Debate 5/8: If you don’t have anything nice to say…

H ere’s a name you may have heard recently: Randa Jarrar. Here’s another: Barbara Bush. The latter, former first lady and mother to Bush 43, died on April 17 at the age of 92. The former, a tenured creative-writing professor at California State University, Fresno, was pretty happy about it. So happy, in fact, that […]

Cal State Fresno prof gets mean on Twitter, keeps her job


Q: Should Cal State Fresno professor Randa Jarrar have been fired for her public comments about Barbara Bush’s death?

By Sarah Sidlow

Here’s a name you may have heard recently: Randa Jarrar. Here’s another:
Barbara Bush.

The latter, former first lady and mother to Bush 43, died on April 17 at the age of 92. The former, a tenured creative-writing professor at California State University, Fresno, was pretty happy about it.

So happy, in fact, that just hours after Barbara Bush’s death, Jarrar took her creative writing skills to social media, calling Bush an “amazing racist who, along with her husband, raised a war criminal.”

Why do we care?
Because Cal State has announced that Jarrar will not receive disciplinary action for her disparaging statements, and people are not happy about it.

According to the Los Angeles Times, Cal State Fresno President Joseph Castro released a letter to the campus community, calling Jarrar’s comments “disgraceful” and “an embarrassment to the university,” but stopped short of applying the punishment (read: axe) that many readers were hoping for.

That’s because the university determined that the comments are protected under the First Amendment. Moreover (and this is likely because Jarrar was already on leave for the semester when she made the comments), the university decided the comments were made by a private citizen, not a university official, and therefore do not violate the school’s social media or speech policies.

#boycottfresnostate
Some people, though, are not amused by Jarrar’s statements. They’re disrespectful and insensitive, they say, and demand some sort of disciplinary action on behalf of the university. In recent years, policies weighing protected free speech and professional expectations on social media have cropped up in a number of arenas, including education, law enforcement and local and national politics.

As people become more connected, more public and more vocal, where do their professional affiliations give way to their personal liberties?

And what does it mean, really, to be a “private citizen” when you’re doing public things, like disparaging a former first lady hours after her death?

Just like Jarrar took to the internet to voice her protected opinion, Jarrar’s opponents used the platform to voice their distaste: a petition on change.org calling for the professor to be fired had garnered more than 60,000 signatures as of last week. Others used the hashtag #boycottfresnostate to express their concern over Jarrar’s comments and the lack of disciplinary action she faced. (For the record, that hashtag is also protected free speech.)

Since the media explosion, Jarrar’s Twitter account has been turned private. On her website’s contact page (randajarrar.com/contact), a message reads: “I do not read or respond to messages about Barbara Bush,” followed by a red heart.

Q: Should Cal State Fresno professor Randa Jarrar have been fired for her public comments about Barbara Bush’s death?


Fresno Chilly

Get a life

By Ben Tomkins

The only person who should be fired by Cal State Fresno over these comments is the idiot who walked into the HR department and demanded somebody care. Barbara Bush is dead, and the only time she was more beyond caring about Twitter was when she was alive. She endured two terms of political vitriol when her husband was vice president, and another four during his miserable tenure as Failed Tax Policy Advisor-In-Chief. This was followed by eight long years of her son being called a developmentally disabled alcoholic crackhead for the first 2,750 days of his presidency, and then universally despised by the entirety of Earth’s citizenry for what happened in the
last 170.

Moreover, her surviving relatives don’t care either. They have more money, power and privilege than any two families in the United States combined, and they live in their own private country of Texas. They do not care what a professor in Cal State Fresno thinks, and they really, really don’t care what the average resident of Fresno thinks about that professor. Remember how important their opinions were to the election victories of her husband and son?

Exactly.

The real question is, “Why do 60,000 petition signers in Fresno who have never met a Bush care?” We all know the answer to that. They don’t. They didn’t even know she was still alive.

Perhaps you haven’t noticed, but a lot of people in this country don’t seem to have a high regard for the results of political involvement. For instance, in Colorado, if you stand in front of a grocery store with a petition against GMOs (never mind that, in your petition, GMO means “Give Men Ovaries”) hippie idiots will sign it with a self-righteous flourish. I’m only picking on liberals because conservatives and their knee-jerk response to language isn’t even worth mentioning. My dog is one of the most verbally conditioned creatures on the planet, and she still puts in more effort picking a place to foul in the yard than conservatives do choosing sides.

As an example, on May 3, Cal State Fresno held an open forum for those 60,000 angry, concerned citizens and anyone who cared to show up in opposition. They held it in what appears to be a gigantic basketball coliseum, presumably because they figured this was going to be packed. Here is the highlight from that meeting, according to every media outlet that covered it:

“I’m not a student. I’m not a snowflake, and you’re a pompus ass standin’ up there whiddat pompus ass, and whu-chu need to do is you need to understand, that you got a parent in here tonight talkin’ to you. You have a parent—you don’t have a bunch of snowflakes sittin’ in a classroom who can’t talk back to their professor ‘cause they’re afraid of retaliation. Thizzizzuh bunch of bullsh*t! Thisssshh*t’z got me so pissed off, I’m a 62-year-old farmer here in Fresno County, and I get, I, uh…and I work my ASS OFF…to put money into this school. My student’s not, my child’s not goin’ to this school anymore, and thissizzz BULLSH*T, and you’re sayinsumpin about ‘you can’t sue’—thassall bullsh*t! You can sue WHOEVER YOU WANNA SUE!”

