Professor's Racist And Homophobic Language Sets Off Free-Speech Battle On Campus

More than 2,000 people have signed a petition calling for the University of North Carolina Wilmington to fire professor Mike Adams while the university says his opinions are protected by the First Amendment.

More than 2,000 people have supported a petition calling for the University of North Carolina Wilmington to terminate professor Mike Adams for his “history of spewing misogynistic, xenophobic, transphobic, homophobic, racist rhetoric,” and for publicly mocking a Muslim student’s sexual orientation and religion on his blog.

The petition said, in part, about the criminology and sociology professor: “Adams has disrespected the university’s promise to provide a safe environment for all individual student[s], and instead has mocked and ridiculed not only individuals, but entire groups. These actions are not acceptable, and no university should make a student feel unsafe.”

Adams sparked outrage when he targeted Nada Merghani, a Sudanese refugee and LGBT student-activist at UNCW, in a September article titled “A ‘Queer Muslim’ Jihad” in which he said “her claims to be a ‘queer Muslim’ are probably part of an act designed to fit into as many victim categories.” The university said Adams’ opinions were protected by the First Amendment.

Adams’ piece on Merghani was published in response to an incident in August in which Secret Service agents questioned her about her Facebook post regarding Donald Trump’s visit to the campus.

In the post, Merghani, who is the founder of the Muslim Student Association at UNCW, said, “Expect to see me at the Trump rally on Tuesday. Y’all are not prepared for what I’m about to do.” It ended with, “All I can say is pray I make it out of this alive.”

While the agents were satisfied that Merghani did not pose any threat, Adams wrote, “That sounds like a suicide mission for those who have never met Merghani.”

He also described Merghani as “the most frightening type of student imaginable … A self-described ‘queer Muslim social justice warrior.'”

In a Tumblr post responding to Adams’ piece, Merghani detailed allegations of troubling online interactions with the “tenured professor.”

Merghani told BuzzFeed News in late November that she was leaving UNCW because Adams’ behavior took a “toll on me emotionally and severely affected my academic journey.”

Merghani said that since she was from a country where being gay is punishable by death, she was very careful about the platforms she chose to identify herself as a queer Muslim woman and often changed her last name to protect her identity. “People were shocked that [Adams] outed me and used my full name in his article,” Merghani said.

Adams called Merghani’s notion that he “outed” her “comical” and said she “outed herself.”

In an email to BuzzFeed News on Tuesday, Nov. 29, Adams said, “The notion that I somehow ‘outed’ her in my column is comical. She is the founder of the Muslim Student Association and President of a gay pride group. She ‘outed’ herself when she consented to an interview with the College Fix. Furthermore, her accusations against me of instigating threats have now been investigated and proven false.”

In a statement to BuzzFeed News on Nov. 29 a UNCW spokesperson said, “We are deeply disappointed by the use of hateful, hurtful language to degrade a fellow human being, even when that language is legally protected speech. However, we have fully investigated this matter and believe we have done all we are able to do to support the student involved, given that the comments were not made in a UNCW living, learning or working environment or otherwise affiliated with the faculty member’s role at UNCW.”

In an earlier statement following a review of the incident, the university had said that Adams’ opinions were protected by the First Amendment.

“Dr. Adams’s online column and social media presence represent his personal expressions and opinions on a variety of topics,” the statement said. “These expressions and opinions are neither within the requested scope of Dr. Adams’s duties with the university, nor do they represent the views of this institution. However, they are expressions protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.”

The university also said it had not found evidence that Adams had “improperly released any private or confidential information to the student, or violated the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)” and that there was no evidence of “unlawful discrimination” by him toward Merghani per the school’s harassment policy.

“Finally, Dr. Adams’s conduct and written material do not contain any evidence of a true threat toward this or any other student,” the statement said.

Merghani said that while she supported the petition to get Adams fired, she was focused on holding the UNCW administration accountable for “allowing this to happen” and for “protecting” him.

“If Mike Adams wasn’t given a platform, if he didn’t have access to young impressionable minds, he would be another angry internet troll.”

Adams’ post on Merghani, along with other posts and tweets — in which he called the Black Lives Matter movement a “terrorist organization,” compared the acceptance of LGBT individuals to rape, referred to gay people as “fags,” and tweeted about killing Muslims “who criticize Danish cartoons” — has triggered a fierce free-speech debate on campus and is gaining national attention.

Adams, who describes himself as a free-speech advocate and has worked at UNCW since 1993, sued the university in 2006, alleging that it denied him a promotion to full professor “because his nationally syndicated opinion columns espoused religious and political views that ran contrary to the opinions held by university officials.” He alleged that the university had violated his First Amendment right to free speech.

After a seven-year legal battle, UNCW settled the case with Adams, promoting him to full professor and agreeing to $50,000 in back pay.

Twitter: @MikeSAdams

In an email sent to students, staff, and faculty on Nov. 23, and provided to BuzzFeed News, the UNCW Faculty Senate said, “Public remarks by professors about a student’s race, color, national origin, religion, sex, gender identity, age, disability, political affiliation, or sexual orientation are inconsistent with our values.”

The UNCW Creative Writing Department said in a Nov. 21 statement provided to BuzzFeed News that they were “appalled” by Adams’ actions and called for the university to “quickly” address the situation.

The statement, which was sent to the Faculty Senate, the provost, and the dean of the UNCW College of Arts and Sciences, said, “As writers, we believe in free speech. We are appalled that a fellow teacher would abuse that freedom to publicly ridicule, harass, and humiliate a student. The university, given its stated dedication to cultivating a respectful and inclusive community, must act quickly to address this situation and to prevent further harm.”

Adams addressed the Faculty Senate’s letter in his column on conservative news and opinion site Town Hall on Wednesday, saying he was “disappointed” with their statement, which he called “problematic for a number of reasons. He said the statement “encouraged defamation,” “was overly broad,” and was a “rebuke made in response to conservative speech.”

“Obviously, political bias and viewpoint discrimination are among your cherished faculty values,” Adams said in his post.

The UNCW Student Government Association also issued a statement “unequivocally” condemning Adams’ article “bullying” Merghani.

“We are appalled and disgusted by the recent article posted by Mike Adams,” the SGA said in its statement on Nov. 16. “While we don’t understand the need for a highly educated adult to devote his time to bullying a young college student, we do understand the dark reality that this student has faced in light of the unrelenting statements over their time here. We are especially saddened to have learned that this student will be transferring away from the university out of concerns for her safety.”

Twitter: @MikeSAdams

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