The two ranking members of the legislature’s higher education committee are blasting the state-paid Eastern Connecticut State University professor for his recent comments that sharply criticized Republicans.
State Sen. Toni Boucher of Wilton and Rep. Tim LeGeyt of Canton sent the letter to Professor Brent Terry, whose remarks prompted a firestorm of protest from Republicans. In recorded remarks, Terry said that “colleges will start closing up” if Republicans gain control of the U.S. Senate in the fall elections.
Terry is an adjunct professor in the English department, and the remarks were made during a creative writing class.
Copies of the letter were sent to Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and others, including the two top Democratic leaders in the legislature – House Speaker J. Brendan Sharkey and Senate President Pro Tem Donald Willliams.
Their letter is as follows:
“Dear Professor Terry,
“We often receive complaints by students and faculty who tell us they are fearful of expressing a conservative point of view or party affiliation, because of pressure and outright ridicule by peers and superiors at their schools. Your derogatory political statements against Republicans in front of your class are a stark example of an oppressive intellectual climate that many of these complainants feel they endure. This negative climate was further encouraged by an Eastern Connecticut State University spokesman who said, “Our faculty has academic freedom to conduct their classes in whatever way they choose, this is not a university matter.” We would maintain that it is a university matter and goes beyond the disappointment and concern expressed by Eastern Connecticut State University President Nunez.
“We have listened to a recording of your unfortunate remarks before a creative writing class at Eastern Connecticut State University. In this recording you unleash the following rant, that Republicans are “…racist, misogynist [woman-hating], money-grubbing people [who] have so much power over the rest of us.” You further comment that, “there are a lot of people out there that do not want black people to vote, do not want Latinos to vote. Do not want old people to vote, or young people to vote.”
“In case your students remained unsure of whom these racist misogynists are, you conclude your remarks by predicting, “It’s absolutely possible that the Republicans will take over the Senate as well as the House. And we will live in a very, very, very different kind of country if that happens. I mean, colleges will start closing up if they, if these people have their way.”
The letter continued, “This rant is offensive and an embarrassment in every respect. We are affronted by its prejudicial tone, and its one-sided and slanderous appraisal of Republicans as intolerant, anti-education bogeymen.”
“Sadly, you believe that valuing education is a virtue specific to liberals. As you note in your statement, “They [Republicans] don’t think money should go to giving you people dangerous ideas about how the world should be run.” Academic freedom gives you the right to express your views as you see fit, but it does not validate ignorance, and it does not justify the presumption that your students hold the same opinions as you do. That anyone with authority over students would express these opinions is deeply disturbing. These notions were aired in a classroom at a state university, valued by both Republican and Democratic legislators and financed by taxpayers are offensive, especially to those of us who have spent years promoting positive education policy.
The letter continued, “Speaking as Republicans, we believe that your opinions are clearly within free speech liberties; that is not in question. But your prejudicial and inflammatory comments represent an egregious disregard for the forum of the captive audience to which they were so rudely directed, and for the values of open debate for which you purport to respect.
“We hope that the views expressed in this audio clip are yours alone, and do not reflect the opinions of either the faculty at ECSU, or in the broader state university system. Still, no amount of distancing tactics can disconnect the university and its administration from responsibility in this matter. Such shameful behavior by a member of the ECSU faculty casts a cloud over everyone associated with the university and merits constructive correction.
“If you truly regret your remarks, you will apologize to your students in person and to the university that you represent, and invite those of different perspectives to partake in the lively and respectful debate that you mention you had not provided. We look forward to serious efforts on your part, and on the part of the university to rectify this failure.”
In an apology that was distributed by the university, Terry said, “During my creative writing class yesterday, I allowed my own political opinions to color the discussion. I regret the language I used and I apologize to any students in the room who were offended.”
Terry continued, “As a liberal arts university, Eastern is known for encouraging debate and discussion about a host of social and political issues. My role in my own classroom is to keep the debate lively yet respectful. I did not meet that standard yesterday, and for that I am truly sorry.”