Florida Gulf Coast University will begin its "White Racism" class this week, and the university felt that safety concerns were great enough to justify assigning at least two police officers to guard the class when it meets.
The professor of the class, Ted Thornhill, reported receiving "disturbing" emails and voicemails after the announcement of the class, and also said some enrolled students were concerned for their safety while attending.
Thornhill said he received calls ranging from people disappointed about the class to people cursing at him and calling him racial slurs, not to mention the thousands of "unspeakable" messages he received through social media or comments on articles about his class. None of the messages threatened violence, however.
Still, the university in Fort Myers, Florida, is taking precautions.
"I think most of us don't anticipate there being any unrest or protest or anything like that," Thornhill said. "But it's more of a prudent measure to have law enforcement present just in case."
"We have prepared for any possible distractions related to Tuesday's first class of the White Racism course, but we are expecting normal campus civility as our students engage in this and other courses at the spring semester's start," said university spokeswoman Susan Evans to The Fort Myers News-Press.
The university's unusual move to station law enforcement officers at the location of a specific class contradicts the rhetoric that everyone is expecting "business as usual." If anything, the move serves to draw more attention to an already controversial class.
University police would not say whether the police presence will remain throughout the semester, saying they didn't want to give "details for individuals who have negative intentions."
The course will cover white supremacy and white dominance in America, and ways to challenge the policies and practices that reinforce those things, according to the course description.