On October 4th, community outrage ensued over a Facebook comment made by Douglas Muir, an executive lecturer in the Engineering School and the Darden School of Business, when he compared the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement to the Klu Klux Klan. The comment was left on a picture of Black Lives Matter co-founder Alicia Garza speaking at Charlottesville’s Paramount Theater and read,“Black lives matter is the biggest rasist organisation [sic] since the clan [sic]. Are you kidding me. Disgusting!!!” As a result of his post, Professor Muir has been asked to take a leave of absence.
Days after the comment was made, many organizations on grounds – including students within the Darden School of Business – expressed their concern and frustration by declaring that Professor Muir’s tweet does not reflect the opinions of the Darden School of Business. The Engineering Schools’ Facebook account responded to the post, saying, “comments made on personal social media sites do not represent the views of the the University of Virginia, the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, and the UVA Darden School of Business. UVA, UVA Engineering, and Darden value diversity and inclusion.”
Since then, unity among students and faculty members has grown stronger. A picture was recently published by the Darden School showing students standing together under the caption – “One Darden.”
Despite the understandable reaction to Mr. Muir’s comments, it is important to acknowledge the fact that he published them on his own personal twitter account, which is not affiliated with the University in any way, shape or form. That aside, the real issue here is one of censorship. Is Mr. Muir’s suspension justified or are we knee-jerking out of society’s misguided and somewhat immature addiction to political correctness, which tends to superficially circumvent the deeper problem?
Having an open conversation – which would allow students and professors alike to talk about the organizational structure and sometimes-extreme tactics of BLM – would be of greater value to everyone. Censoring Mr. Muir’s comments is unlikely to change his ideology on this issue, but a respectful and creative discussion might.
Instead of unjustly suppressing an important issue because of its controversial nature, it is far more meaningful and productive to bring the issue to the forefront. Putting a Professor on leave for expressing his views in a private forum sends a clear message that this university will not tolerate any opinions and statements that are not in lock-step with how it wants the outside world to perceive it. I do not think Mr. Jefferson would approve of this line of reasoning. He founded our University upon the idea that students and professors alike are to be encouraged to engage in issues, no matter how sensitive and painful those issues may be. The topic of ‘Black Lives Matter’ should be no exception to this philosophy. Instead of doling out misguided discipline, we should be encouraging constructive dialogue and debate about a very important issue.