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When a right-wing publication baits a university to throw own faculty under the bus

EatinOlives

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Oct 23, 2011
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TL;DR -- conservative media site intentionally trudges up old podcast and intentionally misconstrues statements about racial equality from a professor that was said in that podcast. University's president is baited to throw his own faculty under the bus, ignores escalating backlash against said faculty by far-right fuckwads.

This subject has been bothering me for the past several days because it's a textbook case of right-wing muddying of waters that actually successfully baited top officials at a major university into supporting them. It's also happening in my alma mater so, y'know...

This is kind of a long string of events so I'm deciding to put it in list form so as to not overwhelm people.

-Four years ago Dr. Tommy Curry, a Texas A&M University professor in philosophy teaching critical race theory added to a discussion on double standards with regards to violence vis-a-vis race relations. It was a nuanced discussion kicked off by Django Unchained that had just been released.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hzzzUhknV_o

-Years later, "The American Conservative" decides to effectively rally their supporters against Dr. Curry by pushing the narrative that he was advocating for "killing white people", intentionally taking his statements out of context. The backlash against Dr. Curry grew strong.

-For reasons unknown to myself, the president of the university decided to publish a letter essentially supporting The American Conservative by calling Dr. Curry's statements "disturbing", later saying he has been "counseled" (read: reprimanded), and only in passing making a token "he should still have free speech" statement buried deep within the letter. The president essentially threw his own faculty member under the bus.

May 10, 2017

I am writing you tonight with a message that may seem ill-timed given our wonderful graduation ceremonies taking place this week. At the same time, this is a message about Aggies and that for which we stand. As such, I cannot think of a more appropriate time in many ways to write to you in this regard.

As you may know, a podcast interview by one of our professors that took place approximately four and a half years ago resurfaced this week on social media, seen for the first time by many of us. The interview features disturbing comments about race and violence that stand in stark contrast to Aggie core values most notably those of respect, excellence, leadership and integrity values that we hold true toward all of humanity.

As we know, the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects the rights of others to offer their personal views, no matter how reprehensible those views may be. It also protects our right to freedom of speech which I am exercising now.

We stand for equality.

We stand against the advocacy of violence, hate, and killing.

We firmly commit to the success, not the destruction, of each other.

We wish no violence or harm even to those who espouse hateful views under the First Amendment, a sentiment that by its very nature is one that they would deny others.

Tonight, therefore, I write to you, our beloved Aggies. Our core values are very much intact, including those for which we stand, and in contrast to that for which we most assuredly do not. This is something that needs to be said here and now and lived in all of our days.

Sincerely,
Michael K. Young

-Mounting pressure against Dr. Curry rose, with him continuing to be vilified, receiving racial slurs and death threats severe enough to trigger law enforcement involving themselves in protecting him.

http://www.kbtx.com/content/news/AM...s-his-life-has-been-threatened-422133624.html

Over the last several days, I have had my life threatened by white supremacists who have claimed to know where I live. They have called me a monkey, an ape, a feral beast, and a boy. I have been threatened to be lynched and mutilated. Several white women have claimed that I am a rapist.

Many people may dislike my work on Black males and may find my claims somewhat extreme, but what explains the horrid demonstration that the nation is now witnessing. A 5 minute segment entertaining that Foxx's comments should be taken within their historical frame seems to warrant the most anti-Black misandrist stereotypes against me and demonstrates the very real danger of anti-Black racism for Black people in universities. Our degrees do not protect us or afford us any of the respect offered to our peers.

-University officials and its president continue to ignore the backlash, have yet to make a separate statement backing Dr. Curry in any way other than "something something free speech even if what you said was shitty el oh el"

-Various university entities, including the university's student-run newspaper, have begun pushing for more support for Dr. Curry. They have published an opinion column that I can most accurately summarized as "what the fuck are y'all doing?":

The death threats he has received, and the anemic support he has been offered by the university, suggest to us, regardless of our individual views on the role of violence, that on the question of this double standard he clearly is correct.

