Student activists as Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, New York, are demanding that an art professor at the school be fired after he and his wife decided to simply observe a pro-police rally in town.
What are the details?
David Peterson, 61, who has been teaching at the school for 31 years, told the Times-Union last week that it was “civic interest and curiosity” that led him to attend a “Back the Blue” event in Congress Park in late July.
The rally was advertised on Facebook as a peaceful protest intended to show “law enforcement that they are valued, loved, respected and appreciated.”
The Times-Union reported that “the Petersons arrived at a little after 7 p.m., watched from the edge of the crowd as ‘Back the Blue’ supporters and counter-protesters traded barbs, then departed to get dinner after about 20 minutes.” Perhaps most importantly, they left before a small clash between police and Black Lives Matter protesters resulted.
“Neither [Peterson nor his wife] thought much of it,” the report added.
Nevertheless, some students at the school were incensed. By the time Peterson arrived on campus for the fall semester, a campaign to oust him had already been set in motion.
An email circulating around campus read: “I and other Skidmore students witnessed Profs. David Peterson and Andrea Peterson at an anti-Black Lives Matter protest. We demand the immediate dismissal of both Skidmore staff members for engaging in hateful conduct that threatens Black Skidmore students.” (Turns out Peterson’s wife Andrea is not on faculty at the school)
One day, Peterson came to his classroom and was confronted with a notice taped on the door, saying: “STOP. By entering this class you are crossing a campus-wide picket line and breaking the boycott against Professor David Peterson.”
The notice reportedly went on to vaguely accuse Peterson of past sexism and transphobia and added: “This is not a safe environment for marginalized students … by continuing to take this course you are enabling bigoted behavior on this campus.”
Peterson, for one, has not backed down or caved to what he calls a “cancel campaign” being launched against him.
He told the Times-Union: “What’s troubling is the mob mentality. All of a sudden, you have all these people who hate your guts and they know nothing about you.”
But apparently, the administration has failed to stand up for the longtime professor. Instead, they launched an investigation into the incident and have tried to toe the line.
In a statement to the Times-Union, a school spokesperson expressed “unequivocal support” for First Amendment rights but added that the school is also “committed to fostering a working and learning environment in which all its members can flourish.”
It also appears that students have been allowed to successfully boycott Peterson’s classes without consequence. According to the professor, he has no remaining students in one of his classes and only a small number of students in his other two.
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