LETTER: Administration should take action against Michael Chikindas


I am just going to come out and say it:

I do not like Quentin Tarantino. I find him pretentious.

Adele has a lovely voice but is seriously overrated and kind of boring.

Golf is not a sport.

I thought the season of "Doctor Who" with Matt Smith was the worst since the reboot.

Mojitos are gross.

The things I have just stated will no doubt make a lot of people angry at me. I would not be surprised to get angry emails from readers.

These statements, while they represent my sincerely held beliefs and opinions, do not affect those around me. As a professor, I have never given a lower grade to someone because they play golf. If I met Tarantino, I would smile and maybe ask for a picture. I have had good-natured debates with friends about the Matt Smith issue (Eccleston is, was and will always be my favorite), and if you like mojitos, that just means more Chardonnay for me. While unpopular, these sincerely held beliefs and opinions affect only me.

If this list had been different, I would not be able to say the same thing. You cannot “casually” believe that Jews "run the world," or that Black people are lazy or that gay people turn others queer. If I believed these things sincerely enough to tout them to the world, it would not be possible for me to claim that these beliefs were isolated from my day-to-day interactions with people.

Could a gay client ever believe that I would zealously represent them in light of my feelings? Would a black woman I was suing ever believe I was offering her the same deal I would offer a white man? Would a Jewish person ever believe that they did not earn a higher grade I was refusing to dole out? And more importantly, could I honestly tell myself that my “deeply held,” maybe even “religious” beliefs, did not even subconsciously color the way I treated those people?

This is not a First Amendment question. The modern hatemonger loves to talk about how the First Amendment protects their right to freedom of speech.

Of course, they are right, but only in a small-minded way, which is all they know. The First Amendment protects their speech against certain types of government intrusion, and even then, there are caveats and loopholes to that assertion that fill endless legal tomes.

The First Amendment does not protect you from your actions, and if your actions are to showcase, proudly and defiantly, how your beliefs about certain types of people are so essentially tied into your person that you can never divest yourself from them, you should not be anywhere near an esteemed educational institution where you have power over the futures and fates of students.

I did not agree with all my professors at Rutgers. One, in fact, had me cursing his name silently while we debated the death penalty. But even if I did not agree with them, I never was given any reason to believe they would not treat me with the respect and dignity with which they treated any other student.

The same cannot be said of Michael Chikindas.

It is 2017, and we have the KKK members marching in streets without masks (a feat they did not often dare perform even in Jim Crow times), right-wingers running over protesters and hate crime statistics soaring.

Rutgers must not tolerate this form of hate. There is no place for it at the University or in any society. He must be denounced loudly, publicly and repeatedly. I call for Chikindas’s immediate firing.

Until that happens, my sincerely held belief is that there will never be real trust in the University's system again.

Erica L. Fields is a Rutgers University Class of 2001 alumna. 


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Erica L. Fields

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