Letter to the editor: Holtschneider must step down or be fired

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Letter to the editor: Holtschneider must step down or be fired

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Fucking n—!!

Africans belong in Africa. Negroes will never assimilate into a civilized society.
Argentina exterminated their Negroes for this very reason.

Faubus and Wallace were right.

Any loudmouthed black racist can pass as a professor in Obobo’s America. Same criteria as the presidency.

“For the record, I don’t have children” Gee, I wonder why? It couldn’t possibly be because you’re such an insufferable b— that no men would dare even consider dating you, let alone have children with you. Nah, it must be white people’s fault, somehow.

You blacks are utterly stupid, the US is going down the drain financially and you think you are helping?

These e-mails were sent to DePaul Political Science Chair and Professor, Valerie Johnson. Her crime that incurred the wrath of the blogosphere? She tweeted support for an African-American female student at DePaul who led a protest against Milo Yiannopoulos’ “Feminism is Cancer, Dangerous F—t Tour.” These comments reflect true malice and threat, and were completely foreseeable given the Breitbart editor’s claim to fame in the #gamergate online harassment of journalists critiquing sexist video games and the rabid following of alt-right trolls he inspires.

Under the guise of free speech, the President rejected calls to disallow Yiannopoulos’ appearance on campus, although from the inception of the controversy Holtschneider knew that the speaker was “unworthy of university discourse.” That the president of a major American university could harbor such an incoherent conception of free speech is both shocking and embarrassing; that he would then blame the subjects of Yiannopoulos’ hate speech for asserting their own free speech rights is unconscionable.

Under the president’s jejune understanding of free speech, the College Republicans would be free to invite former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke, who has now recast his white supremacist past as a present-day crusade to ensure that “the rights of people of European descent be respected as much as any other people’s rights.” Duke’s rhetoric is of a piece with Yiannopoulos’, who sponsors a “privilege grant” “exclusively available to white men who wish to pursue their post-secondary education on equal footing with their female, queer and ethnic minority classmates.” If this is not evidence enough of the white supremacist ilk from which Yiannopoulos’ rhetoric derives, consider some of his comments from his appearance of at DePaul:

“You know, I worked out why there are so many black girls here. I think it’s because I f—d their brothers.”

 “I give (the Black Lives Matter protest) twenty minutes. The statistics for black incarceration are about to go up.”

 “If you weren’t such an obnoxious c—t, I might even hit on you.”

Even the most rudimentary understanding of free speech would see this language for what it is: classic “fighting words” which would be entitled to no protection under the First Amendment. Yet in his May 25 e-mail, rather than acknowledging that allowing the speech to go forward was an error of judgment that promoted white supremacy, President Holtschneider remarked that “those who interrupted the speech were wrong to do so.” But why? The president acknowledges that the speech did not rise to the level of intellectual discourse. Yiannopoulos was not in the same category, for instance, as Michael Steele, the former chairperson of the Republican National Committee, who was invited to DePaul by its College Republicans a few years back. Steele’s speech went uninterrupted because, to borrow Holtschneider’s own description of Yiannopolos, Steele was not a mere “entertainer[] and self-serving provocateur[]” whose “shtick is to shock and incite a strong emotional response.” In short, Yiannopoulos has no right to speak uninterrupted by those who oppose his views any more than did segregationist Gov. George Wallace when he decided to take his 1968 presidential campaign of bigotry and white backlash to New York City. A university president who cannot understand these distinctions is one who is ill-suited to lead a modern university such as DePaul whose very business model depends on the recruitment of a racially and ethnically diverse student body.

There is no precept of free speech known to the law, to morality, or to common sense, that required marginalized communities of students to sit quietly as supplicants while the campus that their tuition, grant and loan dollars fund was deployed as a sounding board for their own belittlement based on their race, gender, and sexual orientation. The president has betrayed these students and has undoubtedly done lasting harm to their perceptions of DePaul.

How much longer will the DePaul University community be subject to embarrassing headlines produced by a president who has had a 14-year learning curve but who, incident after incident, seems to learn very little except how to protect his own power? When the university made national news for denying tenure to all its minority applicants while granting it to all its white applicants, the university responded by attempting to assign racial minority status to white applicants who had not self-selected a race. When President Holtschneider was presented with the choice of protecting the free speech rights of a prolific faculty member, Norman Finkelstein, or succumbing to outside disapproval of Finkelstein’s pro-Palestinian views, Finkelstein was denied tenure and DePaul has since become a symbol of censorship within academic circles. Elevating the free speech rights of Yiannopoulos above those of a serious and respected scholar will only make DePaul a further laughingstock. And when DePaul’s Conservative Alliance held an “affirmative action bake sale” the objective and effect of which was to belittle students of color based solely on their race, rather than sanctioning the group, President Holtschneider added to the controversy by allowing an all-white committee to promulgate a vague and toothless speech and expression “guideline.”

In his lengthy tenure at DePaul, the President has compiled a similarly lengthy compendium of presidential mishaps and misjudgments, such as the few previously mentioned. The University community can no longer afford the costly on-the-job training it has extended Father Holtschneider, only to have that latitude misused for the president’s preservation of his own power at the cost of the academic freedom of DePaul’s professoriate (Finkelstein) and the equality of marginalized communities (Yiannopoulos, tenure controversy, affirmative action bake sale). Enough is enough.

Terry Smith is a Distinguished Research Professor of Law at DePaul.