As reported in the Seattle Weekly and elsewhere, Alan-Michael Weatherford, doctoral candidate at the University of Washington and a valued part-time French instructor, has become an ongoing target of violent threats from extremist hate groups. He led a series of peaceful teach-ins to respond to a hate speech event on campus on January 20th, 2017. He was filmed leaving campus, the video was published on hate-speech forums, and he was quickly identified, possibly with the help of a UW student. His personal and professional contact information was published online with malicious intent (a practice known as doxxing). Subsequently, his social media accounts have been flooded with explicit, graphic threats of violence against his person. He is the victim of libelous accusations on public web sites, and a coordinated e-mail campaign to remove him from his position based on the worst falsehoods. He has received white supremacist symbols in his campus mailbox and is being followed on campus by strangers. He has undeniable cause to fear violence against himself, and possibly his students, while performing his academic duties on campus.
In response to these events, we the undersigned members of the Department of French and Italian Studies make the following statements:
- We unequivocally stand behind our colleague’s reputation and person. Alan-Michael Weatherford is one of our most dedicated and ethical instructors. He receives overwhelmingly and exceptionally positive reviews from students. His pedagogy is innovative and thoughtful, and he goes to extraordinary lengths to ensure his students’ learning and safety.
- We respect rights to free speech inasmuch as that speech does not become hate speech. In order to guarantee the thriving of students from historically marginalized populations as well as that of majority populations, we insist on the right to ban hate speech from our classrooms and offices and to protect members of our community from it. We regret the recent invitation to campus of a known racist and transphobe and claim the right to protect ourselves from the real-life implications of hate speech on campus.
- The attacks on Alan-Michael Weatherford constitute not simply hate speech (which would in itself require a response) but a series of hate crimes, which requires an even more unambiguous response. These hate crimes include libel and incitement to violence, which are not protected by the First Amendment. Threats of violence are explicitly excepted from the First Amendment by the Supreme Court in the interest of “protecting individuals from the fear of violence, from the disruption that fear engenders, and from the possibility that the threatened violence will occur”. R.A.V. v. City of St. Paul, 505 U.S. 377, 388 (1992).
- We denounce incitement and libel as well as hate speech; we will not allow them in our classrooms, offices, mailboxes, or web sites; and we will take swift measures to ensure the prosecution of their authors to the full extent of the law.
- Alan-Michael is the victim of a hate crime linked to an event on campus. We recognize that he, and potential future targets of similar attacks, have just and real cause to fear violence in the workplace.
- We recognize that the Washington State Department of Labor guarantees workers a “safe and healthy workplace.” (WAC 296-800-110).
- We pledge to do what is in our power to help the University of Washington become a safer place to work and study. However, we insist on the need for strong central leadership, thus:
- We urge the UWPD and related departments to prioritize the investigation and prosecution of the authors of these hate crimes.
- Furthermore, we call upon the appropriate personnel at the University of Washington to develop robust policies against hate crimes in accordance with the First Amendment and its interpretation in R.A.V. v. City of St. Paul, and with the Washington DOL’s guidelines on safe workplaces.
Richard Watts, Associate Professor French, Chair of French and Italian Studies
Louisa Mackenzie, Associate Professor of French
Mikkel Borch-Jacobsen, Professor of French
Lorenzo Giachetti, Lecturer in French
Monique Nasrallah, Predoctoral Instructor in French
Ginger Farrell, Teaching Associate in French
Luke Whittingham, Predoctoral Instructor in French
Otilia Baraboi, Part-Time Lecturer in French
Joel Strom, Doctoral Student in French
Denyse Delcourt, Professor of French
Susan Gaylard, Associate Professor of Italian
Lise Lalonde, Doctoral Student and Instructor in French
Albert Sbragia, Associate Professor of Italian
Gabrielle Benabdallah, Predoctoral Research Assistant in French
Dantzel Cenatiempo, Doctoral Candidate and Instructor in French
Aimie Shaw, Part-Time Lecturer in French
Florentina Dedu-Constantin, Doctoral Candidate and Instructor in French
Beatrice Arduini, Assistant Professor of Italian
Hedwige Meyer, Principal Lecturer
Hailey Burgess, Doctoral Candidate and Instructor in French
Geoffrey Turnovsky, Associate Professor of French
Maria Francom, Departmental Administrator
Sabrina Tatta, Lecturer and Advisor
Michael Rich, Program Coordinator