An associate professor of English at Fresno State University in Fresno, California, used the power of the pen — or keyboard, in this case — to spread foul thoughts about an iconic and beloved first lady on Tuesday evening.
An hour after the news broke that Barbara Bush had passed away, the now-embattled Randa Jarrar took to Twitter to say Mrs. Bush was an “amazing racist” who “raised a war criminal,” as multiple outlets reported.
Then it got worse. A lot worse.
Additional hateful tweets included, “I’m happy the witch is dead. Can’t wait for the rest of her family to fall to their demise the way 1.5 million iraqis have.”
At one point during her vitriolic rant, Jarrar — almost immediately under fire by Twitter users — boasted her job was safe, since she was tenured. Jarrar tweeted last night: “I work as a tenured professor. I make 100k a year doing that. I will never be fired. I will always have people wanting to hear what I have to say.”
Jarrar describes herself in her Twitter posts as an Arab-American and a Muslim-American woman, The Mercury News reported.
To top off her potentially career-ending rant, the professor posted what she said was her phone number — certainly an odd thing to do given the amount of blowback she began receiving. The phone number, though, was that of Arizona State University’s Counseling Services’ dedicated crisis line.
In her zeal to attack a grieving family, this “educator” thought it was appropriate to endanger college students who might be experiencing mental health crises by tying up an emergency line.
On Tuesday night, Fresno State’s president, Joseph I. Castro, issued a statement that began by expressing condolences to the Bush family.
“Professor Jarrar’s expressed personal views and commentary are obviously contrary to the core values of our university, which include respect and empathy for individuals with divergent points of view, and a sincere commitment to mutual understanding and progress,” Castro’s statement said.
On Wednesday morning, Lynnette Zelezny, Fresno State’s provost vice president of academic affairs, held a press conference, calling Jarrar’s statements “deeply disrespectful.” She said Jarrar’s personal statements did not reflect the university’s point of view.
“Understandably, many people are very concerned and upset about the nature of Professor Jarrar’s personal comments. Please know the university is taking this matter very seriously, and the incident is under review,” she said.
She confirmed Jarrar had previously requested a personal leave of absence for the spring 2018 semester and wasn’t currently teaching any classes.
Asked if the university intended to fire Jarrar, Zelenzy called the incident a “personnel matter” that she was not free to discuss — nor would she comment on the final outcome, she said.
An investigative procedure was underway, she added, and the faculty union would be involved; all faculty at Fresno State, tenured or not, are represented by a collective bargaining agreement, she said.
Zelenzy also said, “There are certainly situations where tenured faculty can be fired.”
When asked if Castro, the university president, wanted to fire her, Zelenzy waffled, saying he had not used those exact words, but that “what he wants is for us to move quickly and decisively with the processes we have in front of us, which we are.”
A #boycottfresnostate hashtag appeared on Twitter after all of this, and some people are calling for donations to the school to stop until or unless Jarrar is fired. Others indicated that kids planning to attend the school will now be looking for other options.
“The entire political climate right now is a very heated one,” Zelenzy noted.
On her now-private Twitter page, Randa Jarrar’s bio links to an article in Inside Higher Ed, which addresses the importance of “academic freedom.” One hopes “academic freedom” will do little to free Jarrar from the consequences of her very offensive behavior.
Jarrar’s twitter bio reads now, in part, “Currently on leave from Fresno State.”
Michele Blood is a Flemington, New Jersey-based freelance writer and a regular contributor to LifeZette.