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In new statement, Drexel U. defends ‘white genocide’ prof’s right to ‘freely express’ his opinion

In a new statement, Drexel University is more steadfast in its defense of Professor George Ciccariello-Maher’s right to express his opinion — however demented it may be.

On Christmas Eve, the admitted “actual communist” had tweeted “All I Want for Christmas is White Genocide.”

The university’s initial response noted that, while it “recognizes the right of its faculty to freely express their thoughts and opinions in public debate,” Ciccariello-Maher’s remarks were “utterly reprehensible, deeply disturbing, and do not in any way reflect the values of the University.”

The updated statement says that “taken at face value […] in the constricted Twitter format” the professor’s comments “do not represent the values of inclusion and understanding espoused” by the school.

“[T]he wide range of reactions to his tweets suggests that his intentions were not adequately conveyed. These responses underscore the importance of choosing one’s words thoughtfully and exercising appropriate judgment in light of the inherent limitations presented by communications on social media,” the statement continues.

Indeed, Ciccariello-Maher subsequently had claimed that his tweet was “satirical.”

Inside Higher Ed has more:

On academic freedom, the new statement also took a different tone.

The original statement said that “the university recognizes the right of its faculty to freely express their thoughts and opinions in public debate,” but it also said that Drexel “is taking this situation very seriously” and was setting up a meeting with the professor. Those comments led many to question whether the university was in fact defending the professor’s right to free expression or discouraging it.

The new statement is much more specific that the tweet in question was free speech. “The university vigorously supports the right of its faculty members and students to freely express their opinions in the course of academic debate and discussion. In this vein, we recognize Professor Ciccariello-Maher’s tweets as protected speech.”

Drexel’s president and provost — John A. Fry and M. Brian Blake, respectively — signed the new statement but not the old one.

The new statement also notes challenges posed by social media. “Very often electronic forms of communication (Twitter, in particular) are limited in their ability to communicate satire, irony and context, especially when referencing a horror like genocide.”

FIRE and Reason were both critical of Drexel’s initial response to the controversy.

A Change.org petition was created in support of Ciccariello-Maher which says that (ready?) the professor is … “fiercely anti-racist,” and claims internet trolls “are harassing him at his place of employment.”

The College Fix noted that the prof has used the “it was just a joke” excuse before when he had tweeted that a school police officer should be “put up against a wall” and then done “like Old Yeller” for his actions against a defiant student.

Further questioning the genocide “satire” claim is Ciccariello-Maher’s paper on the Haitian Revolution in which he writes approvingly of leader Jean-Jacques Dessalines’ desire for a final “concrete action” — massacre — against the island’s white population, including even those who had supported the (slave) uprising.

Read the full article.

MORE: Drexel prof tweets: ‘All I Want for Christmas is White Genocide’

MORE: Drexel prof tweets that school cop should get ‘done like Old Yeller’

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