The Seton Hall University student group known as The Concerned 44 is demanding the resignation or the firing of a history professor for “controversial” comments he made on his personal website.
Professor Williamjames Hoffer had compared The Concerned 44 to the KKK, writing “As usual, replace ‘black and brown’ with white and vice versa, and you cannot tell the difference between the Concerned 44 and the Ku Klux Klan.”
In addition, in a year-old Facebook post Hoffer had called the Southern Poverty Law Center a “hate group,” and claimed that Black Lives Matter and radical Muslim terrorists are a bigger threat than the KKK and Neo-Nazis, The Setonian reports.
In response, The Concerned 44 created posters featuring Hoffer with the words “white supremacist” across his face, and said his remarks were “inexcusably hate driven” and “could be a danger” to Seton Hall students. The group wants Hoffer to “be either terminated or forced to resign,” and it accused the university history department of “coddling” white supremacy.
The Seton Hall SGA Executive Committee also denounced Hoffer’s “vitriolic rhetoric,” but stopped short of demanding his ouster. Remarkably, these representatives of student government issued the following statement:
As citizens of a university, where intellectualism and free dialogue are tenets of the institution, we are all called to respect and preserve the First Amendment rights of every individual. There is a point when our opinions do much more than express our beliefs, however. They may begin to invoke fear in others. They may begin to compromise the feeling of safety of others. They may begin to decay the professional integrity of our academic community. The words and actions of Dr. Williamjames Hoffer have reached this point.
Since when is there a First Amendment exception to the possible invocation of fear? How is expressing the opinion that a radical student group behaves in ways reminiscent of an old terrorist organization a degradation of “professional integrity”?
Once again, it seems academic freedom is valued only if “correct” viewpoints are espoused.
Hoffer defended the post in a statement claiming that the meaning of his comparison between the Ku Klux Klan and the Concerned 44 is being misconstrued. “If you read the blog post correctly, you will note my condemnation of the Klan via the transitive property of the direct analogy to the methods, reckless disregard for the truth, and inherent racialism of the Concerned 44,” he wrote. “In my scholarship, teaching, and public and private statements, I have always and will continue to condemn bigotry, harassment, and poorly constructed arguments whether it is from white supremacists like the Klan or from groups like the Concerned 44. If history has taught us anything, groups that poison the public conversation with that material contribute nothing of value to that conversation, and we all lose as a result.”
Incredibly, Hoffer is currently on administrative leave in order to “ensure a safe environment is maintained on campus,” according to History Department Chair Thomas Rzeznik.
Last October, Hoffer was involved in what the professor said was an accidental altercation with a student during Concerned 44’s attempted entry into a faculty lounge.
IMAGE: Sam Graham / Flickr.com