Fresno State’s Castro lets Jarrar slither free

April 29, 2018

Well, well, well, the verdict is in. And sadly it’s the exact verdict I predicted last week.

No, I’m not bemoaning that a Pennsylvania jury found Bill Cosby, once known as “America’s Dad”, guilty on three counts of sexual assault. Yes, the story is sad. Sad for all his victims. Sad that justice took so long. But I’m anything but sad that justice was finally delivered to a monster exposed.

I’m sad because of two sentences from last week’s column on the passing of former First Lady Barbara Bush: “What will happen to Professor Jarrar? Probably nothing.” Jarrar is the Fresno State Professor who in the wake of Mrs. Bush’s death tweeted among other vile: “Barbara Bush was a generous and smart and amazing racist who, along with her husband, raised a war criminal.”

To which Fresno State president Joseph Castro at first held out hope for the “civil discourse” by stating that Jarrar’s words went “beyond free speech. This was disrespectful.” and that “A professor with tenure does not have blanket protection to say and do what they wish,” he said. “We are all held accountable for our actions.”.

But by the next day he had already cowered and was muttering: “academic freedom is at the core of our University,…….I am a fervent supporter of academic freedom and its underlying principles, as defined by the First Amendment.”

For the life of me, I can’t find a single syllable in the First Amendment on “academic freedom” but Castro is a university president in California so Lord only knows which Constitution he’s reading.

On Tuesday, Mr. Castro issued a press release stating that although: “Professor Jarrar’s conduct was insensitive, inappropriate and an embarrassment to the university” and that “on campus and whenever we are representing the university, I expect all of us to engage in respectful dialogue.” in the end “she was acting in a private capacity and speaking about a public matter on her personal Twitter account.” and therefore “this private action is an issue of free speech and not related to her job or tenure.” so “.. the university does not have justification to support taking any disciplinary action.”

And just like that Castro took Jarrar’s rants of making $100k a year, being tenured and that she would “never be fired” from mocking braggadocio to cold hard truth.

In fairness Jarrar wasn’t the only hater. Right wing political slime Roger Stone posted to his Instagram account that “Barbara Bush was a nasty drunk. When it came to drinking she made Betty Ford look like Carrie Nation #blottoBabs,” and that “Barbara Bush drank so much booze, if they cremated her … her body would burn for three days.”

Yet while the vileness is the same, there is a difference between Stone and Jarrar.

What Sydney Blumenthal is to Hillary Clinton and the left, Stone is to the political right. Hiding behind the phrase “opposition research” they are the human slime that oozes through the gutters of our political parties.  “From the lowest of life forms, the lowest is expected” so to speak.  We expect them to show themselves the vermin they are and they in return consistently oblige.

But Jarrar is a university professor collecting a taxpayer funded salary. Should not she, or any other academic for that matter, set just a smidgeon of a better example than that of our lowest of low political operatives?  (Even Stone lost a speaking gig from the Florida GOP for his asinine rant.)

Even in the world of Hollywood and all the weird that goes with it, actors’ contracts have morality clauses to protect the producers and studios (the employers) from actions unbecoming.

While Castro admits that Jarrar’s rants were “inappropriate and an embarrassment” he hides behind a “private act” excuse and tsk, tsk, that is the end of that.

Where is the leadership?  What does it say about a university that won’t hold its professors to a higher standard of conduct than that of a political snake?

Does anyone believe that if a professor of the future tweeted out on the death of Mrs. Obama “Michelle Obama was a generous and smart and amazing hypocrite who married a man that killed countless lives in Libya and let ISIS kill thousands more” said professor would be accorded the same Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah skip on down the road treatment afforded Ms. Jarrar?

Of course not.

If universities across this nation ever wish to reclaim their place in society as revered places of higher learning they must first impose upon themselves standards of conduct that are at least one step above those lowest of the low that slither among us.

Publisher Note:  A version of this column first appeared in the April 29, 2018 print edition of the Joplin Globe.

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