June 28, 2021

One headline blared loudly:  “Blow Up Republicans”: UNC (Wilmington) Professor Triggers Firestorm With Call For Killing Conservatives”

Another from the News & Observer wasn’t far behind. “‘Blow up Republicans’: UNCW professor’s social media post sparks debate among trustees

That’s right.  A UNC-W professor added another volatile stick of kindling to the fire in a growing discussion that is hopefully finally unearthing just how radically liberal some of the college professors we pay our tax dollars to teach our children really are.  It looks like in this case, unfortunately: dangerously liberal.

It’s another tough blow for the UNC system as the statewide focus zeroes in on the nature of who we’re hiring to teach our young people.  Lately, the steady drumbeat has been about the  UNC Board of Trustees’ decision to not give tenure to the outspoken activist New York Times reporter Nikole Hannah-Jones who was awarded a position to teach at the UNC School of Journalism.  Ms. Hannah-Jones is a Pulitzer Prize winner for her work on the 1619 Project – which argues that slavery was a primary cause in the fight for America’s independence.

Now the realization that we have a professor in our state university system – who teaches a classroom of students – that would publicly say something that hateful is absolutely shocking.  But isn’t that what the big debate over tenure is really about.  Because professors are protected and can say about anything they want when they finally get tenure.

One of the things that stands out in this case is that the professor, Dan Johnson, is an associate professor at UNC-W’s School of Health and Applied Human Sciences, and posted the phrase, “Blow up Republicans,” on his personal Facebook account back in May, according to a conservative website last week.

It was at UNC-W where a few years ago an outspoken conservative professor, Mike Adams, ultimately was driven to retire with a settlement by the UNC-W administration for strong, sometimes controversial comments he had made.  He then tragically committed suicide shortly after the settlement was finalized.

UNC-W trustee Woody White is quoted in the N&O article as saying Adams’ statements were “distasteful,” but added he “never suggested blowing up anything.”  White went on to say that “the problem at UNCW, and at nearly every other University across the nation, is the double standard,” he said. “Free speech is tolerated — even celebrated — when it condemns conservative thought and speech. When it goes the other way, conservatives are shamed, cancelled and bullied.”

Woody White nailed it.  Who knows what will happen to Mr. Johnson.  A spokeswoman for UNC-W told WECT News that the university was aware of the post and had “acted on the information.”  Hopefully he just had a bad day.

How many others like him are teaching our students – who sit in front of their classes day after day injecting their personal beliefs into students – all paid for by taxpayers money?  Wouldn’t it be interesting to find out what professors espouse before we hand our students over to them?

So again, we’re dealing with a political and public policy question based in our university system.  This “Bomb the Republicans” hate talk lands at the same time student protests and reactionary threats are still being bandied about in the Hannah-Jones case.

You know it would be easy to let that get muddled into simply a struggle over tenure and let the lawyers fight it out.

But lest we forget, the real question over in Chapel Hill is still why the UNC-CH leadership decided to allow someone into that position of leadership and power who said in a Letter to the Editor while an undergraduate at Notre Dame University that “the white race is the biggest murderer, rapist, pillager, and thief of the modern world.” 

It’s hard to get past that kind of venomous language from anybody.  No matter when they said it.  Whether it’s “Bomb the Republicans” or Hannah-Jones’ diatribes – it’s hard to imagine that our young people would have much of a chance if they’re stuck in a classroom filled with that kind of hate.