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Oct 17, 2018
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Left: Fresno State English professor Randa Jarrar. Right: Former U.S. First Lady Barbara Bush. (Fresno State/San Diego Union-Tribune)

Editorial: Fresno State professor’s Barbara Bush comments are fruitless

Fresno State is feeling the pressure.

Yet again, a professor goes on a social media tirade and attracts fury from all corners of the internet. And again, we will witness another senseless Twitter squabble.

Tuesday afternoon, after news broke that former First Lady Barbara Bush had died at 92, Fresno State English faculty member Randa Jarrar expressed her thoughts on the matter.

She called Bush an “amazing racist” who “raised a war criminal.” She wrote that former President George W. Bush was probably sad and that made her happy.

Those comments attracted furious Twitter users from everywhere. It isn’t worth getting into what was said to Jarrar and how Jarrar responded. That does little for anyone.

Unlike Lars Maischak, the Fresno State history lecturer who tweeted that “Trump must hang,” Jarrar did not appear to call for any violence. But her language was certainly viewed as hateful.

We suspect Jarrar expected to ignite a Twitter storm over her views on the Bushes. She even tagged Fresno State President Dr. Joseph Castro in her response to some users and insisted that she would not be fired for her tweets. She often wrote that her tenure position would not allow her to be fired. She also praised herself for being an American professor with free speech rights.

It is unlikely that people on social media will sit down and discuss the politics of Jarrar’s comments with civility. In this age of extreme ideological divide, we question why Jarrar felt the need to share her candid thoughts in the one place where anything productive rarely happens.

It appears the pressure was too real for even Jarrar. Her account went into protected mode by Tuesday night. 

The only obvious results from this are that Fresno State has another public relations quandry to address (it’s possible not all sides will be pleased), Jarrar has invited scorn to her character (she may not care) and there could well be threats made against her career and possibly her life by the most unhinged in society. And what do her students think? She mentioned them in some of her tweets.

That Jarrar made her comments as a private citizen and not as a representative of the university – as Castro suggested in a public statement Tuesday night – is a flawed excuse. Jarrar openly flashed her tenure and salary as a professor at the university to those who criticised her words.

Even when President Donald Trump uses vile language on social media, it reflects badly on the office he holds and represents. This is no different.

At the end of the day, Jarrar may have missed the chance to lead others to think critically and rationally about social and political issues. 

Whatever her goal may have been in calling out the matriarch of one of the biggest political dynasties in U.S. history, her message fell flat on its face for one simple reason: In the heat of the moment, professor Jarrar chose poor taste over prudence.

Editorials represent the majority opinion of Collegian editors.

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