A professor at Trinity College in Hartford will remain on leave for the fall semester following controversial comments made over social media.
Sociology Prof. Johnny Williams was placed on leave on June 27.
Williams shared an article over his personal Facebook and Twitter accounts that were written about the shooting at the Congressional baseball practice in Alexandria, VA, which happened earlier this month. He reportedly used the hashtag "white people in general need to die."
Hartford police said threats were made against Trinity in June, which caused investigators to close the campus. Many of them came from across the country and were possibly in connection to Williams' social media posts.
Trinity College President Joanne Berger-Sweeney said the Dean of the Faculty and Vice President for Academic Affairs Tim Cresswell completed his review of the recent social media activity of Williams. To read the full report, click here.
"By mutual agreement, Professor Williams will be on leave throughout the fall semester to provide some time and distance from this recent controversy and to allow him to continue his scholarship on race, racism, and academic freedom. The threats of violence against him, his family, and our campus have shaken us all, and we want to do what we can to ensure the continued well-being of our community," Berger-Sweeney said in a statement on Friday.
Williams will return to teaching at Trinity in January 2018.
"Let me be clear: While I support Professor Williams’s right to express his opinions, as I have previously stated, I do not condone the hashtag he chose to use. This was interpreted by some to be a call to let people die, though Professor Williams stated publicly that was not his intent. Nevertheless, the words used in that hashtag not only offend me personally, they also contradict our fundamental institutional values and run counter to our efforts to bridge divides and to promote understanding, both among members of our College community and between us and members of communities beyond our own," Berger-Sweeney said.
Eyewitness News went to Williams’ home and no one answered the door. The station has also reached out to his attorney.
American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut said Williams "did not violate school policies" with his social media posts.
“We commend Trinity College’s decision to uphold free speech in the face of controversy. We understand the deep concerns expressed over Professor Williams’s Facebook posts. In the face of today’s polarized climate, it is vital for universities to maintain equitable learning environments for all students, while upholding the free expression of students and faculty alike. This incident was fundamentally about a professor’s ability to freely express his political views on his personal social media page. It is clear that Professor Williams was not attempting to incite violence or making individualized threats, and it does not appear that he was discriminating against students in the classroom. The response to his posts has also shown that many people have conflated Professor Williams’s own words with those included in a blog post to which he linked," David McGuire, executive director of the ACLU of Connecticut, said in a release on Friday.
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