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Very Real

Professor Randa Jarrar Called Barbara Bush An ‘Amazing Racist’ And May Lose Her Job

The English professor’s statements have inspired intense debate about free speech — and now her employer has put her under review.

By Sharon Lynn Pruitt

After calling Barbara Bush an “amazing racist” on Twitter, a California professor may be in danger of losing her job.

Within hours of the announcement of Bush’s death on Tuesday, Randa Jarrar, an English professor at California State University, Fresno, began a Twitter diatribe about the late Bush matriarch, USA Today reports.

“Barbara Bush was a generous and smart and amazing racist who, along with her husband, raised a war criminal,” she wrote in one tweet. “F*ck outta here with your nice words.”

“PSA: either you are against these pieces of sh*t and their genocidal ways or you’re part of the problem. That’s actually how simple this is. I’m happy the witch is dead. Can’t wait for the rest of her family to fall to their demise the way 1.5 million Iraqis have,” Jarrar also wrote, according to The New York Post.

After Twitter users called on Fresno State President Joseph I. Castro to address Jarrar’s statements, Jarrar, who’s been employed at the university since 2010, responded by claiming that her status as a tenured professor meant that she couldn’t get fired. She also preemptively applauded her university for protecting her right to free speech, USA Today reports.

“Sweetie I work as a tenured professor. I make $100K a year doing that. I will never be fired,” she wrote in one Twitter reply. She wrote in another, “What I love about being an American professor is my right to free speech, and what I love about Fresno State is that I always feel protected and at home here.”

Jarrar received thousands of replies, many of which criticized everything from her appearance to her ethnicity (Jarrar is a Muslim Arab American woman). Some angry Twitter users wanted her fired, repeatedly tagging university officials in their tweets, while some created vile memes about her. In one of her responses, Jarrar shared what appeared to be her phone number but was actually the contact number for Arizona State University's crisis hotline. After Jarrar’s tweet, they began getting 50 to 70 calls an hour, AZ Central reports.

Jarrar’s faith in her university may have been misplaced. Castro released a statement Tuesday evening addressing Jarrar’s remarks, calling them “contrary to the core values of our university.” Fresno State officials then held a press conference on Wednesday to address the recent controversy, where they announced that they are moving forward with a review of Jarrar.

“The university is a public institution and must follow certain specific procedures in addressing personnel matters, which this is, and we will strictly follow these procedures. Fresno State will allow applicable law, policy and requirements of the faculty collective bargaining agreement to unfold,” said University Provost Lynnette Zelezny, who also added, “There are certain processes we have to follow but there are, certainly, situations where a tenured faculty person can be fired.”

The result of the review will not be shared with the public, however, as it is a personnel matter, Zelezny explained.

When speaking with the Fresno Bee, Castro reiterated, “A professor with tenure does not have blanket protection to say and do what they wish. We are all held accountable for our actions.”

Jarrar’s Twitter account has since been set to private. Her profile states that she is “currently on leave from Fresno State,” but that leave doesn’t seem to be connected with her recent statements on Bush. Patti Waid, director of university communications, confirmed to USA Today that Jarrar had previously requested a leave of absence for the spring 2018 semester and is “currently not teaching any courses on campus this semester.”

Jarrar has not commented publicly on the situation, but she did tweet on Wednesday,  “I’m still fabulous, thanks for checking in. Love to all of you who have sent support.”

Some are calling the university’s reaction hypocritical, The Guardian reports. While Castro described Jarrar’s statements as being “beyond free speech,” blackface doesn’t seem to be viewed as harshly at some California universities. After a fraternity member at Cal Poly was photographed in blackface earlier this month, university president Jeffrey Armstrong said that the student wouldn’t be expelled because his actions were “very, very likely protected by free speech and freedom of expression.”

(Photo: Randa Jarrar arrives for Vulture Festival Los Angeles at Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel on November 18, 2017 in Hollywood, California. By Gabriel Olsen/WireImage, via Getty Images)