoon of academe. Universities, such as Boston University universities are too large for governing boards of regents and trustees to micromanage appointment, promotion, and tenure decisions. They depend upon Presidents, chancellors, provosts, deans, department chairs, and committees to screen the candidates. They normally approve the recommendations. Governing boards may not realize how increasingly liberal their campuses are becoming. The faculty themselves may also be unaware of how progressive they have become. Thus the faculty are used to saying statements the general public finds extremist and outrageous. They are far to the left of the general public. Then the reaction occurs. Professors Churchill and Salaita did not survive academically. The University of Colorado unceremoniously terminated Professor Churchill on grounds of academic misconduct. Professor Saliita unwisely resigned from his tenured position at Virginia Tech to teach at the University of Illinois before he executed a signed contract at Illinois. He would now be a tenured professor at Illinois if had only restrained his tweets for a few months. A BU spokesman initially supported Professor Grundy last Friday: She was “exercising her right to free speech and we respect her right to do so.” The backlash went viral. Social media does not discriminate. Disgruntled alumni raised their voices and closed their wallets. The spokesman quickly changed his perspective on Saturday: “The University does not condone racism and bigotry in any form and we are deeply saddened when someone makes such offensive statements.” That statement did not quell the unrest. BU President Robert A. Brown Tuesday emailed a letter to BU’s students and staff on Tuesday. He’s in a difficult position. He knows he cannot terminate Professor Grundy. She undoubtedly has a signed contract. Yet, he also knows that the University cannot appear to be supportive of her views. It’s a delicate balancing act. He wrote “[W]e acknowledge Dr. Grundy’s right to hold and express her opinions.” However, “Boston University does not condone racism or bigotry in any form …. We are disappointed and concerned by statements that reduce individuals to stereotypes on the basis of a broad category, such as race, sex, or ethnicity ….” But we also recognize that words have power and the words in the tweeter feed were powerful in the way they stereotyped and condemned other people ….” Professor Grundy responded Wednesday to the uproar in a letter to The Daily Free Press, the campus paper. She said she looks “forward to more dialogues about race, diversity, and inclusion in my career at Boston University ….” She should invite President Obama to another “teachable moment” in Boston. She regretted that her “personal passion about issues surrounding these events led me to speak about them indelicately. I deprived them of the nuance and complexity that such matters always deserve.” Racism is not nuanced. We hope the young professor will reflect on the backlash to her comments and have a long teaching career marked by tolerance, learning from the teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.