An adjunct professor at Essex College says she was fired after she got into an on-air tangle with Fox News host Tucker Carlson.
Lisa Durden argued with the prime time pundit over the Black Lives Matter movement, defending an all-black Memorial Day event that deliberately closed the door on other attendees. In the altercation’s most bizarre moment, Durden claims that ” you white people are just angry you couldn’t use your white privilege card to get invited to the Black Lives Matter all-black Memorial Day celebration.”
Durden says she wasn’t speaking on behalf of Essex, which is a predominantly black college, or on behalf of Black Lives Matter. In fact, during the interview, she specifically says she speaks only on behalf of Lisa Durden.
Regardless, Durden told Inside Higher Ed, she was escorted from her classroom earlier in June, directly into a meeting with Essex administration, who told her she was being suspended and investigated. One of Tucker’s viewers had called into the school and complained about Durden’s exclusionary attitude.
“I was publicly lynched,” she told media, claiming that Essex used her as an example to other professors who might be outspoken in their views. “They wanted to send a message. ‘See what happened to Lisa Durden? You know it could happen to me.’ Free speech doesn’t matter if you’re a professor, make people mad and you’re in trouble.”
Indeed, it seems strange that Essex suddenly discovered that Durden is an outspoken progressive. She was hired, she says, because she’s appeared on Fox News and MSNBC, and Essex wanted an experienced communications professional with a known name to teach classes in media, someone who could use her connections to help place students in media jobs.
Her colleagues—even those who say they don’t agree with Durden’s views—have circulated a petition and written personal letters to the Essex higher-ups asking for her to be re-hired.
“For those of us who are involved in advocacy, politics, who may hold opinions which differ from those in different spaces, this kind of thing has a terrible chilling effect,” an Essex professor wrote. “As this suspension will become public in the world of academia—and especially in black public intellectual circles—it will bring more negative publicity to our institution even as we are trying to move forward with our new president.”
Essex, for its part, says it believes in being an inclusive community, and that its general counsel, not the administration, is handling Durden’s claims directly.