Following up on my previous posts (links below): Inside Higher Ed, Washington and Lee Offers Full-Throated Defense of Professors Targeted For Political and Racist Reasons:
Washington and Lee University in Virginia continues to face criticism from some corners over discussions about changing its name, along with certain campus traditions, to those that don’t honor Confederate general Robert E. Lee.
In the midst of these rebukes, the university recently offered unequivocal support for two professors targeted for their work and views.
In the first case, Breitbart posted a story about a course to be offered this semester called How to Overthrow the State? It’s a titillating tile, but the course itself one of many first-year writing seminar options and doesn’t exactly operate as Anarchy 101. ... The story was picked up by outlets including The Federalist and Fox News.
Soon the instructor, Matt Gildner, a visiting assistant professor of history, started to receive hateful voice mails and emails containing threats from some who described themselves as “patriots.” So did another professor, who had nothing to do with the course: Brandon Hasbrouck, assistant professor of law.
Breitbart didn’t mention Gildner, who is white, by name. It did mention Hasbrouck, who is Black, and his July op-ed for The Washington Post arguing that Washington and Lee should also consider dropping "Washington" from its name, as both George Washington and Lee perpetrated “racial terror.”...
President Will Dudley first addressed the harassment in an all-campus memo saying that some professors had received threats, which the university referred to law enforcement. ...
Interim provost Elizabeth Goad Oliver and three deans followed up with their own statement, saying, “Charged discussions of racial justice, institutional history and even course design compel us to condemn the harassment of faculty members who exercise their academic freedom. We do so. Unequivocally.”
When a faculty member is “threatened with violence for the content of their teaching or scholarship, or the expression of their ideas, the very heart of our institutional character and mission as educators is threatened,” the provost and deans also said.
Brant Hellwig, dean of law, signed that second statement. But he also wrote his own “Statement in Support of a Colleague,” addressing Hasbrouck in particular.
Hasbrouck “had nothing to do with this course, and the connection between a class entitled ‘How to Overthrow the State’ and a Black faculty member carries disturbing racial overtones in the current social climate. This connection is wholly unjustified, and it has led to unwarranted harassment of Prof. Hasbrouck which our community condemns.”
Hellwig continued, “Regardless of what one thinks of Prof. Hasbrouck's published views, our law school and our university are richer for fostering the expression of diverse and varied opinion -- even opinions that may be particularly challenging.” ...
A week later, the law school faculty approved a resolution supporting Hellwig’s statement and “colleagues and students who have recently been the subject of harassing, hateful and racist commentary in response to their work, their opinions and the ideals for which they stand.” The resolution condemned “all conduct and comments that are intended to intimidate and silence.” ...
Hasbrouck said his work on race and police reform also makes him a target.
"I have been called the n-word multiple times; I have been told Black men are criminals and terrible fathers and that we all should be thankful that police discipline Black people (we need it, after all, because we never had a father in our lives); I have been told to leave this institution more times than you can imagine," he said via email. "I have been told that Robert E. Lee is my intellectual father and I must respect him and show gratitude; I have been told that I should be put in chains and enslaved; I have had people tell me my life does not matter (or my children)." ...
Hasbrouck said that he was grateful for Hellwig's response, and that his dean "has always been my biggest supporter and has had my back." Dudley's message didn't address the racial dimension of Hasbrouck being implicated in a debate about a course with which he has no affiliation, however -- and came later than Hasbrouck would have liked.
"I have been attacked all summer," Hasbrouck said, describing being a Black professor of law in this moment as "exhausting, consuming, emotionally draining and hard."
"When all of our democratic institutions tell us that our lives do not matter, we are tired," he added. "When our work institutions do not call racism and hate out directly, we are tired. When white supremacy goes unchecked, we are tired."
Prior TaxProf Blog coverage: