National News

Trinity College to reopen today following threats

Posted June 22

— Trinity College will reopen on Thursday after threats closed the school.

Extra security will be in place at the Hartford college after Wednesday's abrupt shutdown.

Hartford police were called to investigate multiple threats, possibly stemming from a college professor's posts on social media.

They said the threats were made from all across the country.

School administrators said sociology professor Johnny Williams, who's been with the school since 1996, shared an article on both his personal Twitter and Facebook accounts written about the Congressional baseball practice shooting in Virginia last week.

According to reports, Williams also used the hashtag "white people in general need to die."

The dean of faculty at Trinity College will now review the matter to figure out if any procedures or policies were broken.

Williams recently posted a response to his actions on his Facebook page.

For the entirety of my adult life I have worked to inform my students, colleagues, and the public about the dire and destructive character of oppression and worked to push all of us towards making the world a more just, equitable and humane place.

The recent displays of hate and explicit death threats I have received via email and telephone in response to my recent posts are par for the course in the work that I do but this attack is at a level of vitriol and hatred in excess of what I have ever experienced.

This response seems to be a concerted campaign to attack not just what *they think* I said in my post but to attack my integrity, scholarship, teaching, department, and college. The publicity it is receiving also seems to be an organized warning to all others who want to speak out. This seems to be a national drive of intimidation of professors which all colleges and universities should be concerned about.

It is evident to anyone who carefully reads my posts on Facebook and Twitter that I did not call for the death of all self-identified 'whites.' I merely attached the hashtag to my post derived from a blog article written by Son of Baldwin entitled "Let Them All Fucking Die." This was an admittedly provocative move to get readers to pay attention to my reasoned, reasonable, and yes angry argument.

I posted my comments on social media to draw the attention of the readers to the current dire state of white supremacy in the nation.

We can debate whether social media has expanded, contracted, or perverted the public sphere. We all know that its anonymity and lack of face to face accountability makes meanness and ad hominem attacks easy to do.

I did not and do not use it in that way. My detractors have.

Trinity College's president, Joanne Berger-Sweeney, released a statement later in the day on Wednesday.

As many of you are aware, a set of social media posts by one of our faculty members has resulted in a loud and public rebuke and landed Trinity College in a national spotlight, both in the media and across various social media platforms. I understand the concerns many have expressed, and I'm especially grateful for the inquiries we've received from members of our community who've asked whether what they're reading and hearing is accurate. To be clear, both personally and on behalf of the College that I represent, I do not condone hate speech or calls to incite violence.

I've spoken with Johnny Williams, who has been a sociology professor at Trinity since 1996. I wanted to hear directly from him about the messages he posted and what has transpired since. It is important to clarify a few details. On June 16, a writer who goes by the name "Son of Baldwin"-and who is not Johnny Williams-wrote a piece for Medium.com that cited another writer's perspective on the shooting that occurred at the Congressional baseball practice in Virginia last week. The Medium piece went on to explore broader issues concerning race and the relationship between "victims of bigotry" and "bigots." The piece culminated with a call to show indifference to the lives of bigots. That call was reprehensible, and any such suggestion is abhorrent and wholly contrary to Trinity's values.

While Professor Williams did not write that article, he did share it on his personal social media accounts this week, and he did so with the use of a hashtag that connected directly to the inflammatory conclusion of that article. Professor Williams, who teaches about race and racism, shared the article on his personal Twitter account using that hashtag; he also shared it on his personal Facebook page.

The Dean of the Faculty will review this matter and advise me on whether college procedures or policies were broken. I told Professor Williams that in my opinion his use of the hashtag was reprehensible and, at the very least, in poor judgment. No matter its intent, it goes against our fundamental values as an institution, and I believe its effect is to close minds rather than open them.

I want to underscore that what we seek is to build a diverse college community that is welcoming to all viewpoints and backgrounds and that engages in civil discourse on even the most vexing issues. That requires that we continue to uphold our fundamental belief in academic freedom and support our community members' constitutional right to free speech. But our aspirations for the community we want to be also demand we take particular care with the words we use and the contexts in which we use them.

This incident has caused distress on our campus and beyond; threats of violence have been directed to Professor Williams and to our campus community, neither of which is an acceptable response.

I denounce hate speech in all its forms, I will explore all options to resolve this matter, and I will be back in touch with our community members with our decisions.

Copyright 2017 WFSB (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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