Rutgers University professor James Livingston may end up losing his job at the 251-year-old university because of a racist rant he went on against white kids in a Harlem restaurant in June.
What's the background?
Livingston went on a racist Facebook rant against white children and their parents after visiting Harlem Shake on May 31. The tirade has since been deleted from his page. He later revealed that he received death threats in response to the rant.
After Livington's remarks were widely publicized, Rutgers University announced that it would launch an investigation into the professor, including his inflammatory remarks.
A statement from the Rutgers University Media Relations department said, “There is no place for racial intolerance at Rutgers. This matter has been referred to the appropriate leaders at the Rutgers-New Brunswick campus, where Dr. Livingston teaches, to determine whether his comments violate university policies prohibiting discrimination and harassment.”
In response to the outcry against Livingston, the owners of Harlem Shake condemned the professor's remarks in a statement provided to TheBlaze in June.
Jelena Pasic and Dardra Coaxum told TheBlaze, “For five years and counting, we built our business on a prerogative [of] cherishing diversity within our ownership, staff and customers in our beloved Harlem COMMUNITY. We refuse to be sucked into your racist rants, so if you wish to name drop, please use names of those with similar views.”
“We ask that our name is removed from your rant because we do not want to have anything to do with you,” the women added. “And yeah, we ask that you get your burgers somewhere else. We do not tolerate ‘racism’ either. We thrive on equality and fairness and have full intentions to keep it that way!”
Livingston initially tried to explain his comments in a blog post by claiming that the remarks were simply jokes, but said that he maintains the position that “reverse racism” doesn’t exist.
Livingston seemed to double down on his initial remarks, concluding the posting by writing, “I don’t want to be black. I just don’t want to be white.”
What are the investigation's findings?
A Tuesday news release from FIRE — the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education — revealed that Rutgers found Livingston guilty of violating the university’s Policy Prohibiting Discrimination and Harassment with his inflammatory Facebook remarks.
FIRE wrote a letter to the university Tuesday on Livingston's behalf demanding that they reverse the guilty finding, which could cost Livingston — a tenured professor at the public university — his job.
A portion of FIRE Director of Litigation Marieke Tuthill Beck-Coon's letter read:
We write today to express our grave concern about Rutgers University’s finding that Professor Livingston violated the institution’s Policy Prohibiting Discrimination and Harassment.
Issued by the Office of Employment Equity and upheld on appeal by Associate Vice President Harry Agnostak, this finding violates Professor Livingston’s well-established First Amendment right to express himself as a private citizen on matters of public concern.
Further, the decision’s untenable rationale poses a serious threat to the academic freedom of Rutgers faculty and impermissibly hinders their ability to fulfill their essential role in our democracy.
The organization reported that Livingston's formal punishment has yet to be announced, but the school's policy permits disciplinary action 'up to and including discharge.'"
What did Livingston say?
According to the news release, Livingston hopes that university will reconsider its decision.
“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,” he said, according to the organization.
“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,” he added.
“I’m also a fan of the Constitution, which is equally under assault here,” Livingston concluded. “I very much hope the university will see its way to overturning this finding of ‘reverse racism’ and reaffirming the democratic freedoms that Rutgers has long stood for.”