Clemson Professor’s Hate Speech and the President’s Email -Alexander Cullen

According to Campus reform’s reporting last week, Clemson Assistant Professor of Human-Centered Computing, Bart Knijnenburg, had a number of his social media posts brought to light where he declared all Republicans to be racists. The Professor made sure to leave no doubt as to his opinion, “All republicans? Yes,” he confirmed in the comments section. “Your complacency made this happen. Pick a side: denounce your affiliation, or admit you’re a racist.” Among others were posts which justified political violence, ““I admire anyone who stands up against white supremacy. Violent or non-violent. This needs to stop, by any means necessary. #PunchNazis.” The posts seemed to be an address to the violent protests occurring in Charlottesville earlier this month.

Understandably, this drew condemnation from some whom appeared to have been former students of the professor, “”I’ve always looked up to you, as my 1st yr mentor but…it saddens me a bit to see this coming from you.” On Friday the university officially responded to the events with an email from President Clements. While the email neglected to bring attention to the exact statements or the professor whom had posted them, Clements reiterated that statements which condone violence or hatred are not those which conform to Clemson’s values. “And to be clear, speech that may be protected by law, but which is hateful, mean-spirited or casts aspersions on an entire group persons is not consistent with our values or how we should strive to conduct ourselves at Clemson. Beyond that, speech that amounts to a true threat or that elicits imminent acts of lawlessness or violence as defined by the U.S. Constitution is not protected and will be dealt with appropriately,” in addition President Clements specified that while those statements might have been in poor character, they were protected under the first amendment. Clemson’s commitment to free speech in the past has lacked, but here Presidents Clements and the administration demonstrate a strong understanding of the first amendment.

One of the largest failures of our modern-day institutions is their inability to protect conservatives when it is their opinions which are perceived as offensive or harmful. The hall mark of left leaning schools is their fragility in protecting the first amendment for all of their students, often times leaving conservative students vulnerable to violence, having their events shut down and their speakers dismissed or banned from campus. Professor Knijnenburg may have exercised expression motivated by hate, but until he calls for actual violence those are merely his opinions.

Clemson insured that it stood apart from those school who had failed when they decided to protect the speech of Bart Knijnenburg. As campus conservatives, we have to remain principled in our belief that tolerance for even the most radical of professors is what protects the tolerance of our beliefs. If Clemson had fired Professor Knijnenburg we’d have only ourselves to blame when a conservative professor is fired for similarly having a “hateful” opinion. In the words of President Clement, “Let’s demand of ourselves – and encourage those around us – to refrain from actions or speech that demeans or that aims to intimidate those with which we disagree.This situation can serve as a reminder of how important it is that we treat one another with respect – especially in difficult times. We are confident that the Clemson family can move forward from this in a way that represents the very best values of this great university.”


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