Drexel University professor George Ciccariello-Maher is steeped in infamy because of controversial tweets he has sent out in the past. He is best known for tweeting "All I Want for Christmas is White Genocide," in December last year, and followed that up the next day by praising the massacre of whites during the Haitian revolution.
Recently, Ciccariello witnessed someone giving up his first-class seat on a plane to a soldier in uniform, after which Ciccariello tweeted that it made him want to "vomit."
According to a letter obtained by Inside Higher Ed, however, Drexel University is now investigating Ciccariello's comments. The letter, dated April 3, is from Drexel Provost Brian Blake to Ciccariello, informing him that in consultation with the Faculty Senate “a special committee of inquiry to investigate your conduct and provide findings and recommendations to me concerning your extremely damaging conduct” is underway.
“In light of the serious damage to the university and its reputation that your provocative tweets have caused, it is imperative to determine whether you have violated the university’s Code of Conduct and/or other policies and whether your tweets are a violation of the special obligation that a faculty member has under Drexel’s academic freedom policy,” Blake wrote.
Blake told Ciccariello that his conduct was "even more concerning" because after Ciccariello was sent a "cautionary letter" about his white genocide tweets, Ciccariello tweeted out that he wished he could #BringBackFields, then do him like #OldYeller." This is in reference to Richland County deputy Ben Fields, who was fired for body slamming a high school student.
Blake wrote that “many interpreted to mean that you called for the murder of Ben Fields, the South Carolina deputy school resource officer who violently arrested a female high school student.”
The sudden turnaround on the university's position on Ciccariello's tweets may originate from the fact that Drexel has been financially affected since Ciccariello's tweets made national headlines.
“The university has been faced with heightened concerns for community safety, received significant negative feedback and has unfortunately spent considerable time and resources as a result of your statements on Twitter,” Blake wrote.
“Numerous prospective students whom the university has admitted have written to the university stating that they will not attend the university because of your conduct, and at least two potential significant donors to the university have withheld previously promised donations,” Blake said. “The nearly unmanageable volume of venomous calls that the university has received — during this critical time in the academic year when prospective students are deciding where they want to attend college — compelled the university to consider turning off its phones in the days following your tweet, and we have real concerns that admitted students were unable to get through with questions.”
Blake added, “Despite my efforts to engage in a constructive dialogue with you in the hopes of making you more self-aware of the consequences of your actions, your course of conduct suggests to me that you are unable or unwilling to calibrate your actions to consider the damages that they cause to your university and all those who work so hard to advance the mission of the university.”
The American Association of University Professors "academic freedom policy" — the source for Drexel's guidelines — says that professors should “act responsibly, particularly where the speech has the potential to affect community safety and the right of all our community members to live, work, and learn in an environment free of undue harassment, hostility, or danger.”
Blake wrote that while tweets were "protected speech," Ciccariello has an obligation to “act responsibly, particularly where the speech has the potential to affect community safety and the right of all our community members to live, work and learn in an environment free of undue harassment, hostility or danger.”