Two faculty members at the University of Louisiana-Monroe have come under fire since last week for racist remarks published to Facebook that drew the ire of students.
On its Facebook page, ULM also has published condemnations of racist remarks made by members of its faculty though it has not identified the faculty members responsible for the remarks. On Tuesday, the university announced it had placed two faculty members on administrative leave and issued a letter of termination to an instructor (the announcement did not identify personnel).
For example, ULM students on Sunday widely shared screenshots of a comment by Mary Holmes, an assistant professor at ULM’s Kitty DeGree School of Nursing, apparently referring to President Obama as a “monkey.”
In a Facebook comment on an article published by the Detroit Free Press, “Detroit rep says hydroxychloroquinine, Trump helped save her life amid COVID-19 fight,” Holmes wrote, “Thank God for our President. He takes no salary for his loyal commitment. Not like the monkey before him,” an apparent reference to Obama.
Holmes’ comments sparked hundreds and hundreds of comments in private and public groups on Facebook. Holmes’ Facebook account was no longer viewable as of late Sunday evening.
In a Facebook post that evening, ULM denounced its faculty members’ racist remarks, though it did not identify the faculty or name Holmes in the post.
“ULM condemns the stunningly bigoted and racist language in social media posts by select members of our faculty,” stated ULM’s Facebook post on June 7. “Our university demands tolerance and respect in the workplace and in the classroom. We are swiftly investigating the matters and taking all appropriate and available actions to protect students and the university community from the effects of racism and prejudice. We promise a long-term commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion. Only then can we stand with pride and say the best is on the bayou.”
Last week, ULM biology instructor Dennis Bell also sparked outrage across social media after students shared screenshots of Facebook posts by Bell concerning the George Floyd incident, black people, as well as a 2015 post in which Bell defended the use of a racial epithet.
Students’ outrage about Bell’s posts began after he announced on Facebook his plans to ask other white people to document “senseless and racist attacks on white people by blacks,” referring to protests and riots across the country in response to the death of George Floyd on May 25 when a Minneapolis police officer knelt on Floyd’s neck in spite of Floyd’s claims he could not breathe.
Bell defended his remarks in a later post to Facebook.
“Just to clarify. I called for the arrest of the police who murdered George Floyd the minute after I saw the video of him being killed. You can look on my timeline,” stated Bell’s Facebook post. “If I end up being fired from my job of thirty years teaching biology or smeared and possibly physically harmed in some way by some person because I said that I won’t kneel and they think I’m racist, so be it. I love black people as much as I love white people. Exactly as much. I love all people. I don’t care about color. I’ve taught my students for 30 years that the only thing that makes our skin color different is the amount of melanin deposited in our skin cells and how much sun a person gets and how much their ancestors got. And that’s still true.”
ULM did not identify Bell in a Facebook post on June 4, though the university said it would investigate one of its instructors for their posts on social media.
“Tonight ULM has been made aware of some inappropriate social media posts made by one of our instructors,” stated ULM’s Facebook post on June 4. “These posts are hurtful and do not reflect the core values of this institution. ULM will move quickly in investigating this situation and taking appropriate action.”
In a Facebook post on June 5, Bell apologized for “all of the hurt I’ve caused, the bad feelings between people, and all of the evil that I’ve aroused by my thoughtless statements.”
“All I can do is apologize,” stated Bell’s Facebook post. “The Bible talks about how words are like a fire. Once let loose, they cannot be recalled. I have just become the proverbial fool to be an example to you all of what not to do. Learn from my mistakes.”
Students reviewing Bell’s public posts published to Facebook took other screenshots of a June 23, 2015 post on Facebook in which Bell defended his use of a racial epithet.
“People are becoming irrational about the word ‘n****r,’” stated Bell’s Facebook post. “If you think you will ever stop people from using that or any other word by telling them not to use it, you’re crazy. People are definitely going to use any word that you tell them not to, especially kids. I use the word freely as I want to because this is America and you can’t tell me what I can or cannot say. I don’t like the word because it has become associated with hatred, so I don’t use it very often. One of the few times that I find it appropriate to use it is when I remember a childhood friend from Ruston named ‘Big N****r.’ Now, according to modern political correctness, I am not even allowed to ever mention my friend’s name because it contains a word that we are not allowed to say anymore. I don’t know his real name. The only name I ever knew him by was ‘Big N****r.’ If I knew his real name, I might use it, but he told his name was ‘Big N****r.’ He was proud of it and so I’ll honor his memory and grace to us kids by using it. I’m not going to stop remembering my friend just because you don’t like his name. Does anyone else from Ruston remember ‘Big N****r’?”