UPDATE: This piece has been updated to reflect a response from Indiana University Northwest.
- The American Association of University Professors issues a report on Monday defending a professor who was reportedly fired for making a threat “to the effect that ‘the only way to end racism is to kill all the white people.'”
- The AAUP concluded that the words were taken out of context or distorted and that it was not credible.
- “In Professor McPhail’s case, it appeared to have been downright hostile, as evidenced by the presence of racist tropes of incompetent, angry, and physically violent Black men in the language used to justify his dismissal,” the report read.
The American Association of University Professors (AAUP) condemned Indiana University Northwest (IUN) on Monday for firing a professor in 2021 who allegedly claimed that the only way to end racism was to “kill all the white people.”
Marcia N. Gonzalez, the university’s senior general counsel, said that the the basis for professor Mark McPhail’s termination was because of negative performance reviews and for making “a threat of physical violence, stating words to the effect that ‘the only way to end racism is to kill all the white people,” according to the AAUP report. The AAUP, however, ruled that McPhail’s termination feeds off of “racial tropes” and maintained that his words may have been taken out of context or distorted. (RELATED: Property Is Racist, Boston University Professor Says)
“The racial climate at IUN appears to be unwelcoming to faculty members of color,” the report concluded. “In Professor McPhail’s case, it appeared to have been downright hostile, as evidenced by the presence of racist tropes of incompetent, angry, and physically violent Black men in the language used to justify his dismissal.”
.@IUNorthwest fired a Black professor after alleging he said something about killing white people. An AAUP report found “racist tropes of incompetent, angry and physically violent Black men in the language used to justify his dismissal.” #HigherEd https://t.co/6MIu6y6pP4
— Inside Higher Ed (@insidehighered) January 30, 2023
The report included interviews conducted by the Faculty Board of Review (FBOR) during an investigation into the matter. Charles Hobson, professor of business administration, reportedly said that McPhail had told him during a discussion on racism in the United States that “if indigenous people had killed all the early white settlers, racism would not have established itself in the Americas.”
He did not report the comment as a threat, but to “to impress upon [Executive Vice Chancellor Román-Lagunas] how deeply McPhail felt about systemic racism in the US.”
Hobson told Cynthia Roberts, dean of the IUN school of business, that the situation was “potentially explosive” and that “McPhail had said that the solution to racism is to kill all white people,” the report reads.
There was no university police investigation into the alleged threat, according to the AAUP report. It also said that there was not “a single person who spoke directly with Professor McPhail after he received notice of suspension who stated that he posed a threat.”
“Only two IUN administrators, both of whom received their information secondhand and one of whom had a fraught relationship with Professor McPhail, according to the FBOR, interpreted his speech to be violent and threatening,” the report reads.
Several other faculty members described McPhail as being angry during conversations, which led to the FBOR to determine that a potential threat could be credible. The FBOR determined that the dismissal was “unwarranted,” according to the report.
“Shared academic governance cannot thrive at an institution in which the administration disregards crucial institutional policies. Nor can it thrive at an institution in which the administration regularly and without compelling reasons rejects the recommendations of duly constituted faculty committees after they have conscientiously discharged their duties in areas of faculty primacy,” the report concluded. “Conditions for academic governance at Indiana University Northwest can therefore only be described as unsound.”
Aaron Pigors, interim director of office of marketing & communications at IUN, told the Daily Caller News Foundation that the university “disagree[s] with the AAUP report, investigation, and characterization of the university’s handling of this situation.”
“Because this involves ongoing litigation, we cannot comment further at this time,” he said.
The police department and Roberts did not immediately respond to the DCNF’s request for comment. McPhail could not be reached for comment. The AAUP referred to DCNF to the report Hobson deferred to the school’s counsel and the FBOR declined to comment.
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