Professors Claim ‘Calls for Civility’ Are an ‘Assault on Academic Freedom’

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Two professors are arguing that “calls for civility” are unfair because they are really just ploys to “silence” and stop professors from “interrogating oppression.”

Associate Professor of Sociology and Africana Studies at the University of Connecticut, David G. Embrick, and Professor of Sociology at Trinity College, Johnny E. Williams, claim that academic freedom is being assaulted under the guise of calls for “civility.”

In an op-ed entitled, “Civility for Whom?” the professors argue that faculty members across the country are being accused of violating an “unwritten code of ‘civility,'” whenever they are caught “interrogating oppression.”

“This action constitutes a violation and assault upon professors’ academic freedom and our right to freedom of speech,” state Embrick and Williams.

“This obsession with a civility that upholds white supremacist heteropatriarchal capitalist power was on display when the chancellor of the University of Mississippi, Jeffrey Vitter, released a statement condemning a tweet,” argued the professors in their op-ed.

Embrick and Williams are specifically referring to Ole Miss professor James Thomas, who had fallen under scrutiny in October, after calling for incivility by contaminating GOP senators’ meals in restaurants.

“Don’t just interrupt a senator’s meal, y’all. Put your whole damn fingers in their salads,” read Thomas’ tweet.

In their op-ed, Embrick and Williams come to Thomas’ defense by criticizing the Ole Miss chancellor for condemning the tweet, calling the condemnation “extremely disconcerting.”

“Clearly, Vitter’s idea of what constitutes ‘uncivil’ behavior and ‘aggression’ is, among others things, myopic and troubling,” argued the professors, who also accused the chancellor of trying to “subvert Thomas’s legitimate call to pressure senators.”

The professors’ reasoning presumably stems from the idea that it is okay to behave in a manner others may refer to as ‘uncivil,’ if the subject being targeted is indeed a GOP senator, because according to Embrick and Williams, these senators make decisions that “adversely affect the lives of everyday people.”

“At a time when academic freedom and freedom of speech are under constant attack, we should all be weary and concerned about so-called calls for civility and recognize them for what they are: attempts to silence the messenger.” Concluded the professors.

The professors also included a link to a news article about a professor from Drexel University who in 2016 stated, “All I Want for Christmas is White Genocide,” which suggested that Embrick and Williams were dismayed upon discovering that the Drexel professor had been criticized for wanting “white genocide” carried out on Christmas.

This, however, is not surprising, considering that Professor Williams himself also made headlines last year, when he stated that first responders to the 2017 congressional baseball shooting should have let Rep. Steve Scalise and others die, because they are white.

You can follow Alana Mastrangelo on Twitter at @ARmastrangelo and on Instagram.


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