Rutgers University has reversed the charge of racial discrimination against a tenured professor who openly declared on social media that he “hates white people.”
The university backtracked on its previous finding that history professor James Livingston violated the school’s discrimination and harassment policy, clearing him of any wrongdoing Wednesday, Fox News reported.
Livingston, who has taught at Rutgers since 1988, ranted on his Facebook page earlier this year that a restaurant in Harlem was “overrun with little Caucasian a—holes who know their parents will approve of anything they do.”
“I hereby resign from my race. F— these people. Yeah, I know, it’s about access to my dinner. F— you, too,” he wrote in the post that was later deleted.
In a later post, Livingston explained his rant but didn’t seem to make things better.
“I just don’t want little Caucasians overrunning my life, as they did last night,” he wrote. “Please God, remand them to the suburbs, where they and their parents can colonize every restaurant, all the while pretending that the idiotic indulgence of their privilege signifies cosmopolitan — you know, as in sophisticated ‘European’ — commitments.
In an interview with PIX11 News at the time, Livingston explained that his comments were his attempt at “making fun of gentrification,” but noted that the issue is “not very funny.”
The university launched an official investigation, stating “There is no place for racial intolerance at Rutgers.”
An investigation by the Office of Employment Equity found in July that the professor had violated school policy with his posts. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), which represented Livingston, reported that the professor faced disciplinary action “up to and including discharge” for violating the policy.
An appeal by FIRE on Livingston’s behalf that he has the right to an opinion as a private citizen was denied, prompting the organization to send a letter to University President Robert L. Barchi. FIRE argued that the ruling “poses a serious threat to the academic freedom of Rutgers faculty and impermissibly hinders their ability to fulfill their essential role in our democracy.”
According to the press release from FIRE, Barchi ordered the OEE to reevaluate the earlier ruling, noting that while he found the professor’s speech offensive, “few values are as important to the University as the protection of our First Amendment rights—even when the speech we are protecting is insensitive and reckless.”
“I’m relieved that my right to free speech and my academic freedom have been validated by this retraction, thanks to FIRE, the AAUP, and colleagues, who made this strange episode an issue to be debated and decided in public,” Livingston said in a statement. “But if I may use the occasion to preach . . . As a tenured professor, I have resources and protections that are unavailable to most employees. That is not just unfortunate, it is simply wrong, and needs redressing. Would that FIRE could represent all of us on the job.”
FIRE’s director of litigation believes the university “did the right thing.”
“Rutgers did the right thing and reversed the charge of racial discrimination,” Marieke Tuthill Beck-Coon said in a statement to NorthJersey.com, adding that “any other result would have undermined the free speech and academic freedom rights of all Rutgers faculty members.”
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