EDITORIAL: U. employees cannot contradict mission
Professor Livingston should get same treatment as Chikindas
In late May, James Livingston, a professor in the Department of History, made a post on Facebook that resulted in a considerable amount of negative publicity:
“OK, officially, I now hate white people. I am a white people, for God’s sake, but can we keep them — us — us out of my neighborhood? I just went to Harlem Shake on 124 and Lenox for a Classic burger to go, that would be my dinner, and the place is overrun with little Caucasian a**holes who know their parents will approve of anything they do. Slide around the floor, you little s***head, sing loudly you unlikely moron. Do what you want, nobody here is gonna restrict your right to be white.” Livingston continued on to say, “I hereby resign from my race. F*** these people. Yeah, I know, it’s about access to my dinner. F*** you, too.”
Facebook subsequently removed the post, as it apparently triggered the site’s algorithm for detecting hate speech. Following the incident, the University received a number of emails from concerned members of the community, which in turn resulted in an investigation into the incident. A on the investigation, which was conducted by Rutgers’ Office of Employment Equity (OEE), has recently been released.
The original investigation found, and the University to this point decided, that Livingston’s speech in this case is not protected by the First Amendment, and that in making the post he violated the University’s Policy Prohibiting Discrimination and Harassment. On the face, social media posts of the sort in question seem to have nothing to do with the University, but upon further contemplation it seems obvious that speech like this by a University employee certainly reflects badly on the University itself as well as its mission to promote diversity, inclusion and acceptance, in which case Rutgers can rightly take action. Additionally, if the University were to not take action, it would set an undesirable precedent — that hateful speech is unacceptable when directed at one group, but acceptable when directed at another.
Livingston’s punishment has not yet been determined, but this situation is reasonably analogous to that of Michael Chikindas, a professor in the Department of Food Science, who shared multiple anti-semitic posts on Facebook last year. Chikindas was subsequently removed from his position as a director at the University and can no longer teach required courses at Rutgers. And this punishment does seem rather reasonable, considering that it is not far-fetched to imagine a Jewish student feeling uncomfortable taking a required class taught by Chikindas. In the same way, it is not unreasonable to say that, after becoming aware of Livingston’s comments, a student may feel uncomfortable taking a required class taught by him.
An interesting question to ask when evaluating this incident would be whether or not there were any white students who had complained of Livingston’s treating them differently than students of other races before the incident. There is no evidence of this being the case, but then again, there is no evidence of Chikindas treating Jewish students differently before his incident either, yet his anti-semitism is still considered unacceptable.
At this point, differences between the two cases can be pointed out, such as the fact that Livingston claims he was joking, or that he directed his comments at members of his own group rather than another. Nonetheless, the University should take the same action against Livingston that they did against Chikindas. In the end, a lack of action taken against the expression by both of the aforementioned professors would call into question the ability of the University to uphold its mission of diversity, acceptance and inclusion while allowing its employees to contradict those values.
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