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Incoming BU professor defends racially tinged Twitter posts

An incoming Boston University professor whose racially tinged Twitter posts have stirred a social media backlash defended her candor Tuesday, while BU president Robert Brown issued a statement criticizing the tweets.

The posts from Saida Grundy, who is to start July 1 as an assistant professor of sociology and African-American studies, included one from March 10 that said, “why is white america so reluctant to identify white college males as a problem population?” Another tweet said, “every MLK week i commit myself to not spending a dime in white-owned businesses. and every year i find it nearly impossible.”

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In a statement Tuesday, Grundy said racial issues, especially in the past year, have become an unavoidable topic in the United States.

“I regret that my personal passion about issues surrounding these events led me to speak about them indelicately,” she said in the statement.

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In a letter to BU faculty, students, and staff, Brown stopped short of calling the tweets racist and acknowledged Dr. Grundy’s right to hold and express her opinions. But he said they “stereotyped and condemned other people.”

“We are disappointed and concerned by statements that reduce individuals to stereotypes on the basis of a broad category such as sex, race, or ethnicity,” Brown wrote. “I believe Dr. Grundy’s remarks fit this characterization.”

The letter said alumni and others have contacted the university about the tweets, and Brown said he feels an obligation to speak up when “words become hurtful to one group or another in the way they typecast and label its members.”

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Brown said his comments should not be interpreted as a lack of support for his new employee and he welcomes the chance to talk with faculty, students, and Grundy.

Grundy is described on BU’s website as a feminist sociologist of race and ethnicity. Her tweets were originally published on the website socawlege.com. Grundy’s Twitter page has been switched to private.

In her statement, Grundy said issues of race “are uncomfortable for all of us, and, yet, the events we now witness with regularity in our nation tell us that we can no longer circumvent the problems of difference with strategies of silence.”

Her classroom will be a welcoming environment, Grundy said, where students can discuss issues “openly and honestly without risk of censure or penalty.”

Contact Laura Krantz at laura.krantz@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @laurakrantz.
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