Clemson University Reviews Status of Professor Who Called Republicans 'Racist Scum'

The Clemson University professor who called Republicans "racist scum" in a recent Facebook post maintains his teaching position, the university said this week.

Bart Knijnenburg, an assistant professor in Clemson's Human-Centered Computing department, has been heavily criticized after screenshots of posts and comments he made on Facebook began circulating online.

Knijnenburg was not in his office Thursday and has not responded to an interview request made via email.

The post was made shortly after racially-charged violence in Charlottesville last month and targeted supporters of President Donald Trump and all Republicans.

One post, according to a screenshot from campusreform.org, stated: "All trump (sic) supporters, nay, all Republicans, are racist scum. All republicans? Yes. Your complacency made this happen. Pick a side: denounce your affiliation, or admit you're a racist."

The university is looking into the situation and analyzing all aspects, said Mark Land, vice president of university relations. The university said it did not support the opinions in the post but did not want to infringe on anyone's First Amendment rights.

"The remarks of one person issued in his or her capacity as a private citizen do not reflect the views of Clemson University," Land said. "We don't share the views that all members of one political party are racist scum. We do have an obligation to uphold the First Amendment. The First Amendment allows for broad political discourse, as long as you are not inciting imminent violence or imminent lawlessness."

The university released a statement last week in which President Jim Clements and Amy Lawton-Rauh, the president of the faculty senate, wrote about their understanding of how "the right to free expression is going to be tested from time to time."

"The Clemson community faced one of those tests this week when the personal views of an individual evoked disappointment, concern and outrage from many members of the Clemson family," the statement read. "And to be clear, speech that may be protected by law, but which is hateful, mean-spirited or casts aspersions on an entire group of persons is not consistent with our values or how we should strive to conduct ourselves at Clemson. Beyond that, speech that amounts to a true threat or that elicits imminent acts of lawlessness or violence as defined by the U.S. Supreme Court is not protected and will be dealt with appropriately."

On Knijnenburg's personal website, there's a small introductory paragraph detailing the aims of his research at the top of the homepage.

"Our online lives are full of small but difficult decisions. Which app should I install? Should I post this on Facebook or not?" it states. "In my research I try to understand the psychological principles behind these online decisions."

Follow Georgie Silvarole on Twitter @gsilvarole, or add her on Facebook.

© Gannett Co., Inc. 2017. All Rights Reserved


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