Trinity College: Professor Faces Threats, Investigation for Facebook Posts

Category: Cases
Schools: Trinity College

In June 2017, Trinity College Professor Johnny Eric Williams shared — on his personal Facebook page —  an anonymous author’s controversial essay, entitled “Let Them Fucking Die.” The essay discussed the actions of a “queer black woman” who saved the life of Representative Steve Scalise, described as “one of the most anti-LGBTQ politicians in Washington.” Two days later, after a black woman was shot to death by police in Seattle, Williams made two additional Facebook posts, leading to criticism that he was endorsing violence against white people. Amidst the criticism, Trinity launched a “review” into Williams’ posts to determine “whether college procedures or policies were broken” and subsequently placed him on leave. FIRE wrote to Trinity on July 3, 2017 calling for the end of the review into Williams’ speech and for his reinstatement.

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  • Trinity College ceases unwarranted investigation of professor’s Facebook posts

    July 14, 2017

    Academic freedom has won at Trinity College today, as the college’s president wrote in a public statement that Trinity would cease its unwarranted investigation into the personal Facebook posts of professor Johnny Eric Williams. As my colleague Adam Steinbaugh reported last week, Williams had been under investigation for the content of his Facebook posts, where he shared an article by an anonymous author arguing that the proper response to wounded “bigots” was to “let them fucking die” instead of coming to their aid. In today’s statement, Trinity College President Joanne Berger-Sweeney opens by recognizing that “[f]reedom of inquiry and freedom […]

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  • Trinity College professor’s ‘let them fucking die’ posts are protected speech; continued investigation unwarranted

    July 7, 2017

    On June 16, Trinity College professor Johnny Eric Williams shared, via his personal Facebook page, an anonymous writer’s controversial essay urging oppressed minorities to “do nothing” to help if they encountered people “who practice bigotry” in danger. The piece cited the actions of Crystal Griner, a “queer black woman” and member of the U.S. Capitol Police, in saving the life of Rep. Steve Scalise, “one of the most anti-LGBTQ politicians in Washington,” after Scalise was shot and severely wounded by a gunman at a congressional baseball practice on June 14. The Medium essay concluded that the proper response to “bigots” […]

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  • Disturbing trend continues: Trinity College professor faces threats

    June 23, 2017

    The repeated outbreaks of violence in response to campus speech made the past semester one of the most depressing I’ve worked in my decade of defending campus rights here at FIRE. Unfortunately, that ugly trend is now matched by another deeply disturbing phenomenon: professors fielding violent threats for exercising their right to free speech. The list of recent examples is growing at a grim rate. My colleague Samantha Harris wrote for Vox earlier this month about Princeton University professor Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, who received threats following a Hampshire College commencement address in which she criticized President Donald Trump. Texas A&M University […]

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