Trinity College closes due to threats from professor’s social media posting
The campus of Trinity College in Hartford was closed for much of Wednesday after receiving threats from people outraged by a professor who shared an inflammatory online posting about the Congressional baseball practice shootings.
But the private college is due to reopen on Thursday morning with increased security after determining that there was “no immediate threat,” following the posting by Johnny Eric Williams, Trinity announced.
Williams, who teaches about race and racism, shared on his personal Twitter and Facebook accounts an article published on medium.com that cited “another writer’s perspective on the shooting,” the college said in a statement.
The article -- which was not written by Williams -- also explored the “relationship between ‘victims of bigotry’ and ‘bigots,’ and culminated with a “call to show indifference to the lives of bigots,” the statement said.
“That call was reprehensible,” Trinity President Joanne Berger-Sweeney said in the statement. “and any such suggestion is abhorrent and wholly contrary to Trinity’s values.”
Williams, a sociology professor at Trinity since 1996, could not immediately be reached for comment by the Globe.
He also posted at least one message to his Facebook page using the hashtag “#LetThem[Expletive]Die,” which was the headline of the article. Campus Reform, a conservative website, published a screen grab of the hashtag on Williams’ Facebook page.
Berger-Sweeney made an oblique reference to the vulgar hashtag that he used online, saying it “connected directly to the inflammatory conclusion of that article.”
The president said she denounces “hate speech in all its forms” and “will explore all options to resolve this matter.” She did not quote excerpts from the Medium.com article.
The dean of faculty will review the matter and advise Berger-Sweeney if any college procedures or policies were broken, the statement said.
Williams told the Hartford Courant that his words were twisted by some people to sound as though he was saying the victims of the Alexandria, Virginia, shooting should’ve been left to die, the Associated Press reported.
The postings were not publicly available on his Facebook and Twitter accounts Wednesday. Campus Reform had published screen-grabs of the messages.
The medium.com article remained publicly accessible Wednesday night and quoted another posting from the outlet Fusion.
The Fusion article noted that Capital Police Officer Crystal Griner, an African American lesbian, helped stop the baseball practice shooter, who wounded Republican congressman Steve Scalise and GOP operatives.
The Fusion story described Scalise as an anti-gay lawmaker who has “kept company with racists.” The Medium.com author wrote in response, “What does it mean, in general, when victims of bigotry save the lives of bigots? For centuries, black people have been regarded as sub-human workhorses whose entire purpose is to serve white people’s whimsies.”
The Medium.com author concluded the posting with a poem that said, “Let. Them. [Expletive]. Die./And smile a bit when you do./For you have done the universe a great service./Ashes to ashes. Dust to bigots.” The posting was also headlined “Let Them [Expletive] Die.”
Williams’ sharing of the article had consequences for Trinity.
At 12:38 p.m. Wednesday, the school announced that “due to threats received and out of an abundance of caution, all campus buildings are card ID access only.”
At 1:10 p.m., Trinity officials said, “Given the threats to campus and upon consultation with the President’s Cabinet, the decision has been made to close the College until further notice. “
Finally, at 5:38 p.m., the college announced there was no immediate threat and that the College will reopen Thursday morning.