Fresno State University continues to feel the fallout from a professor’s widely criticized celebration of the death of former first lady Barbara Bush.
Donors to the California State University at Fresno are reportedly reconsidering their contributions in the wake of offensive comments by English professor and self-described Muslim, Randa Jarrar.
The tenured professor sparked outrage Tuesday when she attacked the Bush family just hours after the death of the 92-year-old former first lady whom Jarrar called a “racist” adding she was glad “the witch is dead.” The professor also boasted that she could not be fired from her position which the university’s president later declared was a false statement.
Amid the backlash and calls for Jarra to be fired, some prominent contributors to the university are weighing their donations moving forward.
“I have a lot of friends that I’ve been talking to, and these are people who donate now and talking about holding back, and some are even questioning whether to send their kids to Fresno State,” Ed Dunkel Jr., an engineering graduate who has made sizable donations to the institution, told the Fresno Bee, admitting he has “huge concerns.”
“This represents such an embarrassment to the university and the community. It’s hard to believe this is an isolated thing that just happened. I have to imagine people previously knew of this person’s character and what she’s about,” he said.
Another leading Fresno State donor did not see Jarrar’s comments as a reflection on the university.
“I did read her comments, and I was rather dismayed by that,” Joe Del Bosque, a 1975 Fresno State graduate, told the Fresno Bee. “I’m a big fan of Mrs. Bush, and I’m just a person who doesn’t talk about things that way, but I don’t see that as a reflection of the university.”
Fresno State President Joseph Castro has had several conversations with donors following the professor’s tweetstorm.
“The conversations I’m having are more about their concern, and I share that concern. I understand where they’re coming from. I’m asking them for understanding here as we work through the complexities of this issue,” he told the Fresno Bee.
“They’re outraged, and I’m outraged as well,” he said. “This is behavior that is unacceptable as a university that models the development of leaders. We just cannot tolerate it.”
According to the Fresno Bee:
Holly Carter, of Carter & Co. Communications, said Fresno State needs to send a stronger message to the public about what has happened and the consequences. There hasn’t been enough trust building and reputation building, she said, following a rash of incidents at the university involving free speech and a recent data breach at the school.
Absent that, Carter said, the university “is leaving a lot of people … feeling, ‘OK, well, maybe this is the real Fresno State.'” Parents who send their kids to the school need to hear what’s happening, along with the students who are deciding whether to attend Fresno State, the athletes, and the donors, Carter said.
Controversial Fresno State professor Lars Maischak believes the university president is siding with Jarrar’s critics instead of standing up to the “fascist threat to academic freedom.” Maischak, who was demoted after tweeting in 2017 that President Trump “must hang” so as to “save American democracy,” wrote an article denouncing the university president, titled: “Fresno State’s Castro didn’t defend my free speech. A year later, he’s learned nothing.”
While some donors say they trust Castro will handle things appropriately, Dunkel said he will “wait and see” as far as his donations go.
“I have to wait and see how it’s going to be handled,” he said. “I’m a huge supporter of Fresno State, but at the end of the day we have to take a look at this and see who’s teaching our kids, and what the university is all about.”
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