We would like to emphasize two points in particular: The first is that nowhere in the interview does Tommy Curry incite violence. What he does do is discuss remarks made by the actor Jamie Foxx about his (Foxx's) role in the film Django Unchained and relate those remarks to the role that violence and armed struggle has played in the progress of black civil rights. Second, in pursuing this discussion Curry is not simply exercising his First Amendment rights as a private citizen, but also is doing the job for which he has been awarded tenure at Texas A&M University.

Tommy Curry's assigned role at Texas A&M is to teach and research in critical race theory, an area where he is an acknowledged expert. He has been encouraged to disseminate his ideas both within the academic world and more broadly. Curry's impact on the general, non-academic community has been recognized by the award of the Alain Locke Award from the Society for the Advancement of American Philosophy. The nominators and the award committee both specifically referenced Curry's ability to engage lay audiences on complex subjects via multiple platforms, including radio and the internet.

It pains me to see university officials making such a blatantly wrong call. Make no mistake, the university is nestled deep within conservative "territory" and much of its student body subscribes to that notion, but at the very least on an administrative level the university has struck a balance and official letters from the president have made the right call in promoting diversity over harmful right-wing rhetoric.

But this response is baffling, for several reasons. First, that letter from the president was the first I'd ever heard of this "controversy", so in effect he publicized it by making it a big deal. Second, the university undoubtedly sided against their own faculty for reasons unknown, clearly only listening to the narrative pushed by The American Conservative. Their only official statement on the matter is them wagging their finger at Dr. Curry. Third, they've yet to make any official statement on the fact that their own faculty is being sent death threats, and no one can say with 100% certainty that the letter from the president DIDN'T play any kind of role in heightening that.

It's absolutely baffling and I'm starting to see more and more pushback on the side of people supporting Dr. Curry. This may blow up soon to a bigger scale, if you haven't seen it already in your own social media circles.
 

foxuzamaki

Doesn't read OPs, especially not his own
Jul 21, 2013
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The people that are suppose to educate us are even failing to do so, I hope the students of the school will be able to make enough of a uproar that the president will have no choice but to rescind her words and provide support for her employees like she should.
 

EatinOlives

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Oct 23, 2011
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The people that are suppose to educate us are even failing to do so, I hope the students of the school will be able to make enough of a uproar that the president will have no choice but to rescind her words and provide support for her employees like she should.

The president is a man :p, but definitely agreed. Hopefully enough pressure mounts to force his hand to release another statement.
 

EatinOlives

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Oct 23, 2011
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Update, President Young issues new statement:

In recent days, there has been continued discourse related to a December 2012 podcast that resurfaced last week in social media and to my email that followed which I would like to address here.

I want to affirm my career-long, unwavering support for academic freedom, an essential element to enhance understanding and allow us to come to a closer approximation to the truth. Scholars have a responsibility to engage in deep dialogue and ask questions within their areas of expertise; however, through sound bites or social media headlines, profound issues can be oversimplified and distorted.

I know that, as scholars, we often find our comments misunderstood. With the resurfacing of this podcast in social media last week, the professor and podcast host alike reiterated to media that comments were in reference to a movie related to the professor's scholarly work. It was not my intent to suggest otherwise nor to overlook the oppression that led to this kind of scholarship, only to reassure our community of that for which we stand as a university. For those of you who considered my comments disparaging to certain types of scholarly work or in any way impinging upon the centrality of academic freedom at this university, I regret any contributions that I may have made to misunderstandings in this case, including to those whose work is contextualized by understanding the historical perspectives of events that have often been ignored.

Furthermore, I do not promote what some headlines implied and stand firmly behind my comment that it is not within the values of our University to ever promote violence toward a group of people because of their race. Racism in any form is unacceptable.

A whole lot of words to avoid saying "I fucked up". So according to this revised statement, his "only" intention was to do some bog-standard fence sitting and #bothsides. This fencesitting was apparently so important he HAD to shove out a public statement last week, even himself admitting how truly important it was. But hey, all he wanted to do was say "all racism is bad", guys, honest!

EDIT: Oh and no mention of death threats or any other kind of abuse that Dr. Curry has incurred. The only thing worth discussing in this statement is #bothsides tho.