A Wake Forest University professor has resigned after claiming the private university did not give her enough support for her now-deleted pro-Hamas social media post that sympathized with the killing of Israeli civilians.
Laura Mullen, chair of the Humanities in Literature and Creative Writing department, posted to X on Oct. 12: “So it’s kind of a Duh but if you turn me out of my house plow my olive grove and confine what’s left of my family to the small impoverished state you run as an open air prison I could be tempted to shoot up your dance party yeah even knowing you will scorch the earth.”
The post came just a few days after Hamas killed about 1,200 Israeli civilians, including women and children, as well as 250 people attending the Supernova music festival.
Mullen, who is a poet, said in recent interviews with several media outlets the post was artistic in nature and meant to explain why the killings might have taken place as opposed to justifying them.
However, after intense backlash and scrutiny, she resigned Oct. 31, citing “personal reasons,” the Old Gold and Black student newspaper reported, adding it appears she is not slated to teach any classes during the spring 2024 semester.
The Wake Report student newspaper reported Nov. 16 that Mullen said she did not feel supported by administration: “Like if you watch animal films and you isolate one gazelle, that’s the one that gets eaten. They kind of threw me to the wolves.”
However, there are no public indications that administrators had asked Mullen (pictured) to resign or publicly apologize or that she faced any disciplinary action.
Mullen’s original post went viral; it garnered over 27,000 views and provoked immediate backlash from the campus community as well as from some angry parents and donors, according to media reports.
Mullen told the Wake Report her comments were meant to be “raw, direct [and] poetic.” She also defended her post to the Winston-Salem Journal, saying it was her understanding of history and the “results of oppression.”
“When 9/11 happened, I was asking myself and others, ‘What did we do to make people want to come and do that to us?’ That is how my mind works,” she told the Journal. “I don’t believe in clear lines between victims and perpetrators, that terrorism comes out of a vacuum. That doesn’t mean I condone terrorism. I care deeply about what happens to innocent people everywhere.”
But some students perceived the post as violent, sparking fear within the school’s Jewish community. The Chabad Student Board, a Jewish organization, issued a statement condemning her comments, the Carolina Journal reported.
“No student should have to fear for their safety or feel uncomfortable while sitting in class, but as she is a professor in a position of authority and influence, Jewish students now feel scared to take her classes,” the statement read. “Her threatening language plays into anti-Semitic sentiment, a problem that poses a threat to Wake Forest students and that has no place at our school.”
According to an Oct. 17 university statement, Wake Forest President Susan Wente and Provost Michele Gillespie said that while the university did not “condone or support” the views in Mullen’s post, it considered it to be an expression of free speech.
“Free expression and academic freedom are foundational to the mission of higher education and the tradition of constructive and civil discourse and debate at Wake Forest,” the statement read.
“Adherence to both applicable laws related to First Amendment protections and Wake Forest policies guides University actions when free speech and our institutional values come into conflict.”
In response to the backlash, Mullen initially took to X to defend her post and her right to free speech, tagging PEN America, a nonprofit that protects free speech.
“Huzzah to everyone who wants me silenced for expressing an understanding of the fact that despair leads to violence,” she wrote. “A human truth. A ‘duh.’ Facts are neither changed or erased by those writers who notice and report.”