Ethics Observations On The Trump-Deranged Prof’s 2016 Post-Election Freak-Out

Bridgewater State University professor Garrett Avila-Nichols wrote the Facebook screed above shortly after the November 8 defeat of Hillary Clinton by President Anti-Christ. Somehow the post didn’t become known to students—at least the ones he hate—and apparently even the university’s administration until this week.


1 We are seeing one example after another of college professors making tweets and other social media posts denigrating conservatives, Republicans, whites, men and Trump voters in emotional, vicious and frequently obscene rhetoric. Can anyone recall any similar conduct from professors directed against liberals, conservatives, minorities, women, or Obama, Clinton or Carter voters? I know that there was no social media to abuse for much of those periods, but still: when did professors get the idea that attacking large segments of the population and the student body was tolerable? Why do they think it is acceptable conduct now?

2. Is it because they see, hear and read so much similar hate and fury in the mainstream media, social media, and mouth-foaming  anti-Trump fanatics like Maxine Waters, Keith Olberman, and Stephen Colbert, and see them get away with it relatively unscathed?

3. Professor Turley is almost an absolutist on the matter of professors being able to exercise their First Amendment rights on social media. Would he defend this? Really? How can someone teach students when he has declared in print and online that some of them aren’t welcome? How could such students trust such a professor to grade them objectively and fairly? Teachers are supposed to be mentors and allies: how can someone who hates you perform those roles? How can a school trust a professor who writes something like that?

4.  Does it matter that this is an old post? I don’t think so. Emotions that intense and judgement that terrible are signature significance. Rational, reasonable, trustworthy professionals don’t make public outbursts like that. Ever.

5. An apology should not matter in such a case. “I’m sorry I hate you”? “I’m sorry I behaved in public like a spoiled 8-year old when students pay a fortune to have me teach them”? “I’m sorry I let people know how I really think”? Avila-Nichols’s best chance would be the Pazuzu Excuse: “This wasn’t me, I don’t believe that, it isn’t who I am.” Of course, that fake apology is a lie.

6. I am beginning to think that the victims of this hyper-partisan virulent Trump-hate should be able to claim temporary insanity, but that would seem to require a public consensus that a lot of public figures, elected officials, journalists, pundits and my friends are clinically ill. Charles Blow and Hillary would definitely have to be institutionalized. I don’t think it will fly, unfortunately.

Too bad.

7. This professor has to be fired.

27 thoughts on “Ethics Observations On The Trump-Deranged Prof’s 2016 Post-Election Freak-Out

  1. Had this professor used his/her position power to pressure a student into submitting to the sexual overtures of that professor we would and should hear outrage and demand punishment.

    How is that any different when the pressure on the student is to adopt the desired political behavior to gratify the professor’s desires or face adverse consequences by not acquiesing to the professor’s demand for a specific act that is unrelated to the educational experience.

    In my mind, none. It is equivalent to a rape of the mind.

  2. Ironically, I was 8 when I often responded to anger with strings of curses, until my father slammed me up against the wall and told me to stop it or he would give me the beating of my life. Sounds like this guy needs the same treatment.

  3. It occurs to me that the Left’s strawman effigy of the Right has taken on a life of its own and become a huge scarecrow boogeyman. The Left trust their own assumptions about the motivations of the Right more than they trust the Right directly contradicting those assumptions through words and actions, so all they’ve got left is escalating paranoia. Their response is not to keep a watchful eye and make sure no lines are crossed, but rather to make all the people on the Right go away, because they must surely be up to something–building power in secret; preparing to wipe out or permanently oppress all of the ethnic, gender, sexual, and romantic minorities.

    The most vocal people on the Left have become what they claim to hate, but based on their worldview, it’s not what you do that’s important, but who you do it to. It’s the classic trope Protagonist Centered Morality, or alternatively Moral Myopia, and either way it’s toxic.

    I ended up writing this article to address this worsening issue: However, I don’t have a huge following, so I’m glad the latest episode of Rick and Morty made a fairly clear statement against this sort of divisiveness.

  4. He needs medication and a different setting to deal with his mental health issues. Alas, he probably has tenure so the university administration will most likely will give him a slap on the wrist and he will continue indoctrinating students.

  5. This clearly falls under the protection of the First Amendment, and Bridgewater is apparently a public university. Disciplinary action, it seems to me, would be problematic.

    I hope this negatively affects the enrollment and reputation of the university. Their response was weak, pro-forma, and unsatisfactory.

    What Bridgewater should do is find themselves … unable to locate any students suitable to go to this guy’s class, make him redundant, and squirrel him away in some corner of the school were nobody but the janitors see him. His salary is their penance for such a milquetoast response.

    • There are a lot of cases that hold that when an employee, even a government employee, engages in conduct involving speech that undermines the ability to do his or her job, he or she can be fired. A teacher who publicly says that tuition-paying students aren’t welcome in his class is clearly in that category, don’t you think?

