Fresno State: Yes, the tenured professor who cheered Barbara Bush's death could be fired

So this idiot’s Twitter-puke is officially a news story now, huh? I heard about it last night and shrugged it off on grounds that of course some leftist jackholes would pop the rhetorical champagne upon hearing that a Bush had died, even if it wasn’t a Bush who had any command over policy. Surely there’d be some fringy righties who would high-five for whatever reason if Michelle Obama keeled over tomorrow. Politics doesn’t stop for funerals anymore, assuming it ever did. In fact, I ran across liberals in my own Twitter feed yesterday scoffing at the idea that Grandma Bush should be spared postmortem criticism, even for a few hours, just because people were grieving over her. Their sick burn on a dead old lady is just as important as your tears.

Still, Randa Jarrar’s shots were nasty even by the usual Twitter yardstick. It’s one thing to celebrate a death, it’s another to rhetorically drink the tears of the deceased’s child.

“Barbara Bush was a generous and smart and amazing racist who, along with her husband, raised a war criminal,” Jarrar tweeted. “F*** outta here with your nice words,” she wrote.

“I’m happy the witch is dead,” Jarrar continued. “Can’t wait for the rest of her family to fall to their demise the way 1.5 million iraqis have.”

She added: “All the hate I’m getting ALMOST made me forget how happy I am that George W. Bush is probably really sad right now.”

When someone tweeted back that she should be fired, she replied, “I work as a tenured professor. I make 100K a year doing that. I will never be fired.” Is that so? The provost of Fresno State, where Jarrar works, held a press conference today to reiterate how strongly the school disapproved of her “disrespectful” comments — which stunned me since, if you followed politics during the Bush years, it’s hard to imagine any scenario in which a university would criticize a left-wing professor for hating the Bushes too much. A reporter asked the provost if Jarrar had been right, that firing her was all but impossible. The reply: “To answer the technical question: Can she not be fired? The answer is no.”

She’s right, as Ken White explains. There are circumstances, however limited, in which a public university can boot someone for the things they say, but it sounds like it’ll be an uphill battle in Jarrar’s case. She was speaking on a matter of public interest, she was doing it outside the course of her official duties, and her musings on Mrs. Bush probably didn’t disrupt Fresno State’s workplace so much that that disruption should outweigh her free-speech rights. (Although, notes White, Jarrar did prank her trolls on Twitter by inviting them to call a phone number she claimed was hers but actually belonged to a student counseling hotline. If you’re looking for a “disruption” angle, that’s it.) Seems like a heavy lift legally. And politically, the backlash within academia to the school if it fired a left-wing professor for criticizing a right-wing family might be worse than the backlash Fresno State would get from the public if it just shrugged off Jarrar’s comments. The average joe who’s angry at Jarrar will forget about this soon enough. The average academic who’s angry at Fresno State for being angry at Jarrar and worried about a precedent being set here that might come back to bite them personally won’t.

One question, though: Doesn’t tenure give Jarrar extra protection above and beyond White’s analysis of the constitutional considerations? I dislike tenure for various reasons, starting with the fact that in practice it protects only one ideology, but a professor spouting off crassly about a political enemy would seem to be a straightforward example of the sort of behavior tenure is designed to protect. Academics must be free to pursue controversial ideas without fear of professional reprisal, or so we’re told, even when the “idea” is “LOL BUSH’S MOM DIED *fart noise*.” Jarrar’s not getting fired. Maybe the school could pay her off to go away, though.

Here’s the provost speaking this afternoon. The important stuff comes in the first five minutes.