Professor protests online threat with absence from classroom
- California State University - Northridge African Studies Professor Karin Stanford is refusing to return to the classroom after receiving threatening emails and messages about questions she posted on an exam following a speech from President Donald Trump. Inside Higher Ed reports one test asked students if they thought "President Trump’s campaign rhetoric was frequently “anti-Mexican,” “anti-Muslim,” “anti-woman” or “all of the above.”
- Another question asked if former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton's concession speech broke down barriers and brought people together. The two questions were submitted to a conservative news site, and Stanford says led to a wave of threats which prompted her teaching boycott.
- Stanford says that she has been using sick leave to receive pay for her extended classroom leave and that she has not received assurances from the school of how she will be protected if and when she returns.
This instance underscores the growing need for campus leaders to consider the reality of online threats and bullying, not just among students but also among faculty who have public brands associated with their work and personal politics. It has multiple ramifications on how schools can respond to controversies with free speech, public safety priorities, and notions of safe space when advocacy against safe space goes too far.
Administrators who hope to avoid this kind of response from faculty and students will have to consider how resources can or should be allocated to address issues of stalking or harassment. Will they have to hire contractors to investigate digital threats, or will these tasks have to be farmed out to local police or FBI officials? Is this kind of instance something which rises to the level of a campus safety alert? If a teacher or student is threatened and then a perpetrator actually commits a crime, will media coverage suggest that the school is negligent because of the attack? Neither FERPA nor the Clery Act specifically addresses online threats — though FERPA urges campuses to increase their methods of intrusion with higher suspected dangers — so the onus falls squarely with campus leaders to ensure the campus community feels safe and is confident all threats will be taken seriously.
- Inside Higher Ed Will work for safety