Drexel labels professor's controversial tweets 'protected speech'

Drexel University recently clarified its response to tweets from faculty member George Ciccariello-Maher that stirred up an online controversy that Ciccariello-Maher described as arising from a satirical celebration of white genocide.

“The university vigorously supports the right of its faculty members and students to freely express their opinions in the course of academic debate and discussion,” Drexel President John A. Fry and Provost M. Brian Blake said in a joint statement. “In this vein, we recognize Professor Ciccariello-Maher’s tweets as protected speech.”

Ciccariello-Maher, an associate professor of politics and global studies, called for white genocide in the tweets and described massacres that occurred during the Haitian revolution as “a very good thing.”

The university’s original response was to classify the tweets as inflammatory and utterly reprehensible, but also to recognize them as protected under the faculty’s right to free speech.

“While Professor Ciccariello-Maher has defended his comments as satire, the wide range of reactions to his tweets suggests that his intentions were not adequately conveyed,” Fry and Blake said. “These responses underscore the importance of choosing one’s words thoughtfully and exercising appropriate judgment in light of the inherent limitations presented by communications on social media.”

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