EDITORIAL: Comments online can put jobs on line
Rutgers professor should have been cautious when posting opinion
Adults are always warning kids from our generation to be careful what they post online, but the roles were reversed just last week when Kevin Allred, a professor in the Department of Women's and Gender Studies, took to Twitter to post a series of politically driven tweets.
The first series of tweets were nothing out of the ordinary, depicting someone who was clearly distraught at the outcome of the presidential election. Amongst these tweets was Allred’s assertion that “Every single person that voted for Donald Trump is a racist. or saw racism as easily overlooked.”
While Allred’s use of 140 characters seemed typical of someone who describes himself as an “undoer of the status quo,” one of his tweets left the Rutgers community, as well as the media, in complete shock.
Allred tweeted, "Will the 2nd amendment be as cool when I buy a gun and start shooting at random white people or no ...?" Shortly after a Rutgers student brought this tweet to the attention of the Rutgers University Police Department, Allred was taken into custody and sent to Bellevue Hospital for a psychiatric evaluation. Allred, after being returned to his Brooklyn apartment, tweeted that his post was only a “hyperbolic question posed to show a double standard.” However, his statement was too hyperbolic for the Rutgers administration, as Allred is now on administrative leave.
Allred, taking a new route for his means of communication, then turned to his mailing server rather than his Twitter and sent out an email to all of his prior students. In this email, Allred disclosed that he could not "talk about the details" of his situation, but he would "appreciate it" if students wrote a "letter of support" in order to aid him in his "fight to continue teaching at Rutgers." Allred emphasized that his intention was not to "request, influence or demand" anything, but merely to make students aware that they could help him in this way. But should he be helped?
At a university where stabbings took place just earlier this month, it would be wrongful for one to assume that Rutgers did not take the best action for the welfare of the students in placing Allred on administrative leave. But aside from ensuring the safety of the students, which realistically was probably not in any danger, Allred's leave was invoked by his failure to conduct himself as a representation of Rutgers.
Social media websites are platforms for freedom of expression, but being a professor at a university as big as Rutgers, Allred should have known that his words are subject to more scrutiny than others. What one posts online can remain there forever, just as screenshots of Allred's deleted tweet are still circulating the internet. Now, if someone were to look him up, they would be confronted with pictures of this matter. This is why considering the potential gravity of what one posts is important prior to posting online, especially for someone who serves as an important member of the Rutgers community. However, aside from being a professor, Allred should have known that publicly debating the mass murder of white students is not something you should do, no matter who you are. His choice of the word "when," implying an action that eventually will take place, was foolish and a good reason for causing concern. Allred should have known that a tweet as "hyperbolic" as his would be looked upon with concern. Perhaps he should have kept his conversation within the classroom, but either way, his important question of double standards might have been better received without posing a threat.
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