Virginia Wesleyan University, a private liberal arts and sciences school in Virginia Beach, is back in the throes of the political and culture wars.
Paul L. Ewell, a business professor and dean of the university’s Global Campus, took to his personal Facebook page and wrote this:
“Please, please help me with something. If you voted for Joe Biden, please unfriend me. Or, reply that you are a Democrat and I will unfriend you. If you were ignorant, anti-American, and anti-Christian enough to vote for Biden, I really don’t want to be your social friend on social media. I wouldn’t hang out with you in real life, I don’t want to hang out with you virtually either. You have corrupted the election. You have corrupted our youth. You have corrupted our country. I have standards and you don’t meet them. Please remove yourself.”
Mind you, this was on his private Facebook page. But as we all know, with the Internet, there is no such thing as “private.” Someone discovered the post, took a screenshot, and then shared it on their social media. In this boiling-point year of course it went viral, and so have the responses to it. The outrage from alumni, parents, students, and other faculty continues two weeks later.
This necessitated a response from the administration, which was posted on the University’s official Facebook account:
At present, the Post has 676 comments and 29 shares. Many of the comments not only expressed dismay at Dean Ewell’s comments, but they were really not happy with the University’s failed attempt at damage control:
One commentator felt that Ewell’s response was what was un-Christian, while another posted what appeared to be a veiled threat about lawsuits:
There were a few comments of defense and agreement with Ewell’s stance and one that squared the circle quite nicely:
Speaking of our embattled President, he chose to sharpen his troll game by stirring the pot, retweeting Virginia Beach’s NBC 12’s tweet about coverage of the scandal with a one-word comment:
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 15, 2020
With all the cancellation that goes on, especially at the University level, it’s refreshing that this dean felt bold enough to do a rant on his personal page. Despite the couched message from Virginia Wesleyan’s administration, Ewell is probably not out of the woods—not by a long shot.
The Virginia Pilot reported:
“Alumni are threatening to withhold donations. Parents are reconsidering enrolling their kids. Students are pondering a protest.”
Virginia Wesleyan University seems to have been a boiling point during this election season as the Pilot story details:
“During a rally for Bernie Sanders in March, a university security guard was charged with assault after a confrontation with a Trump supporter turned physical. This summer, after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, the school was criticized for deleting comments on its Facebook page from students and alumni complaining about racism on its campus.”
It also documented another disappointed response to Ewell’s comments, and this one was quite telling. Alumna and Master’s degree student Emily Ann Myer said:
“College is a place where open minds and different points of view are supposed to be encouraged,” she said. “This is the opposite of that. It’s flat-out name-calling by someone in a position of authority.”
I would be curious to know what the responses from Myer’s and others would be with Marshall University Professor Jennifer Mosher wishing death upon Trump supporters? Or Anthropology Professor Sarah Parcak calling Amy Coney Barrett a “MAGA bootlicker”?
It seems the cries of foul and policing of speech on college and university campuses trends in one direction. When a conservative or Republican academic exercises their free speech rights, the outrage gets dialed to 11.
Ewell has since taken down his post and secured his Facebook account. According to the Virginia Pilot, he has even issued an apology. That’s more than one gets from the other side; sadly, it will probably not save his career.
The unity after this election is going as expected.