I'm going to do something I said I wouldn't: blog about the Fresno State English professor who, upon learning of the death of former First Lady Barbara Bush, made ugly and unconscionable remarks.
Mrs. Bush's funeral Saturday in Houston gave us a rare moment of unity in a divided country. It was also dignified, warm and beautiful.
I thought we should just ignore the ugliness of Fresno professor Randa Jarrar, who tweeted within an hour of the announcement of Mrs. Bush's death that the former First Lady was an “amazing racist who, along with her husband, raised a war criminal. F— outta here with your nice words."
I didn't want to get into this until the funeral was over.
Writing in the Detroit Free Press, Mitch Albom had this to say about Ms. Jarrar's outburst:
Don’t speak badly of the dead. De mortuis nihil nisi bonum. That phrase goes back more than 1,500 years and has been practiced at least that long.
But not so much today. So it should surprise no one that, upon the death of former first lady Barbara Bush last week, someone used Twitter to call her an “amazing racist who, along with her husband, raised a war criminal. F— outta here with your nice words.”
What did surprise people was that the tweeter was a Fresno State English professor named Randa Jarrar, who continued her Twitter jousting with Internet critics, including the following comments:
“Either you are against these pieces of s— and their genocidal ways or you're part of the problem.”
“I'm happy the witch is dead. can't wait for the rest of her family to fall to their demise the way 1.5 million iraqis have. byyyeeeeeeee."
When showered with angry responses, some calling for her dismissal, Jarrar pulled the most incendiary trump card of all: her tenure.
“I work as a tenured professor. I make 100K a year … I will never be fired.”
The academic form of sticking out your tongue and yelling, “Nyah, nyah.”
Mostly well said, Mr. Albom, but you got one thing badly wrong. Why on earth would anybody be "surprised" that those ugly tweets came from a college professor?
C'mon, if you had read the quotes unattributed and then been asked to suggest a possible author, you might well have said, "Well, it is got to be a college professor."
Joseph Castro is president of Fresno State, and he has said he finds his professor's tweets "unaccpetable." Ya think?
While President Castro is is not pleased with Professor Jarrar's tweets, he is a lot less not pleased than he should be:
Castro said he shares the shock and horror many people expressed after Jarrar, an associate professor in the English department, tweeted about Bush.
"This was beyond free speech. This was disrespectful," Castro said.
The backlash on Twitter was immense on Tuesday night, with thousands of comments pouring in to condemn Jarrar for what she had said. Jarrar eventually made her social media accounts private.
Castro said he is grateful Jarrar chose to change her settings, and that her tweets are ultimately a way to educate the campus on social media use.
"One set of tweets, as horrible as they were, do not define us," Castro said.
Jarrar did not returned requests for comment by phone and email. But she did return to Twitter Wednesday to thank her supporters.
Well, now that is some silver lining: Ms. Jarrar's tweets are "ultimately a way to educate the campus on social media use."
I'd say they educated the campus about viciousness.
But, President Castro, I'm afraid Ms. Jarrar's tweets do define your university. She is a tenured professor there. She represents your institution. She teaches young minds who take English courses at Fresno State. So, yeah, she helps define you.
And, as Albom notes, Jarrar is not an isolated case:
Last year another Fresno State professor, Lars Maischak, tweeted out that “to save American democracy, (President) Trump must hang. The sooner and the higher, the better.” He also called for designs for a monument to whomever assassinated Trump.
For this, he was investigated by the feds, and ultimately demoted to teaching only online courses. Last Thursday, he wrote a piece for the Fresno Bee defending Jarrar, likening the criticism of her to Nazism, and saying Castro is a “parade marshal for the lynch mob. Shame on him.”
Albom says that tenure laws should not protect Jarrar.
I don't know what her contract says and am not an academic.
Tenure at any rate isn't the problem. The problem is contemporary academia, which these days seems to be inhabited by too many people who are vicious and themselves not acquainted with the best of our traditions and former educational standards.
I glanced at the English curriculum for Fresno State. It's impossible to tell which ones Jarrar is teaching, but. if you think the way to approach medieval literature is by studying "gender and sexuality in the literatures of monastery, court, and marketplace," you're in luck.
If, on the other hand, you yearn to study the works of Jane Austen, you'd not be in luck at Fresno State.
The U.S. supports the most expensive system of higher education in human history, and this is what we get–Randa Jarrar and a lot of like-minded professors.