drexel

Courtesy of Eric Berg/Creative Commons

After initially defending a professor’s controversial tweets as free speech, Drexel University is now launching an investigation, Inside Higher Ed reported.

On Christmas Eve, George Ciccariello-Maher, a Drexel associate professor of politics and global studies, tweeted "All I want for Christmas is white genocide."

Inside Higher Ed reported that he said the tweet was "tongue-in-cheek." 

More recently, the associate professor tweeted that he wanted to “vomit” after watching a man give up a first-class seat on an airplane to a uniformed soldier.

The initial post launched a heated debate over whether Ciccariello-Maher’s tweet was satirical or serious.

Drexel released a statement shortly after the Christmas Eve incident defending the associate professor’s words as “protected speech."

“The University vigorously supports the right of its faculty members and students to freely express their opinions in the course of academic debate and discussion,” the statement read.

The statement added, however, that Ciccariello-Maher’s post did “not represent the values of inclusion and understanding espoused by Drexel University.”

Several months after this statement, Drexel has changed its tune. The university is now looking into whether the tweets violated any school policies.

In a letter from April 3 obtained by Inside Higher Ed, Drexel Provost Brian Blake told Ciccariello-Maher that “in light of the serious damage to the university and its reputation that your provocative tweets have caused, it is imperative to determine whether you have violated the university’s Code of Conduct and/or other policies and whether your tweets are a violation of the special obligation that a faculty member has under Drexel’s academic freedom policy.”

Blake said in the letter that this "damage" has resulted in prospective students declining admissions offers, withheld donations from potential donors and a "nearly unmanageable volume of venomous calls."

The investigation comes after Republican state senators called upon Drexel to address the controversy more seriously and fire the associate professor.

In a letter to Drexel President John Fry, state senators Joe Scarnati, John Rafferty and Ryan Aument wrote, "We are confident that continuing to employ this hateful and disgusting man will do nothing but tarnish the Drexel name. We encourage you to terminate him as soon as possible."

According to PennLive, Drexel spokeswoman Niki Gianakaris said the review of Ciccariello-Maher is a “personnel matter” and will not be discussed publicly.

All comments eligible for publication in Daily Pennsylvanian, Inc. publications.