Rutgers University on Wednesday reversed its previous finding that a professor violated the school’s discrimination and harassment policy after he said he "hates white people" in a social media post.
History professor James Livingston made national headlines in May after he complained about a restaurant in Harlem being “overrun with little Caucasian a—holes who know their parents will approve of anything they do.”
“I hereby resign from my race. F--- these people. Yeah, I know, it’s about access to my dinner. F--- you, too,” Livingston wrote on his personal Facebook account.
Livingston, a tenured professor, has taught at the university since 1988, according to NorthJersey.com.
The controversial comments prompted an investigation by the Office of Employment Equity (OEE), which found in July that Livingston violated school policy. He faced disciplinary action and potential discharge, according to a press release from Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) -- a First Amendment advocacy group representing Livingston.
Livingston argued that his remarks were "satirical," and he was commenting on the gentrification of the Harlem neighborhood, where he lives, NorthJersey.com reported
FIRE appealed the decision on Livingston's behalf, claiming he has the right to his opinion as a private citizen. The appeal was denied, according to the press release.
The organization then sent University President Robert L. Barchi a letter arguing the ruling “poses a serious threat to the academic freedom of Rutgers faculty and impermissibly hinders their ability to fulfill their essential role in our democracy.”
Barchi ordered the OEE to reevaluate its decision, noting that while the language is offensive, “few values are as important to the University as the protection of our First Amendment rights—even when the speech we are protecting is insensitive and reckless,” according to a press release from FIRE.
Rutgers informed Livingston on Wednesday of the reversal, which concluded that the professor did not violate school policy.
“I’m relieved that my right to free speech and my academic freedom have been validated by this retraction, thanks to FIRE, the AAUP, and colleagues, who made this strange episode an issue to be debated and decided in public,” Livingston said in a statement. “But if I may use the occasion to preach . . . As a tenured professor, I have resources and protections that are unavailable to most employees. That is not just unfortunate, it is simply wrong, and needs redressing.”
In a statement to NorthJersey.com, FIRE’s director of litigation Marieke Tuthill Beck-Coon said, “Rutgers did the right thing and reversed the charge of racial discrimination,” adding that “any other result would have undermined the free speech and academic freedom rights of all Rutgers faculty members.”