The president of Rutgers University said this week that he wants to take a second look at professor James Livingston, who wrote “I hate white people” on Facebook.
“OK, officially, I now hate white people,” James Livingston wrote in a since-deleted Facebook post. “I am a white people [sic], for God’s sake, but can we keep them — us — us out of my neighborhood? I just went to Harlem Shake on 124 and Lenox for a Classic burger to go, that would [be] my dinner, and the place is overrun with little Caucasian a**holes who know their parents will approve of anything they do. Slide around the floor, you little s**thead, sing loudly, you moron. Do what you want, nobody here is gonna restrict your right to be white.”
Livingston faced a significant backlash after his comments made the rounds on social media. He was banned from the Harlem Shake diner by its two owners. He was temporarily suspended from both Twitter and Facebook. And he sanctioned by his employer, Rutgers University, who found that he had violated the university’s Policy Prohibiting Discrimination and Harassment. According to the Washington Post, Livingston faces disciplinary action that includes dismissal from the university.
Now, Rutgers President Robert Barchi says he wants to take a second look into Livingston’s comments. “Like many in our community, I found that Professor Livingston’s comments showed exceptionally poor judgment, were offensive, and, despite the professor’s claims of satire, were not at all funny,” Barchi wrote in a statement. “At the same time, few values are as important to the university as the protection of our First Amendment rights — even when the speech we are protecting is insensitive and reckless.”
In a comment, Livingston cited the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) as part of his defense. Livingston makes a compelling case that academic freedom is threatened when professors can be disciplined for posts they make on Facebook.
“I allowed FIRE to publicize this finding not simply on my own behalf, but because I believe the intellectual mission of Rutgers, a place to which I’ve devoted my career, is in peril, and being overridden for the sake of public relations,” Livingston said in the statement. “Allowing human resource administrators to tell a professor of 30 years what he can and can’t say on Facebook means that the tradition of academic freedom in our public universities is essentially over. I respect that tradition too much not to protest.