      • I mean, we don’t need to think, we can give examples. There has been a slow moving revolving door in higher education as faculty have been expelled for some kind of speech problem. Off the top of my head, this is probably in the same class of firable offense as publishing a racial slur in a less than educational context. Quick and easy Google to prove my point: “Teacher Fired Nigger” There’s GOT to be a couple of those.

      • That’s true, but there are problems with firing him even so. In the first place, his comments, such as they were, were on a matter of public concern. That automatically shifts a court’s analysis to a balancing test under Pickering v. Board of Education and Connick v. Meyers. Ken White explains that here:

        In brief: when the government fires an employee for speech, courts go through a multi-step doctrine. First, they ask whether the speech was on a matter of public concern. If it wasn’t — if the speech was about some petty internal squabble not of interest to the public — the First Amendment doesn’t prevent the firing at all. If the speech in question is on a matter of public concern, courts engage in an alarmingly touchy-feely balancing test, weighing the government employer’s interest in an orderly and efficient workplace against the speech rights of the employee. Courts take into account things like whether the speech restriction is content-based (that is, whether it censors some viewpoints but not others), the circumstances of the speech, the strength of the employee’s interest in the speech, whether the speech genuinely disrupts discipline and order and interferes with workplace relationships, and so forth. [my emphasis]

        So here are some relevant facts we can determine in addition to the nature of the speech:

        – This particular disaster took place only two days after a highly emotional election;

        – The speech was on the private Facebook page of the teacher.

        These two facts are significant, and I think a court would find that they were unlikely to cause a disruption in the context of their utterance, especially considering that ten months have passed before the first controversy.

        So I would expect a court to rule that under the Pickering-Connick test, the speech is protected. I doubt the school would be interested in fighting that battle. Also, given the nature of the speech, it seems like the kind of thing we should not be punishing at a state-sponsored school, because we are demanding that other speech of an even more provocative and unsavory nature be allowed. In summary, I think their decision not to fire him is the correct one under established doctrine, but they should strongly consider the consequences of allowing someone who professes to hate some of his students to teach them.

          • Maybe you’re right. I think it would, though. The language may have been crude, but the opinion is as clear as can be (and not in a good way). But that’s what the First Amendment is for, in my view.

  6. “6. I am beginning to think that the victims of this hyper-partisan virulent Trump-hate should be able to claim temporary insanity, but that would seem to require a public consensus that a lot of public figures, elected officials, journalists, pundits and my friends are clinically ill. Charles Blow and Hillary would definitely have to be institutionalized. I don’t think it will fly, unfortunately.”

    There were a LOT, and I mean a LOT of people, directly after the election, putting things into type that I think they regret now. I think in making the election about morals instead of policy, you had a significant chunk of progressive voters who were emotionally invested in this election. And the failure of the election to produce the results they were looking for was so… shocking, because really… Even I, who said all along that Trump could win, really didn’t think that he was actually GOING to.

    Directly following the election, someone I still consider a friend asked a one word question on Twitter: “How?” And I responded with some variations of: “This isn’t an acceptance of Trump, it’s a rejection of Clinton.” and “America still has values, even values you share, we just need better candidates.” to which I received, and I think I’m being exact, but this could be a slight paraphrase: “IT WAS A RHETORICAL QUESTION YOU ASSHOLE.” This was probably one of the more measured discussions I had with someone who voted Hillary, at least that week. I chuckle watching the snowflakes melt when Ben Shapiro decides to give a lecture, but I remember specifically saying to myself: “Jesus… This isn’t funny anymore, these people are deranged, someone’s going to get shot (although, to the best of my knowledge, that didn’t happen directly following the election, and good to be wrong).”

    After a couple of incidents like the above, and watching a couple of videos detailing the collective prolonged autistic screeching of people who’s entire worldview was crumbling in real time, I settled on stepping away from the internet for a week and letting them have their collective bitch fit, which I’m not entirely convinced is over.

    I’m struggling with the professor here. You’re right, of course, what he posted will alienate some of his students, it sends all the wrong messages, and it’s the kind of thing that employers should look at as directly contradictory to a healthy workplace. But there’s been this absolutely awful trend lately of dredging up past behaviors, having those behaviors go viral and absolutely ruining people’s lives. It’s like a social media delivered economic torture porn. IF this was in fact a one-off, IF we can’t find other examples of overt bias, then despite the toxicity of the rant, considering the context of it, it might be in our best interests to ignore it.

  7. Ok, I was going to not comment on this one. This is just right in that first amendment nook that I am apt to give wide berth to free speech. BOf course my curiosity got the better of me and I just had to see the face of this person, so I searched their name, and this is the first hit:

    I can see how this election was very divisive. I understand that Clinton’s loss came as a shock to many, maybe even many on this forum. So I am not going to go on a tirade about some screed posted on a personal Facebook page, even if it is the page of a professor. When I see that you have taken that to heart, when that is not just a single screed, but several and when it affects your ability to teach, that is no longer a first amendment issue. The issue is his actions, not his speech.

    It is not the case that some student found his Facebook page and got all bent out of shape. What happened was that a student noticed he was very slanted in his lectures and reading assignments, which caused them to go look for more evidence, which was ample. I think this professor has lost his ability to think clearly and should take a sabbatical until he can clear his mind and come back to reason, in any event, I would not want him teaching me, or my children, and I certainly would not want to pay to have to listen to this.

  8. “Jesus… This isn’t funny anymore, these people are deranged, someone’s going to get shot (although, to the best of my knowledge, that didn’t happen directly following the election, and good to be wrong).”

    Steve Saclise ring any bells?

  9. Along these same lines…

    Recall the U.W. Madison (GO BADGERS!) student “entrepreneur” Eneale Pickett’s “brainchild?”

    A hoodie proclaiming: “All White People Are Racists.”

    Welp, you just can’t keep an ambitiously enterprising spirit from churning out…um…edgy, ahead-of-the-curve social commentary.

    “UW student releases graphic video portraying officer being beheaded”

    Oh, were deliciously ironic Karma (him requiring the protection/intervention of LE officers in a life-or-death situation) to rear its ugly head.

    Like they say: a Conservative is a Lefty that got mugged.

  10. The book World Without Mind by Franklin Foer details how Facebook experiments with its users news feeds. Apparently FB is & has been actively attempting to alter user attitudes by the algorithms it uses for such feeds.

    One example is an FB experiment involving taking posts with positive words out of feeds for some users while taking negative words out of other users feeds. The result/conclusion-each group wrote posts that echoed the moods of the posts they were exposed to.

    Though some object to such experiments they continue at FB to predict race, marriage status & even drug use. Zuckerberg’s goal, according to Foer (who left FB on bad terms) is to make humans more predictable & therefore easier to control.

    It may be useful to consider what this professor was reading prior to his FB post & if his clearly over-emotional state was at least in part egged on by algorithms.

    It’s high time to examine the likes of Google, FB, Amazon, Microsoft, Apple etc. to see just what they may be doing to the minds of their users. I don’t give anyone a free pass for not thinking for themselves, but mind manipulation is an old way to control and I believe we’re seeing another version of it thanks to our new tech gods.

  11. The guy wrote a lot more understandable essay the day after the election, which boils down to he was gay and badly bullied growing up, and in this election he saw all the progress he thought had been made undone. It’s still not true, and frankly doesn’t make much sense, but at least it’s readable. My guess is that essay was met with more than a few comments to the effect of “it’s over” or “like it or not, Trump is going to be president, so we better tee up to the idea,” and he either freaked out or decided there was nothing to lose and cut loose. I think the man is in need of either intensive psychotherapy or relearning basic human behavior. Either way, he doesn’t belong in a classroom.

  12. This is my alma mater. I made the mistake of going there during the immediate post-9/11 years, where there was quite a bit of political activism on campus. As a mostly commuter school, I always thought that BSU wanted to be big on campus activism so it could feel more like a “real” university. I had a professor tell me he was sure that the FBI was infiltrating his classes because of his anti-Bush protests. Sorry, pal, you holding a sign doesn’t interest COINTELPRO.

  13. How can someone teach students when he has declared in print and online that some of them aren’t welcome?

    Seriously, I have run into teachers/profs [not in my alma mater] who will tell you the only students who take their classes “have already familiarized themselves with the background of the material, so we can go on from there.” One of these drove a friend of mine to distraction when he was in college . He chose a course on Proust’s Remembrances of Things Past and found out too late that the teacher was a postmodernist who had decided Proust was an “unreliable narrator” (roughly, one who therefore lacked credibility, thus enabling the reader to interpret the writing pretty much as he chose). My friend questioned the critical style — which is a controversial one, notorious for having no grade standard other than the instructor’s opinion — and was told he would have to leave the class because if he didn’t believe in the method, he would get an automatic F. The administration backed the teacher. My friend said he found the same situation in several other areas and all the “soft” sciences as well: my way or the highway; no discussion.

    He changed his major to math, wound up as an oral surgeon. He audits night school classes these days at the local community college and hosts a study group in his home where anyone who wishes to start or continue a personal line of questioning can come and talk it out; the more debate, the better. … The group is limited to nine (the number of seats in his living room). Of all of the leftward leaning people I know, he is the only one who lurks among the readership at Ethics Alarms and loves to present the pith of an occasional post to the group. As a result, one hitherto closeted conservative have joined in and another is on his waiting list. Only rule: no blood is to be spilled.

    [There. First chance I’ve had to mention that. Mostly, the extra-curricular topics come from a quote of Jack’s, but frequently, he says, the liveliest debates are derived from commenters (which he edits and prints out, distributing on request)]

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