I would hope that, if an esteemed professor in my center, upon learning peaceful student protesters had occupied a building housing center computing resources, delegitimized and denigrated students who created and used gender-neutral bathrooms, on a center-wide mailing list, by arguing the university wasn’t “about to take orders from a bunch of kids who object to ‘gendered’ bathrooms,” other faculty would object to that attack and express support for gender non-conforming members of the center and their bathroom access.
I would hope that, if the context of this attack was protesters’ ad hoc creation of gender-neutral bathrooms where existing facilities had produced isolation and enhanced surveillance of gender non-conforming people, faculty and other members of the center would reframe the protesters’ creation of equal gender-neutral bathrooms not as a childish act to be mocked but as a thoughtful and critical step toward trans inclusivity to be emulated.
I would hope that, if the professor advanced a view that retaliation for protesting mishandling of sexual harassment in the tech sector was warranted (“enough is enough”), other faculty would openly condemn it, express steadfast support for the rigorous, just, responsible, and effective handling of sexual harassment cases, and condemn retaliation against those working to achieve it.
I would hope that, if the professor argued that the perceived “peak wokeness” of creating and using gender-neutral bathrooms and protesting mishandling of sexual assault was “like religion” in that “the absurdity doesn’t hit you if you are immersed in it,” other faculty would respond that this rhetoric further denigrates and delegitimizes gender non-conforming people, people advocating for basic trans rights, people protesting the mishandling of sexual harassment, and people practicing religion, and would accordingly condemn it and express support for the right of the targeted groups and individuals to exist in the center without enduring harassment.
I would hope that, if the professor called protesters “little shits,” other faculty would immediately condemn that attack and openly express support for students’ freedom of expression and conscientious dissent.
I would hope that, if the professor made these attacks on broad distribution lists, other faculty would express concern that a professor felt it safe to attack others so publicly while focusing their attention on the implications and impacts of his messaging, noting that prejudice practiced behind closed doors or in secluded channels readily produces systemic violence—only in more covert forms—and that driving it underground instead of addressing it openly may well do more harm than good.
I would hope that, if by his admission, “around midnight” and “armed with boltcutters,” the professor “led a small group of counterprotesters” to try to “retake control” of the building occupied by protesters, that professor would be considered in gross violation of acceptable conduct for members of the university and his admitted actions would be immediately and openly condemned by the faculty.
I would hope that, if the professor stated “we were met with more violence than we anticipated,” admitting explicitly to expecting his actions could result in a violent confrontation with students, he would be further condemned for knowingly inciting violence involving students and considered a threat to the community.
I would hope that, if protesters stated the professor had physically assaulted them, those claims would be treated with the utmost gravity by members of the center.
I would hope that, if the professor had separately engaged in a peaceful counter-protest, other faculty would acknowledge his freedom to do so while clearly delineating acceptable, peaceful protest from the incitement of violence.
I would hope that, if university public relations asked center faculty “please do not respond [in your capacity as faculty/staff/students],” the faculty would respond as individuals—moreover, as individuals with academic freedom—to openly condemn the professor’s verbal and admitted physical violence, show that those matters were not being ignored, avoided, dismissed, or deprioritized, and express support to those affected.
I would hope that, if faculty discussed the professor’s statements, they would acknowledge his academic freedom while giving equal attention to the substantive harms his statements had caused to others, contextualize his statements with the specific exceptions to academic freedom outlined in university policy, and frame subjectivity not only as constraining the meanings read by students who felt attacked but as equally (and perhaps moreso) constraining the meanings read by faculty and those who did not, acknowledging that faculty’s interpretations of the professor’s words were no less suspect than student objecters’ interpretations, and accordingly refraining from prioritizing their own understandings over others.
I would hope that, if faculty discussed the professor’s statements, they would focus on the substance of what he had said and avoid construing student objecters’ concerns as matters of style or tone so that they would not play into the “liberal snowflake” narrative the professor had invoked and thus delegitimize students objecters’ concerns.
I would hope that, if the professor’s actions were found to be motivated by access to center computing resources (“my demand was: ‘Get the f*** away from my server room’”), his actions would be considered even more alarming than before, as professional challenges had been used to justify physical violence, and the faculty would immediately and unequivocally reject the prioritization of research over human life.
I would hope that, if members of the center complained about the professor’s harmful actions and arguments, they would be assumed acting in good faith unless proven otherwise, just as the professor would be assumed innocent unless proven otherwise, and their complaints would be treated with humility and respect.
