Letter to Joanne Berger-Sweeney President Trinity College
September 30, 2017
300 Summit Street
Hartford, CT 06106
RE: Professor Johnny Eric Williams' Advocacy of Violence
Dear President Berger-Sweeney:
I am writing to you as a member of the Trinity College Alumni Community to express my profound disappointment with the school's decision to support and condone the actions of Professor Williams who has tarnished the image of the school that we all care so much about.
As many of us look back on our years at Trinity, we recognize how formative they were for us on a personal level. The strong sense of community, the values and education we received shaped us intellectually, physically and spiritually. I served in the Student Government Association and tremendously enjoyed my time as active student leader at the college. One of the hallmarks of my experience entering political discussion was the respect we all had for our professors, administrators and fellow students. Whether you were conservative, liberal, a Democrat, a Republican, or an Independent, your views may not be agreed with, but were always given a measure of respect and dignity when they were expressed.
It is with genuine sadness that I feel compelled to correspond with you to express my concern that this political tolerance and intellectual respect are no longer values that Trinity College accepts or instills in its professors. How has Trinity so lost its way it would support the call to hate and arms expressed by professor Williams ?
On June 14th, 2017, a gunman in Alexandria VA opened fire on defenseless members of Congress and their staff doing nothing more than playing baseball wounding some and critically injuring Representative Steve Scalise. Statements initially made on Facebook by an anonymous "Son of Baldwin" were then taken, reposted and further gleefully editorialized by Professor Williams. The comments are as follows:
Son of Baldwin original Facebook post:
"If you see [white people] drowning. If you see them in a burning building. If they are bleeding out in an emergency room. If the ground is crumbling beneath them. If they are in a park and they turn their weapons on each other: do nothing," a June 16 article by "Son of Baldwin" says. "Let. Them. F-ing. Die. And smile a bit when you do."
Johnny Eric Williams retweet and commentary:
"It is past time for the racially oppressed to do what people who believe themselves to be 'white' will not do, put end to the vectors of their destructive mythology of whiteness and their white supremacy system. #LetThemF--ingDie," the associate professor of sociology said June 18 in a series of Facebook posts. "The time is now to confront these inhuman assholes and end this now."
Trinity College's official reaction, in my view, to these horrific remarks has been almost as shocking as the comments themselves. Initially, many of us kept asking ourselves over and over: "Are we really at a place and time in America where we can openly and enthusiastically advocate the potential assassination of elected officials?" How could the leadership of Trinity College still reserve judgment and hold the incident "under review"? A line appears to have been crossed from free speech to active advocacy of mass violence. Trinity's response has been completely unacceptable. Instead of immediately terminating this professor after this outrageous endorsement of what we see as egregious behavior, the college has sought the refuge of legal counsel, hidden behind academic conduct and regulatory review, and finally has determined to keep this professor employed. Advocacy of violence and hate should never be allowed to masquerade as academic freedom.
The school's motto Pro Ecclesia Et Patria (For the church and country) reflects a deep reverence to the sacrifices made by many to both institutions and a reminder of the high ideals of the original founders of the school. How is this standard and ideal being upheld by supporting the advocacy of violence against our elected leaders ?
This should be a call to action for all Trinity alumni and current students. Given these clear facts and circumstances, many of us call for this professor's immediate termination. Being an intellectual advocate of politically motivated violence cannot be tolerated nor condoned. I urge you and the Board of Trustees to reconsider your decision to look the other way, uphold the integrity of the college and ask Professor Williams to clear out his desk and take his hate somewhere else.
ALUMNI SHOULD REFRAIN FROM DONATING TO TRINITY UNTIL WILLIAMS IS GONE
Very truly yours,
John Leisenring (Class of 1981)
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