A professor at a South Carolina university is being blacklisted, fighting to keep his job after a misunderstanding over a list of names led to accusations of racial insensitivity.
Dr. Steven Earnest has enlisted the help of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education to fight for his reinstatement at Coastal Carolina University. Earnest was suspended from the school in September after his response to a misunderstanding over a list of minority students’ names on a whiteboard was that “people get their feelings hurt so easily” when nonwhite students complained over seeing their names written on the classroom marker board, according to the FIRE.
“My whole life has been devoted to teaching students about theatre,” Earnest told the Washington Examiner. “It’s what I love to do. I cannot imagine what my life will be like if I cannot continue to do the job I have worked for and loved my whole life.”
Earnest told the Washington Examiner he has initiated proceedings to have his dispute read through the faculty appeals process, which allows professors to have grievances heard by a committee of peers. At the moment, however, the school has not responded to any of his requests.
The professor said the whole experience has been “horrible” and that it feels like his life “has been taken” from him.
The miscommunication occurred when a visiting artist was working with two students of color on Sept. 16. The three thought the other nonwhite students in the theater department should hang out and wrote the names of nonwhite students on the classroom whiteboard while brainstorming. When the next class arrived, the names remained on the board, and several students thought the list of names was designed to single the students out, the FIRE said.
The Department of Theatre’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee wrote an email on Sept. 17 explaining the whiteboard, and both the department and the visiting professor apologized for how “this list without context can affect those on the list in a dehumanizing and hurtful way.” Earnest, however, did not think an apology was needed for the misunderstanding, saying he did not “think it’s a big deal.”
Earnest’s response led to an effective suspension when the dean told him not to come to classes on Sept. 20 and to send her his syllabus, as well as criticism from students, who held a protest on Sept. 21 instead of attending class.
Several institutions of higher learning have made headlines for race-based policies, such as reports that a California professor was suspended for refusing to grade black students more leniently and that a Washington university offers separate housing to a Black Affinity Housing program that “celebrates the diversity of Black and African American people and culture.”
Representatives for CCU did not immediately respond to the Washington Examiner’s request for comment.
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Original Author: Asher Notheis