Many in the UVa community were shocked and disturbed to learn about comments made by Professor Douglass Muir last week on Facebook which likened the Black Lives Matter movement to the Ku Klux Klan. Muir, who teaches entrepreneurship in both the School of Engineering and the Darden School of Business, has since taken a leave of absence in the wake of condemnation of his comments by University officials.
Muir’s comments were originally posted in reference to an event that took place last Tuesday, October 4th at the Paramount Theater in downtown Charlottesville. The event featured Alice Garza, the co-founder of Black Lives Matter, as a speaker.
In response to a picture posted by a Charlottesville real estate agent who had attended the event, Muir wrote, “Black lives matter is the biggest rasist (sic) organisation (sic) since the clan (sic). Are you kidding me. Disgusting!!!”
His comments regarding Black Lives Matter, which have since been deleted, were brought to the attention of University officials by a Charlottesville resident who took a screenshot of Muir’s comments and posted them to Twitter.
“It is unacceptable for one of your lecturers to be comparing #BLM to the Klan,” wrote Joe Starsia.
In a statement released last Friday, the executive vice president and provost of the University wrote that he was “disturbed and saddened” by the comments made by Muir. He added that the University of Virginia “stands firmly against racism and social injustice of any kind.”
The Darden School of Business released a similar statement the same day, saying that Muir’s comments are in no way a reflection of the viewpoints and values of the school.
A statement released by the School of Engineering and Applied Science called Muir’s comments “entirely inappropriate” and noted that they have ”illuminated the need for further dialogue” regarding diversity and inclusion.
Students on grounds have expressed similar reactions upon learning about Muir’s recent statement on Facebook. Shareen Arshad, a third year student in the Engineering School, believes that Professor Muir’s comments were ignorant and have only served to undermine all students at the University.
“I have friends that took his class and said he would make ignorant comments similar to this one in his classes, which is truly upsetting that a professor in such a high position that we are meant to respect as students would say these things.”
Arshad observed that Black Lives Matter is a movement for unity and justice for a community in which they are under-served and underrepresented, whereas the KKK spreads notions of white supremacy and aims to marginalize other racial groups.
“As a minority within the E-School, I certainly believe that our voices are not heard and that we are underrepresented,” Arshad says.
She also mentioned recent changes in the office of the Center of Diversity for Engineering (CDE) that have contributed to increasing feelings of disunion among minority engineering students from the University in general.
While Arshad agrees that Muir’s leave of absence was the right decision, she feels unsure about the future of diversity at the University and in the Engineering School.
“Minority students within the E-School represent some of the brightest minds at the University. With Professor Muir’s comments, as well as the recent loss of resources at the CDE, I certainly do not feel welcome at UVa anymore.”
Efforts to reach Muir for comment were unsuccessful, and faculty at the Engineering School declined to comment on Muir’s Facebook post or his current leave of absence.