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UT fires teacher whose tweet blamed Harvey on Texas GOP vote

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posted on Aug, 30 2017 @ 11:46 AM
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UT fires teacher whose tweet blamed Harvey on Texas GOP vote


The University first distanced itself from sociology professor Kenneth L. Storey on Monday. But a tide of online outrage continued. A #FireKenStorey hashtag spread far beyond the university. Angry Facebook comments piled up.

"Don't think this is a school we will be looking at for my daughter anymore," one commenter said. An alumnus wrote, "Good thing I already paid you, because I'll never send the school another dime again."

On Tuesday morning, the university fired him.

"We condemn the comments and the sentiment behind them, and understand the pain this irresponsible act has caused," spokesman Eric Cardenas said in a statement.

Storey told the Tampa Bay Times that, while saddened, he understands UT's decision. He got caught up in today's political climate, he said, and knows now that every 140-character post needs to be able to stand on its own.

"What they see in those tweets is not who I am," he said. "How I worded it was wrong. I care about people. I love this country. I would never want to wish harm upon anyone."

The university has no clear policy on protections for speech like Storey's, said longtime communication professor Gregg Bachman. Though the tweet was "impulsive, immature and insensitive," Bachman said, he flinched at seeing a fellow professor fired amid blurry boundaries.

"I can feel a slight chill in the air over this," Bachman said. "I want to see that policy, and if it's not there, I want it developed, because faculty can't feel exposed like this."

Meanwhile, a group that fights for civil liberties in academia has taken up the issue, disappointed that UT "caved" to the pressure of "outrage mobs" online.

"Many universities seem to decide, 'Well, it's not worth the trouble of sticking up for our faculty members' rights,' and that's troubling," said Ari Cohn, an attorney with the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. "Other faculty members are going to think twice before speaking publicly, and that's to the detriment of everybody."

Storey has worked as an adjunct professor at UT since 2011. This was his first semester as a visiting assistant professor. Now other sociology faculty will take over his classes.

Storey's controversial tweet, which has been deleted, first drew the ire of conservative websites Turning Point USA and Campus Reform.

Referencing the hurricane, it read: "I dont believe in instant karma but this kinda feels like it for Texas. Hopefully this will help them realize the GOP doesnt care about them."

In a follow-up, he said that "good people" in red states like Texas and Florida "need to do more to stop the evil their state pushes." He continued: "I'm only blaming those who support the GOP there."

As the tweets spread, so did anger. Storey's name was added to a website called Professor Watchlist, a project to "expose and document college professors who discriminate against conservative students and advance leftist propaganda in the classroom."

Eventually Storey removed the entire thread, as well as his profile photo. He posted an apology on Monday.

"I never meant to wish ill will upon any group," he wrote. "I hope all affected by Harvey recover quickly."

Storey said his tweets were taken out of context. In a statement sent to ABC Action News, he said was referring to the "GOP denial of climate change science and push to decrease funds from agencies that can help in a time like this."

Meanwhile, the university took to Facebook, expressing solidarity for Harvey's victims and condemning Storey's tweets. Still, a deluge of calls, emails and comments demanded Storey's firing. Most of the anger came from people with no affiliation with the university, its spokesman said.

By Tuesday morning, Storey's page on the university website had been erased.

Then came his termination.

Storey said he is taking the situation "day by day," and has not decided whether he will pursue legal action.

During the first, rainy week of the new semester, several students said they were glad to see Storey answer to his tweets.

For Houston native Neisha Gamble, the comments particularly stung.

Gamble, 20, said she is still trying to get in touch with her family in a severely flooded area.

"Yes, he has free speech, but there are some things you should just keep to yourself," she said, sitting in the university's crowded Vaughn Center. The school made the right call, she said.

"Don't wish that upon anyone, and then send a fake apology out," she said.

Pulling an umbrella from her bag, Apollo Beach freshman Erin Hanson said, "As a professor and having a leadership position, it's kind of his job to keep his opinions to himself."

Patrick Holt, a junior, said he didn't believe the tweet when he first saw it.

"I thought it was pretty messed up," Holt said. "Twitter's the area for free speech, and you can say what you want, but there's an ethical line."

Social media firestorms have only heated up since the 2016 election, said Cohn, the attorney. In an era when universities often fold in the face of a public relations fiasco, the voices of internet crusaders hold serious sway.

In recent months, professors from California to New Jersey have been fired for social media posts and speaking appearances. At Fresno State, a lecturer tweeted that President Trump "must hang" to "save American democracy." A professor at Brigham Young University-Idaho wrote a private Facebook post supporting LGBT equality. Both lost their jobs.

UT's faculty handbook uses guidance from the American Association of University Professors, which states that, when teachers speak as citizens, "they should be free from institutional censorship or discipline."

Still, the policy states, they should be accurate, respect others' opinions, "exercise appropriate restraint" and make it clear they're not speaking for their institution. Only if speech raises "grave doubts concerning the teacher's fitness" may a school proceed with discipline, it says.

UT's procedures for doing so are not entirely clear.

"We will have to have a deeper and more extensive conversation among the faculty and among the senior academic leadership in order to clarify these lines," said Bachman, also the Faculty Senate president.

The AAUP said it will be following the case.

"In the meantime we continue to call on college and university leaders to denounce the targeted online harassment of their faculty members and to more forthrightly defend academic freedom," said Henry Reichman, first vice president of the organization.


