Grand Canyon University – August 2017

Professor suspended for incendiary comment about members of Black Lives Matter

Phoenix, AZ

Toby Jennings, a professor at Grand Canyon University (GCU), a for-profit Christian college in Phoenix, Arizona, was placed on leave after saying that some members of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement deserve to be “hung.”

Key Players

On September 19, 2016, theology professor Toby Jennings made controversial remarks about BLM during a seminar discussion titled, “God’s Concern for the Poor: What’s Missing in Social Justice?” He said that some members of the BLM movement were “very gracious and discerning and conversationally, dynamically dialoguing about the issue,” but that “then you have people on the opposite extreme of that that frankly should be hung.” A video of the forum was posted online.

Further Details

After his language elicited a strong reaction from the audience at the event, Jennings tried to clarify his comment. “That kind of rhetoric is not helpful to any conversation, and that’s what I mean by they should be hung,” he said. It wasn’t until nearly a year later, in August 2017, that the controversy over his remarks picked up steam. Local members of BLM and the NAACP told GCU administrators about Jennings’ comments and called on the university to fire him.

According to a statement released by GCU, leaders in the professor’s college did address Jennings’ comments with him immediately after the incident, but they did not bring the issue to university executives. As soon as GCU administrators learned of the incident, they “immediately removed the video and, within 48 hours, met with local leaders of Black Lives Matter to apologize, assure them that this rhetoric does not reflect the actions or beliefs of the University as a whole, and to discuss this situation more fully.”

The university also denounced Jennings’ comment more broadly. “The reprehensible rhetoric in this statement is unacceptable, and the university condemns it in the strongest terms,” GCU’s statement read. “The university wants to be clear that the professor’s rhetoric in no way reflects the heart of this university or its dedicated students, faculty, and staff.”


Jennings apologizes, is suspended indefinitely

Jennings apologized in a written statement for his “inappropriate, uncharitable, and incendiary comments.” He said he regretted having “inexcusably offended many fellow image-bearers of God.”

On August 22, 2017, Jennings was placed on administrative leave indefinitely while the university conducted an investigation of the incident. As of February 23, 2018, he had not yet been reinstated.

External References

Black Ariz. professor suspended for saying some Black Lives Matter members should be hung, The Washington Times

Ariz. professor suspended after saying members of Black Lives Matter ‘should be hung,’ The Root

Grand Canyon U. suspends professor for saying some Black Lives Matter supporters “should be hung,” The Chronicle of Higher Education

Under fire, these professors were criticized by their colleges, The Chronicle of Higher Education

GCU statement regarding September 2016 Ministry Forum

Prepared by Graham Piro ‘18

February 26, 2018