July 21, 2019 | 83° F

Rutgers retracts decision, finds history professor did not violate discrimination policy

Photo by Rutgers.edu |

James Livingston, a professor in the Department of History, was found to not have violated the University’s Policy Prohibiting Discrimination and Harassment after the Office of Employment Equity reexamined its original findings.

Rutgers has found that James Livingston, a professor in the Department of History, did not violate the University's Policy Prohibiting Discrimination and Harassment, following President Robert L. Barchi calling on the Office of Employment Equity (OEE) to reexamine its original findings.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), released a letter dated Nov. 14 from Office of Employment Equity Director Lisa Grosskreutz to School of Arts and Sciences Executive Dean Peter March, in which she said she retracted the initial Letter of Determination and found that Livingston did not violate said policy in this matter.

On Aug. 29, following an initial investigation into racially-charged comments that Livingston made on his Facebook page by OEE that originally found him in violation of University policy, Barchi remanded the decision to be reconsidered, as reported by The Daily Targum.

“Based on Ms. Dellatore’s Memorandum on Remand, I retract my initial Letter of Determination and I find that Professor James Livingston did not violate the Policy Prohibiting Discrimination and Harassment in this matter,” Grosskreutz said in the most recent letter.

Grosskreutz did not respond to a request for comment by the time of publication. In a separate request for comment, Rutgers spokesperson Dory Devlin said OEE investigations are personnel matters, which the University does not comment on.

In an email to the Targum, Livingston gave his reaction to the new finding, and said the following:

“The new finding makes sense because it doesn't accredit liberal racism, that is, the notion that any mention of race, or any invocation of this race or that, is, ipso facto, a probably racist remark. My position — well-duh — is that there's no such thing as a color-blind society, certainly not this one, not if you want to speak historically, which is to say truthfully, about our past and present condition.  My position, if that's what you want to call it, is simply the that there's no such thing as reverse racism.  Racism is not about hatred, it's about power.”

The situation began in early June 2018, when the OEE reported receiving “numerous complaints” about the racially-charged Facebook posts that Livingston had made days earlier.

The Targum reported that after leaving Harlem Shake, a casual NYC diner, Livingston posted his frustration at the number of white adolescents at the restaurant on Facebook. 

“I just went to Harlem Shake on 124 and Lenox for a Classic burger to go, that would be my dinner (sic), and the place is overrun with little Caucasian a**holes who know their parents will approve of anything they do,” Livingston wrote in a post obtained by The Daily Caller.

Livingston added that he is "resigning" from his race. 

“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 wrote in the post obtained by The Daily Caller. “I hereby resign from my race. F*** these people. Yeah, I know, it’s about access to my dinner. F*** you too.”

According to the letter, these complaints were either anonymous or lodged by people whom appeared to have no direct affiliation with the University. OEE launched an investigation into the posts as a “University Action” on June 5.

On July 31, the office issued its original report and determination finding that Livingston had violated policy, according to the letter. Livingston appealed on Aug. 8, but the office affirmed its determination five days later, before it was remanded and the new decision eventually issued.

Livingston said in an email to the Targum that he hopes his case sets a standard for future freedom of speech cases.

“I hope my case sets a standard, but you'd better be willing to ask how such a standard gets set,” he said. “I was represented pro bono, as a tenured faculty member. Do adjunct professors, who do the bulk of the undergraduate teaching at Rutgers and other public universities, have the same protections, and legal recourses? Of course not.”

Ryan Stiesi

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