HARTFORD, Conn. — A black college professor whose social media posts about white supremacy led to threats that shut down the college’s campus one day last month did not violate any of its policies, its president said Friday.
A review of the messages posted by Trinity College sociology professor Johnny Williams concluded that his online activity was protected by academic freedom.
Trinity president Joanne Berger-Sweeney has said Williams shared a piece from another writer that concluded with a call to show indifference to the lives of bigots. Williams has said his posts were twisted to sound as though they referred to last month’s Virginia congressional shooting, in which a gunman opened fire at a baseball practice, badly wounding House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, a Republican.
Berger-Sweeney, in a statement on Friday, said she does not condone the professor’s posts but supports his right to express his opinions. She said the most intense public reaction was fueled by incorrect reports about what he actually said.
The harassment faced by the professor and by Trinity, a private liberal arts college in Hartford, has become “troublingly common” for people of color and those who speak out on racial issues, she said.
“These attacks against free speech have happened at numerous other colleges and universities,” she said. “In a country more deeply divided than ever, especially on issues of race, we must be able to speak openly without fear of intimidation or violence.”
Williams will be on leave through the fall semester to allow distance from the controversy, she said.