This goes on for a while before the mic is finally wrested away. As the camera pans over to see who this guy is, we get a very interesting perspective: there are about 40 people in that audience, and they are all sitting in a gigantic snow globe of an empty room, hollering into the vacuum of failed cosmic self-importance.

Now. As much as this is a smoldering crockpot full of feces that everyone involved should have to sample for dinner, this does bring up an extremely important point. Our culture is in desperate straits right now. Moderate people are allowing themselves to be governed by the sophomoric, emotional hyperbolics of outrage culture and social media. We have become confused about what really matters by people who want to use the provocation of emotional response as a way to achieve power and political ends. The message being broadcast by our 24-hour news cycle and purveyors of social media is, if you have a negative emotional reaction to something, it means you are also a victim. For those of you in relationships, I’ll put it in terms that should make this concept crystal clear.

If you are upset, it means somebody did something wrong.

Right? That’s how you become an abusive person, not abused. This is such a basic failing that it’s shocking to me how few people have actually gotten hip to what’s being sold to them. Go back and read that rant from Fresno. That guy is furious. He has no idea what’s going on but he’s damn sure that he couldn’t be that mad if someone didn’t screw him over.

This is a plea to everyone with a life: go back to it. Nobody was hurt by this. Your family would love to spend time with you. Don’t allow people to provoke you to steal what precious little life you have left.


Do unto others

How about a modicum of civility?

By David H. Landon

It really boils down to this: If you are in a taxpayer-funded profession and in the exercise of your first amendment rights you lose all touch with civility and respect for those who fail to share your point of view, why are taxpayers required to pay you for your vitriol and ugliness? That is the question asked by shocked alumni and California taxpayers after Randa Jarrar—who is an angry, tenured, creative-writing professor at California State Fresno—unleashed a twitter storm celebrating the death of former First Lady Barbara Bush. The school administration reviewed the professor’s angry screed, and then after criticizing Jarrar, announced that she would be keeping her job.

Is this really what we’ve come to? Are we so politically divided that the death of the mother of a political opponent is an opportunity not for compassion, but instead to show the depths of our hatred for those of a different political philosophy? Shortly after Barbara Bush had died, Jarrar took to Twitter to make sure the opportunity to insult did not pass by, announcing that Mrs. Bush was an “amazing racist who, along with her husband, raised a war criminal. I am happy the witch is dead.” When her tweets generated angry responses calling for her to lose her job, Jarrar accurately predicted that, as a tenured professor, “I will never be fired.”

Are conservatives guilty of the same behavior? I’m sure there are examples of statements by those professing conservative credentials who are uncivil and personally demeaning with their comments concerning those with whom they disagree. Ad hominem attacks aimed at liberals by conservatives that I run across on social media usually question the recipients’ intelligence or truthfulness. However, I can’t remember seeing a message celebrating the death of an opponent in the fashion that Ms. Jarrar displayed last month. For example, the death of John Glenn brought genuine compassion and respect for the life of the celebrated Democrat from both sides of the aisle. Does Barbara Bush deserve no less respect?

So should Randa Jarrar have been fired? I believe she should have been sent packing, tenure or not. If I were attending or had a child attending that college I would be furious that my tuition dollars contributed to an institution where there are professors with no regard for common decency and civility. Shouldn’t there be some standard of behavior in a civilized society of how we treat one another? Cal State Fresno apparently
thinks not.

There are examples in other colleges and universities where there is a standard of abusive verbal behavior that will get you fired. In August 2017, at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, undergraduate student Kaitlyn Mullen set up a table promoting Turning Point USA. Turning Point is a conservative campus-based organization, which among other programs, runs Professor Watch, a national clearing house for reporting professors who are intolerant of conservative thought and speech. Mullen’s table and presence generated a protest, during which at least two protesters engaged in extended hostile chants in close proximity to Mullen.

One of these protesters was Courtney Lawton, a graduate student and lecturer at the University who called Mullen a “neo-fascist” and a “Becky,” which is evidently a slur for white women that is sometimes translated as “bitch” but specifically suggests oral sex. Lawton also gave Mullen the finger. Thus UNL found itself faced with a violation of its Student Code of Conduct by Lawton. The code broadly prohibits “verbal abuse” and endangering the “reputation of any person.” Lawton was guilty of “words and actions of hate and disrespect.”

If a teacher in class were to treat one of her students as Lawton treated Mullen, this would be a clear violation of student rights and professional ethics. Even viewing this as a student/student interaction, however, Lawton clearly violated the student code of conduct, which prohibits “verbal abuse” and threats to “reputation.” It ultimately guaranteed that Lawton would never again teach at UNL. Obviously, Jarrar’s hateful tweets were not directed at a Cal State student, but rather at the former First Lady.

Cal State has a Code of Conduct for its university staff, but the tweet was ruled to have been outside the employment of Jarrar and on her own time. As part of her contemptable actions, Jarrar gave out a mental health hotline phone number, pretending it to be her own while encouraging her detractors to call it. A physician chided her on Twitter, “Your freedom of speech does not entitle you to have all these people spam an actual mental health crisis line. Please stop!” Jarrar should have been fired for that thoughtless prank as well.

We seem to have reached a point where the “resistance” to anything conservative has so demeaned and vilified the concept of conservative thought and opinion, there is no longer a need for civility as to how those of differing opinions can be treated. It’s ugly and it needs to stop!

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Reach DCP editor Sarah Sidlow at SarahSidlow@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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