Wow. I'm not sure what's more despicable, what this guy said or all these fakes coming out defending him and his "right to free speech". I wonder if they would feel the same way about free speech in cases of people who have lost their jobs for expressing conservative viewpoints, even when they didn't go so far as to celebrate suffering like this idiot did. This isn't about free speech. This guy has employee guidelines he has to follow, and clearly such blatant hate demonstrated for GOP voters violates the clause about raising doubts about the teacher's fitness. If you're that full of hate for people with opposing political viewpoints, how could you possibly be fair to your students? School made the right call.




posted on Aug, 30 2017 @ 11:48 AM
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a reply to: face23785

"I never meant to wish ill will upon any group," he wrote. "I hope all affected by Harvey recover quickly."

I'm glad he's fired.

Don't make stupid comments like that ya moron.

Stupid is as stupid does.



posted on Aug, 30 2017 @ 11:48 AM
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sociology professors never let a good crises go to waste

now what will they do?






posted on Aug, 30 2017 @ 11:50 AM
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I wonder if the people saying katrina happened because of gay people lost their jobs?



posted on Aug, 30 2017 @ 11:51 AM
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a reply to: face23785

His leftist is showing.
edit on 30-8-2017 by Bluntone22 because: Oops, his not hers



posted on Aug, 30 2017 @ 11:53 AM
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Being gay gave him no more right to say this despicable thing any more than anyone else. Shame on him.



posted on Aug, 30 2017 @ 11:54 AM
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a reply to: face23785

Pretty asinine and callous thing for him to say. If he wanted to make a point about how GOP policies led to circumstances that worsened the impact (such as a failure to update flood mitigation infrastructure) or hurt the government's response (just as a couple of hypotheticals), that would have had some reasonable defense.

Given the nature of what professors do, colleges and universities should give them more latitude for expression — including unpopular expression — but even then it should serve some actual purpose and not be simply hatred for hatred's sake.

Blaming a hurricane on the "karma" of GOP voters is pretty much on par with right-wing fundies blaming hurricanes on gays, same-sex marriage, legal abortions, etc — which is something that we've all seen frequently as well.

"Free speech" doesn't protect you from getting fired for saying something stupid or hateful on social media.
edit on 2017-8-30 by theantediluvian because: (no reason given)



posted on Aug, 30 2017 @ 11:57 AM
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So a university fired a prof for an insensitive tweet.
Can anyone guess how we can liken this to the INACTION over someone else s tweets?



posted on Aug, 30 2017 @ 11:57 AM
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Why do I think he won't be unemployed long?



posted on Aug, 30 2017 @ 11:58 AM
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When I saw UT, I automatically thought of University of Texas....

Whew! Thank goodness it's a professor from University of Tampa in Florida....that UT. Dumba##es should not be professors.

I



posted on Aug, 30 2017 @ 11:58 AM
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a reply to: yeahright

That was one of my first thoughts too. He'll get picked up by some scumbag university.



posted on Aug, 30 2017 @ 12:00 PM
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originally posted by: Bluntone22
a reply to: face23785

His leftist is showing.


Perhaps we could review all the times that right-wing politicians, media and leadership have blamed natural disasters, diseases, etc on the Left or something associated with the Left?

Then you can follow up each with "his wingnut is showing?"



posted on Aug, 30 2017 @ 12:00 PM
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He did a badly worded tweet.

Probably didn't deserve to get fired for it but understand why the university did.

Good demonstration of why using Twitter when in any kind of public position is stupid.



posted on Aug, 30 2017 @ 12:01 PM
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a reply to: face23785

Every time there's a natural disaster there's some preacher blaming the gays.

Maybe he should change careers.



posted on Aug, 30 2017 @ 12:01 PM
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He does have the right to free speech, but the university is allowed to fire him. In this case I have to agree with the university.



posted on Aug, 30 2017 @ 12:01 PM
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a reply to: theantediluvian

Whats the matter?
Those people where hammered for opinions.



posted on Aug, 30 2017 @ 12:02 PM
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a reply to: grey580

I don't think that's ok either. Start a thread on it.
edit on 30 8 17 by face23785 because: (no reason given)



posted on Aug, 30 2017 @ 12:03 PM
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originally posted by: TerryMcGuire
So a university fired a prof for an insensitive tweet.
Can anyone guess how we can liken this to the INACTION over someone else s tweets?


You're more than welcome to try. How effective it is will be quite telling.



posted on Aug, 30 2017 @ 12:10 PM
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posted on Aug, 30 2017 @ 12:14 PM
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originally posted by: Bluntone22
a reply to: theantediluvian

Whats the matter?
Those people where hammered for opinions.


What's the matter? See, I don't bother posting every time some dumbass wingnut says something stupid in public but not for the lack of opportunity to do so. Hell, there was a charter school principal who was posting s# about lynching BLM activists on her Facebook a couple weeks ago. Then was a GOP mayor earlier this week who stepped down after saying something racist on Facebook.

Hell, this one is from yesterday:

Georgia lawmaker: Talk of ditching Confederate statues could cause Democrat to ‘go missing’


State Rep. Jason Spencer, a Woodbine Republican, also wrote former state Rep. LaDawn Jones that “people in South Georgia are people of action, not drama” and suggested some who don’t understand that “will go missing in the Okefenokee.”

“Too many necks they are red around here,” he wrote. “Don’t say I didn’t warn you about ’em.”


Was his violent wingnut showing? You gonna "hammer" him over that? I'm all for calling out stupid people for saying dumb s# but I usually leave the low hanging fruit used to smear one side or the other to rot on the ground. If you're just looking to take opportunistic pot shots, let's take off the kid gloves and get really petty.
edit on 2017-8-30 by theantediluvian because: (no reason given)



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