A Facebook post by a University of North Carolina Wilmington (UNCW) professor is under scrutiny by the university’s board of trustees.
Dan Johnson, an associate professor at UNCW’s School of Health and Applied Human Sciences, wrote “Blow up Republicans” on his Facebook account last month, sparking a debate over free speech rights.
In a statement to WECT News, UNCW spokeswoman Andrea Weaver said the university was made aware of the post and “acted on the information in a timely and appropriate manner. The faculty member expressed deep remorse and deleted the post.”
Expressing his concerns with Johnson’s post, board of trustees member Woody White wrote an email, calling free speech a double-edged sword. He requested Chancellor Jose Sartarelli conduct a survey to determine whether conservative-leaning students felt threatened by the post.
Students are divided in their responses to Professor Johnson’s post.
Haylie Davis, one of Johnson’s former students, believes the post was inappropriate and should be treated the same way if “Republican” was replaced with another word — for instance, if the post stated “Blow up women” or “Blow up homosexuals.”
Student body president Robert Fensom, on the other hand, believes Johnson expressed his personal opinion and any action taken against the post would have a “chilling effect” on free speech.
“My understanding of the status of Mr. Johnson’s communication is that it is constitutionally protected speech,” Fendom wrote to WECT News.
Now, even the university has put up a statement supporting Fensom.
“No matter how upsetting and distasteful such comments may be, they are expressions of free speech and protected by the First Amendment unless they represent a true threat. UNCW reviews any perceived threats that are brought to our attention. We have determined that the conduct and now-deleted post at issue do not contain any evidence of a true threat toward any members of our community,” the school said.