When we last visited Montclair State University Women’s Studies Professor Kevin Allred, he was about to be sacked at Rutgers for tweeting
“Will the 2nd amendment be as cool when i buy a gun and start shooting at random white people or no…?”
In that case, I agreed that the university had little choice but to remove Allred from the campus, noting that Allred, as an employee, an adult (theoretically) and an instructor, should have known better than to broadcast his provocative musings in 140 characters or less to the world at large, rather than confining them to class. He should also have known that campus shootings aren’t a joking matter after the Virginia Tech attack. If he had the sense to write “someone” rather than “I,” avoided “when” to make it clear this was a hypothetical, the situation would probably have not arisen. Then, I wrote,
“…Rutgers would only be risking outraged parents demanding to know why a prestigious school thinks it’s responsible to have their students going into debt to pay for courses like the one Allred teaches.”
After he had to leave Rutgers, Montclair State hired him to teach the same course on “the music and career of Beyoncé Giselle Knowles Carter.”
I know, I know.
Now Allred is in hot water again, this time for tweeting,
“Trump is a fucking joke. This is all a sham. I wish someone would just shoot him outright.”
He then retweeted the image of Kathy Griffin holding a model of the President’s severed head.
Ethics Verdict for Montclair: You hired him, now live with him.
- This was not a threat on the President’s life. A wish is not a command, nor a threat. (See: the Trump-Comey conversation). Nor did it have any relationship to the school, students, or the campus.
- No students were threatened by this tweet, nor did Allred suggest that he was going to engage in violence. Had he tweeted,
“Will the 2nd amendment be as cool when i buy a gun and shoot the President or no…?”
…it would be a different issue.
- The Julie Principle applies. This guy got kicked out of one job for making a gratuitously violent tweet. This school can hardly claim it didn’t hire him with its metaphorical eyes open.Unless his eschewing social media comments of a violent nature that also made the school’s management look like the fools they are for hiring him was an express term of his employment, they are stuck.
They hired a jerk He’s acting like one. They got what they paid for. I know there’s no college that refuses to hire jerks. Look at the composition of faculties.
- There should be no sympathy for any college that offers a course for credit on Beyoncé.
In short, this stupid tweet, unlike his previous one, is well within the extremely broad range of expression necessarily protected by academic freedom.
A Related Note: Jonathan Turley flagged the latest in the Keven Allred saga. His headline: “Montclair Professor Calls For Trump To Be Killed.” Call it clickbait, fake news or just sloppy writing, that headline is misleading. His tweet did not “call for” the President to be killed. Turley is a law professor and a brilliant lawyer. Surely he knows that saying you “wish” for something to happen is not “calling for” someone to do it. Words matter. Lawyers make their living pointing out more technical differences than this. Worse, Turley is an exemplar. His headline suggests that saying one wishes something (which is a description of how the speaker feels) is the same calling for action. It makes some readers more ignorant than there already were.
Neither teachers, lawyer or bloggers should do that.