Should a professor lose her job for tweeting horrible things?

Why you should pay close attention to the free speech fight at Fresno State

Fresno State.
(Image credit: Facebook/Fresno State)

If historians of the future want to grasp the poisonous character of public debate in the first two years of the Trump administration, they could do worse than to study the saga of English professor Randa Jarrar of Fresno State University.

For readers who don't follow the online political outrage machine: Jarrar took to Twitter shortly after the death of former first lady Barbara Bush to denounce her and the Bush family in vicious and vulgar terms. "Barbara Bush was a generous and smart and amazing racist," she said in one tweet. "I'm happy the witch is dead," she said in another. Her tweets quickly went viral — the original ones as well as follow-ups in which she bragged about her six-figure salary and invulnerability as a tenured professor, taunted the president of her university (Joseph Castro), and posted a phone number that was ostensibly her own but turned out to be the number of a crisis hotline that was soon overwhelmed with calls from people irate about her provocations and clamoring for her to be fired. Within 24 hours, Castro had announced that Jarrar would be investigated, and indicated that she could well lose her job after all.

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.

SUBSCRIBE & SAVE
https://cdn.mos.cms.futurecdn.net/flexiimages/jacafc5zvs1692883516.jpg

Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up
To continue reading this article...
Continue reading this article and get limited website access each month.
Get unlimited website access, exclusive newsletters plus much more.
Cancel or pause at any time.
Already a subscriber to The Week?
Not sure which email you used for your subscription? Contact us