Rutgers University lecturer Kevin Allred tweeted,
“Will the 2nd amendment be as cool when i buy a gun and start shooting at random white people or no…?”
His defenders, and of course Allred, say that his tweet was just a rhetorical question to make a point. The University says that he left them no choice, or no good ones, anyway.
They both are right. This is what comes of being in Ethics Zugswang, when one is thrust into a position where no course of action is fully responsible, fair, and ethical.
The university decided that it could not responsibly assume that the tweet was benign and not a threat. What if the school did nothing, and Allred then took high ground and became Charles Whitman 2016? Having him arrested, however, looks unfair and like a punitive reaction to free speech. There was literally no course the university could take that was completely ethical. Rutgers sacrificed its teacher’s dignity for the safety of the students and to protect the institution’s liability.
The other alternatives—talking to him, shrugging it off as a poorly considered social media gaffe—placed the fate of the school and perhaps many students at the mercy of moral luck. These would seem like reasonable decisions only if the moral luck dice did not come up snake eyes. Allred didn’t say “if” I buy a gun, he said when. He added race to the equation, and there are a lot of people who seem to be losing their grip in the wake of the election. What were the odds that he meant what he wrote? 100 to 1? 1000 to 1? 5000 to 1? Is it worth the remote chance that this was a warning of an impending catastrophe not to take the safe route, and have him arrested and examined? Is it worth gambling with students’ lives? Continue reading