The University of California at Davis is embroiled in a controversy involving one of its faculty threatening “zionist journalists” in a violent tirade on X. UC Davis Professor (and undergraduate adviser) Jemma Decristo posted the screed on October 10th referencing the homes and family of those who support Israel as possible targets. The university is investigating the matter, but Decristo’s embrace of violence is nothing new for faculty around the country. For years, faculty members have engaged in violent rhetoric directed toward conservatives and Republicans with little response from universities.
“one group of ppl we have easy access to in the US is all these zionist journalists who spread propaganda and misinformation … they have houses w addresses, kids in school, they can fear their bosses, but they should fear us more.”
At the bottom, you can see a knife emoji, an ax emoji, and three red drops of blood after saying “they should fear us more.”
That strikes me as a rather direct and obvious threat.
Decristo is an assistant professor of American Studies at the public school with a “focus … on the interplay between sound, race, gender and embodiment.”
In a statement, a UC Davis spokesperson said campus leaders “reject all forms of violence and discrimination, as they are antithetical to the values of our university. We strive to foster a climate of equity and justice built on mutual understanding and respect for all members of the community.”
The University of California system has a long history of violence and violent rhetoric from the left.
At the University of California, Santa Barbara, feminist studies associate professor Mireille Miller-Young physically assaulted pro-life advocates and tore down their display.
She pleaded guilty to criminal assault, but the university refused to fire her. Instead, some faculty and students defended her, including claiming that pro-life displays constitute terrorism. The University of Oregon later honored Miller-Young as a model for women advocates.
Around the country, faculty routinely use violent rhetoric with little push back in the media or on campus.
We have discussed professors advocating “detonating white people,” denouncing police, calling for Republicans to suffer, strangling police officers, celebrating the death of conservatives, calling for the killing of Trump supporters, supporting the murder of conservative protesters, and other outrageous statements.
One of the most recent violent professors was Hunter College Professor Shellyne Rodríguez who was only fired after being arrested for holding a machete to the neck of a New York Post reporter and threatened to “chop you up.”
Yet, she was not fired after she destroyed the pro-life display of a group of students.
Since her machete attack, Rodríguez has now been hired by Cooper Union to teach its students.
These faculty members have long been part of the radical chic of academia, including a professor recently at Cornell expressing his “exhilaration” after watching the Hamas attack on Israel.
The response to conservatives accused of racist or insensitive comments has been quite different. We discussed how St. Joseph’s University refused to renew a contract for a professor who actually prevailed in such a free speech fight. A conservative North Carolina professor faced calls for termination over controversial tweets and was pushed to retire. Dr. Mike Adams, a professor of sociology and criminology, had long been a lightning rod of controversy. In 2014, we discussed his prevailing in a lawsuit that alleged discrimination due to his conservative views. He was then targeted again after an inflammatory tweet calling North Carolina a “slave state.” That led to his being pressured to resign with a settlement. He then committed suicide just days before his last day as a professor.
For years, conservative and Republican faculty and students have been subjected to such violent acts or rhetoric with little support from most faculty or the media. Indeed, figures like Jennifer Rubin and Laurence Tribe recently came under fire for their comments after the massacre despite years of such attacks and false claims directed at the right.
Universities are now facing pressure from donors to address such violent rhetoric. I continue to oppose any form of censorship for faculty or students. However, the real problem is the academic echo chamber created from decades of bias in hiring and promotion. That is unlikely to change the lack of viewpoint diversity on faculties or the purging of conservative or libertarian professors. There is no evidence that universities are prepared to take real action to address the hostile environment for many on our campuses in espousing dissenting views or values.