Trinity College: #LetThemAllF***ingDie Must Not Stand
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June 24, 2017
Dear President Berger-Sweeney:
We write as concerned alumni and friends of Trinity College who are witnessing a national controversy unfold over the words of Associate Professor Johnny Williams.
Recently, Dr. Willams shared an opinion piece via Facebook and Twitter entitled “Let Them F***ing Die.” This piece took the position that Rep. Steve Scalise, who was shot and critically wounded eariier this month, should have been left to die by black law enforcement officers. The opinion piece can be found at: https://medium.com/@SonofBaldwin/let-them-fucking-die-c316eee34212
While we recognize that Dr. Williams did not write this opinion piece, we are profoundly disturbed by his actions to promulgate this particular viewpoint, including his choice to use the hastag #LetThemAllF---ingDie.
Over the course of this controversy, several points have become clear:
1. There can be no mistaking that “Let Them F***ing Die” takes the position that Rep. Steve Scalise should have been left to die. The piece ends with the exhortation: "Let. Them. F**ing. Die. And smile a bit when you do." But even as distressing as these words are to read, it is even more disturbing to promote this position through the creation of a hashtag, as Dr. Williams did. We would argue that the only thing worse than harboring hatred is to spread hatred en masse through social media.
2. Dr. Williams has issued an apology, but even in his apology, he has eroded his credibility. He claims that his hashtag of #LetThemAllF---ingDie referred to a recent shooting of a pregnant black woman in Seattle and not the shooting of Rep. Scalise, but this is not credible. There is no reference to the Seattle shooting anywhere in “Let Them F***ing Die.” The only reasonable conclusion one can draw is that Dr. Williams is calling for conduct that the legal system would describe as “depraved indifference.”
3. Dr. Williams’ actions cause considerable reputational damage to Trinity College. His continued role as a tenured faculty member leads people to assume that his values are accepted and perhaps even pervasive within the culture of the institution.
#LetThemAllF***ingDie is the furthest sentiment imaginable from the ideals of Trinity College. It is so repugnant that it damages the essence of the institution at its very core. For the sake of all stakeholders—past, present and future—it is, therefore, imperative that Trinity send a clear message to the world that is every bit as conspicuous as the news story itself was this week:
Trinity College must dismiss Dr. Williams.
After a display of openly racial bias, it is no longer possible to function as a member of the faculty. Actions like these taint the culture, making it impossible to maintain a position grounded in the fairness and impartiality necessary for instruction and even the daily grading of academic work. Moreover, this applies not just to Dr. Williams’ students, but to all students at Trinity.
“Silencing voices and refusing to listen harms us all.” Those were your words earlier this year on the PBS News Hour. Make no mistake that “Let Them F***ing Die” is exactly silencing voices. Surely we can also all agree that #LetThemAllF***ingDie also feeds into a cycle of hatred that—just as you said—harms us all.
We stand in solidarity with all people of conscience who call for Dr. Williams’ dismissal, We only hope that the leadership of our alma mater has the integrity to stand with us.
Alumni for a Better Trinity
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