Drexel University professor resigns after death threats
Professor George Ciccariello-Maher resigned from Drexel University after a year of alleged death threats over his controversial tweeting. Following his resignation, he joined New York University’s Hemispheric Institute of Performance and Politics as a visiting scholar.
George Ciccariello-Maher was a tenured associate professor of politics and global studies at Drexel University in Philadelphia, until his resignation late in 2017. He claimed in an op-ed in The Washington Post that he had received death threats for his provocative tweets, especially after various conservative media outlets ran segments on them. It was allegedly because of these threats that Drexel decided to place Ciccariello-Maher on leave in October 2017, citing concern for the safety of the professor and Drexel’s students.
Ciccariello-Maher’s tweets were often critical of whiteness, and especially white masculinity. In December 2016, he tweeted, “All I want for Christmas is white genocide.” In an email to Inside Higher Ed (IHE), he explained that this was a “satirical tweet about an imaginary concept … invented by white supremacists.” According to The Washington Post, the threats against the professor began after this tweet. A few months later, in April 2017, he tweeted, “Some guy gave up his first class seat for a uniformed soldier. People are thanking him. I’m trying not to vomit or yell about Mosul.” After receiving blowback, Ciccariello-Maher clarified that he had not meant to criticize the soldier, but instead question how many Americans make symbolic gestures of support for Army members while ignoring military abuses and lack of healthcare for veterans, reported IHE.
After the Las Vegas mass shooting in October 2017, he again took to Twitter. “White people and men are told they are entitled to everything. This is what happens when they don’t get what they want,” he tweeted. He also criticized current gun control measures for not being sufficient to prevent mass shootings. According to the Post, conservative media outlets—including the Daily Caller, Breitbart, and Milo Yiannopoulos’ website—widely cited his tweets. Soon after, IHE reported that Drexel had placed Ciccariello-Maher on leave.
The university released a statement explaining its decision: “The safety of Drexel’s students, faculty, professional staff and police officers are of paramount concern to Drexel. Due to a growing number of threats directed at Professor George Ciccariello-Maher, and increased concerns about both his safety and the safety of Drexel’s community, after careful consideration the university has decided to place Professor Ciccariello-Maher on administrative leave.” The university had previously condemned his tweet concerning white genocide.
Following these developments, Ciccariello-Maher authored an op-ed in the Post, titled “Conservatives are the real campus thought police squashing academic freedom.” In it, he defended his tweets, saying that they were based on years of research that indicated white males are “subject[ed] to a potent cocktail of entitlement to economic and political power, and to dominate nonwhite and female bodies.” He continued, “professors like me are being targeted by a coordinated right-wing campaign to undermine our academic freedom—one that relies on misrepresentation and sometimes outright lying, and often puts us and our students in danger.” Ciccariello-Maher also described the death threats he and his family had been receiving, and claimed he was not the only professor to receive this type of criticism and threats from the right. He concluded by criticizing Drexel for “bowing to pressure from racist internet trolls” and therefore sending “the wrong signal: That you can control a university’s curriculum with anonymous threats of violence.”
The professor continued to teach his courses via video conference after being placed on leave. “I have 800 unread voicemails in my inbox right now that have been building up over the past few weeks,” he told CNN. “Threats that involve my child are, of course, the ones that are the most frightening to me.” The administration decided he would need a police escort in order to come to campus. In November 2017, a group of his students walked out of his classroom, carrying signs that read, “Bring Back GCM” and “Where’s Our Professor?” reported CNN.
Ciccariello-Maher announced his resignation on Twitter on December 28, 2017. He included a picture of a Facebook post in which he wrote that he was resigning because of harassment from “right-wing, white supremacist media outlets and internet mobs” and “death threats and threats of violence directed against [him and his family].” He characterized the current tension surrounding free speech on college campuses by saying, “We are at war, and academia is a crucial front in that war,” adding that “the Right is targeting campuses with thinly veiled provocations disguised as free speech.” He also urged tenured faculty to defend all faculty from attacks from the “racist Right” and white supremacists, and concluded by praising his students and calling on campuses to become “unsafe spaces for white supremacists.”
Ciccariello-Maher resigns from Drexel, joins NYU institute
After receiving death threats concerning his tweets and being placed on administrative leave, Ciccariello-Maher resigned from Drexel University. According to The Philly Voice, he joined NYU’s Hemispheric Institute of Performance and Politics shortly thereafter as a visiting scholar.
Prepared by Graham Piro ‘18
Uploaded April 9, 2018