A Fresno State professor who called the late Barbara Bush “racist” soon after her death Tuesday, and said she was glad “the witch is dead,” continues to face fallout as donors mull ceasing donations to the institution.
Randa Jarrar, an English professor at the school (also known as California State University at Fresno), sparked outrage Tuesday just hours after the former first lady died at age 92, writing a number of tweets attacking Bush and the family.
“Barbara Bush was a generous and smart and amazing racist who, along with her husband, raised a war criminal. F*** outta here with your nice words,” the professor tweeted. “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, a tenured professor, boasted on social media that because she has tenure, she won’t be fired from her job. She’s currently on leave this semester and was reportedly traveling overseas.
Amid the backlash, someone on social media shared Jarrar's publicly available work phone number and email address, to which the professor responded with a phone number for a crisis hotline at Arizona State University, saying that’s her number, prompting a flood of calls to the hotline that normally receives just a few calls per week.
A university investigation is underway. But several donors to Fresno State are reportedly considering whether the university deserves their contributions.
Ed Dunkel Jr., who made sizable financial contributions to Fresno State, said he will await the outcome of the controversy before deciding whether to close his checkbook.
“I have a lot of friends that I've been talking to, and these are people who donate now and talking about holding back, and some are even questioning whether to send their kids to Fresno State," Dunkel told the Fresno Bee.
"I admire and have a lot of respect for President (Joseph) Castro and huge affection for Fresno State," Dunkel said. "But I have huge concerns. This represents such an embarrassment to the university and the community. It's hard to believe this is an isolated thing that just happened. I have to imagine people previously knew of this person's character and what she's about."
Fresno State President Joseph Castro acknowledged that he’s been having conversations with donors regarding the controversy.
"The conversations I'm having are more about their concern, and I share that concern. I understand where they're coming from. I'm asking them for understanding here as we work through the complexities of this issue,” he told the Fresno Bee.
"I understand where [university donors are] coming from. I'm asking them for understanding here as we work through the complexities of this issue."
"They're outraged, and I'm outraged as well," he added. "This is behavior that is unacceptable as a university that models the development of leaders. We just cannot tolerate it."
On Wednesday, the school seemed to make a point of posting on Twitter that campus flags were at half-staff in memory of Barbara Bush.
The school's College Republicans also tweeted that they were "outraged" by Jarrar's comments.
But while Jarrar is facing calls to be terminated, she attracted support from multiple advocacy organizations and professors who defended her right to free speech.
“Jarrar’s tweets are unquestionably protected speech under the First Amendment and Fresno State has no power to censor, punish, or terminate Jarrar for them,” Adam Steinbaugh, senior program officer for FIRE (Foundation for Individual Rights in Education), said in a statement to Fox News.
FIRE also joined other free speech advocacy groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), in opposing the university’s decision to investigate Jarrar, saying it conflicts with the First Amendment.
Another controversial Fresno State professor, who was demoted after tweeting that President Donald Trump “must hang” in order to “save American democracy,” said the university is failing to live up to its promise to defend academic freedom.
Lars Maischak, a history lecturer, wrote an article for the Bee claiming the university president is siding with attackers of Jarrar rather than standing up to the “fascist threat to academic freedom.”