The New York Times is under fire over reports of an incoming cheerleader from Tennessee being fired from the team after posting a three second video using a racist epithet. Times reporter Dan Levin was strikingly positive about how Jimmy Galligan waited years to release the video to do the most damage to Mimi Groves. The article “A Racist Arc, A Viral Video, And A Reckoning” is cited as the ultimate celebration of the culture of abandonment in its tenor and imbalance. Everyone agrees that using the n-word was a terrible thing. However, the same standard does not seem to apply to professors who use racist and insensitive comments. It seems that universities should give them the same opportunity for redemptive change, even if students are not given the same level of protection for faculty. After all, college is intended as a place of personal growth for students.
Levin’s article has been criticized as “glorifying” Galligan’s decision to wait for the three-second clip to be released until Groves realized her lifelong dream of being inducted into UT and joining his cheerleading team. Groves is an accomplished cheerleader who served as a college cheerleader in her high school. When asked, some black leaders have publicly stated that they disagree with the actions taken by UT.
It now appears that Galligan ran a three second Snapchat video in which Groves used the n word. As Levin described it, “Galligan, who waited for Ms. Groves to choose college, posted the video publicly that afternoon. Within hours, it was shared on Snapchat, TikTok, and Twitter, where the University of Tennessee was furiously urged to withdraw its offer of admission. “Media attention sparked a flurry of demands from people to exclude Groves from UT.
The backlash resulted in UT Groves dropping out of the cheerleading team and Groves eventually leaving university.
How is that a balanced or fair result for a university?
As we’ve discussed earlier (including the controversy between a professor in Oregon and a Drexel professor), an uncertain line remains about which language is protected for teachers in their personal lives. In fact, the faculty has complained about a double, or at least uncertain, standard that applies to insensitive or racist comments based on point of view. We have spoken of controversies at the University of California and Boston University where double standards have been criticized, including in the face of criminal behavior. There was also one such incident at the University of London involving Bahar Mustafa, as well as an incident involving a professor from the University of Pennsylvania.
Some professors have used racist epithets without being fired or disciplined. Other comments ranged from overtly racist to overtly insulting. Professors have claimed the pandemic is a white conspiracy. Another professor said that “white lives don’t matter”. Another wrote about hating all whites. Another appeared to be calling for the death of those whites who are considered racist. Another professor called Justice Barrett a “white colonizer” for the adoption of Haitian children. Other professors have called for doxing or harassment campaigns. Another professor called all police supporters “white supremacists”. Another professor stated, “White is terrorism.” Another professor called for the “miserable death” of white men. Another called for “white genocide”. Another called every Republican “racist scum”.
I have defended faculty members from both the left and the right, despite using hateful and insensitive utterances on social media for the sake of freedom of speech. These are especially adults who intentionally post inflammatory comments but still receive protection of free speech and academic freedom.
This was a high school freshman who made a terrible mistake in a three-second Snapchat clip. The New York Times, however, seemed to limit the joy of describing her death. I previously commented on the Times’s loss of integrity in journalism. The main culprit, however, lies with the University of Tennessee, which, despite her apologetic apology, caused this student little concern.
I previously complained that universities not only allow freedom of speech to erode, but they also do not protect students from retaliation for their political or social positions. We all can condemn Groves’ comment as she continues to fulfill her dream of visiting UT and competing on the cheerleading team after her public apology.