SAR’s Academic Freedom Monitoring Project investigates and reports attacks on higher education with the aim of raising awareness, generating advocacy, and increasing protection for scholars, students, and academic communities. Learn more.

Date of Incident: December 29, 2017

Attack Types: Loss of Position | Other

Institution(s):Drexel University

Region & Country:Americas | United States of America

New or Ongoing:New Incident

In late 2016, Dr. George Ciccariello-Maher, a professor of politics and global studies at Drexel University, began receiving threats against himself and members of his family after he made a series of political tweets. In December 2017, after being placed on administrative leave, Professor Ciccariello-Maher resigned from the university,

In December 2016, Professor Ciccariello-Maher tweeted, “All I want for Christmas is white genocide,” referring to a conspiracy widely held by white supremacist groups. He later explained that the tweet was meant satirically. The tweet was reported on by several conservative media outlets, and went viral on social media, giving way to online harassment, including death threats against himself and his family. He continued to post provocative messages on social media, and during much of 2017, reportedly continued to experience violent harassment. In October 2017, following a series of tweets about the October 1 mass shooting in Las Vegas, Nevada, the university placed Professor Ciccariello-Maher on an open-ended administrative leave, citing “concern of his safety.” He taught his classes via video link for the remainder of the semester, before resigning effective December 31, 2017, stating that his situation had become untenable.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about violent threats and related administrative actions against scholars. University and state authorities have an obligation to take all available measures to ensure that campus and university personnel are able to exercise the rights to academic freedom and freedom of expression free from violence or harassment. Violent threats not only harm their immediate victims, but entire university communities and democratic society generally.