I would hope that, if members of the center gave benefit of the doubt to the professor’s private and public statements, they would give the same benefit of the doubt to the protesters’ statements.
I would hope that, if members of the center argued the professor’s actions were appropriate or even respectable in light of his stated motivation, center culture would be considered dire and faculty would immediately begin reallocating their time and resources to address it.
I would hope that, if members of the center argued international students were harmed by the protest and discriminated against more generally, opposing and denying the harms the professor caused to gender non-conforming students and others, faculty would acknowledge and respond to harm caused to international students while contesting the false dichotomy and validating harm caused to gender non-conforming students and others.
I would hope that, if faculty expressed support for the ideals of diversity and inclusion and highlighted their diversity and inclusion work, that abstract expression of support would be accompanied with concrete rebukes of the statements and actions taken by the professor that directly opposed those ideals and service.
I would hope that, if the professor published a letter on his website that explained that he had been fired, linked to a letter outlining the reasons he had been fired, criticized the decision, admitted to knowingly inciting violence, accused protesters of making false allegations, claimed he was “fired just for opposing a group whose victimhood makes them politically unassailable,” traded in racist (against black and Jewish people) and homophobic stereotypes, castigated white men for recognizing their privilege and fighting for equality for underrepresented minorities (“cowardice,” “self-hatred,” “mentally feeble,” “weak”), equated that progressive ideology with Nazi ideology, equated black feminist thought with Nazi propaganda, maligned progressive ideology and research as “women and non-whites are good and white men are bad (because it originated in women’s-studies and black-studies departments at universities),” used a slur against mentally disabled people, and disparaged femininity (“Man up, America”), and if someone posted that letter on a center-wide mailing list, other faculty would forcefully respond by validating the severity of his actions and soundness of the stated reasons for his termination, rebuking his attacks against minorities subject to prejudice and white people and men who support them, and defending diversity and inclusion efforts by explaining their true justifications and summarizing the scientific evidence of pervasive bias and discrimination.
I would hope that, if faculty emailed the center to discuss what had happened and how the center should move forward, they would empathize with the students whose advisor had been fired and with others who had cherished relationships with the professor while showing equal empathy for the people who had been substantively harmed by the professor’s public and admitted actions and for those the professor had wronged in other ways, note that a person’s beneficience in one relationship does not preclude or excuse their causing harm in another, show equal respect for the professor’s contributions to center infrastructure and research and for the damage he had done to its members and culture, and bravely address diverging concerns with a default stance of “both/and” instead of “either/or” or “neither.”
I would hope that, if faculty discussed the concerns and impacts felt by the center, they would do so in a way that did not erase the concerns and impacts I expressed and felt, thus constructing my subjectivity as outside that of the center and delegitimizing me as a member.
I would hope that, if the professor stated he felt no regret or remorse for his actions (“I will never apologize and I will never back down”), admitted his letter “was intended to be read by some of my colleagues at [the university], as an attempted workaround for a ban on communicating with them,” had moreover entered the occupied building in violation of the university’s explicit instructions to him, and expressed a belief that he has impunity (“Please send my regards to the [office of institutional equity], and say that, thanks to them, my career prospects have greatly improved” and “See if I care! I have lots of other career options”), he would be considered an imminent threat and restraining orders or similar measures would be immediately pursued to safeguard the community.
I would hope that, if the professor’s termination letter explained he was terminated for willfully endangering students, violating explicit instructions from the university in doing so, having no regret or remorse about his actions, and refusing to cooperate with the university investigation, and if members of the center had ready access not only to that letter but to the professor’s past emails and other statements corroborating the evidence, faculty openly discussing the professor’s termination would note the soundness of the evidence, the gravity of the professor’s actions, and the soundness of the university’s reasons for termination, reiterating that knowingly inciting violence involving students is intolerable behavior, especially for a professor with unmeasured power and responsibility over students.
I would hope that, if the professor weaponized rhetorics of free speech, academic freedom, and diversity of ideas to justify his incitement of violence and impugn the university’s reasons for termination, faculty would reject that rhetoric and reiterate that violence is not an acceptable form of speech in the center or university.
I would hope that, if there were gender-neutral bathrooms in the center, I could use them without fear of harassment by other members of the center.
I would hope that, if I were verbally or physically attacked by a professor, no matter how esteemed, I could trust other members of the center would intervene.
I would hope that, if I were verbally or physically attacked by a professor, no matter how esteemed, I could trust other members of the center would heed the imbalance of power and agitate at least as earnestly for my fair treatment as for the professor’s.
I would hope that I could be proud of the center and the principles it stood for.