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Call for Compassion Leads to Calls for Dismissal

Ohio State administrator criticized those who were celebrating the death of student who was killed as he was stabbing others.

December 2, 2016
 

An Ohio State University administrator has set off a controversy -- and is facing calls for her dismissal -- after calling for compassion for Abdul Razak Ali Artan. On Monday, Artan drove into a group of pedestrians outside a classroom building, got out of his car and stabbed several people with a butcher knife before he was shot and killed. Officials have said he may have been inspired by terrorist groups.

Stephanie Clemons Thompson, assistant director of residence life, posted a message to Facebook (restricted to those to whom she was connected and asking that it not be shared) reacting to the way some have been posting images of Artan's dead body and celebrating his death.

Her post was shared and quickly spread to people who were offended by it, many of whom have shared it widely, calling for her to be fired. Thompson has deleted the post, gone silent on social media and not responded to press requests for interviews.

More than 1,100 people have signed an online petition demanding Thompson's dismissal.

"Stephanie Clemons Thompson used Facebook as a public platform to shame those who were grateful and relieved the terrorist was taken out so quickly, preventing even more unthinkable terror and destruction in his wake," the petition says. "Because this man was taken out so quickly his goal of murder was foiled and his victims will live on. Stephanie Clemons Thompson, however, condemns this sentiment of relief by prioritizing the feelings of the terrorist over his innocent victims, their families and the Buckeye community as a whole."

Many comments on social media have focused on Thompson's inclusion of the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag and have noted Thompson's work on diversity issues at Ohio State. The petition mentions the hashtag as well.

"Furthermore, bringing the group #BlackLivesMatter into her post as a defense to these heinous acts only further promotes the violent and racially divided rhetoric being flooded by our media," the petition says. "That racial divide goes against the morals and principals [sic] OSU stands for. Her actions, as an employee, reflect on the university."

The university has disputed the idea that she was representing Ohio State.

A spokesman told The Washington Post that Thompson's Facebook post “clearly is not an official statement of the university and represents her own personal viewpoint.”

Many of the posts on social media state as fact that Artan was a terrorist (federal officials have said that he may have been and they are studying the possibility) and accused Thompson of supporting a terrorist. Many of the posts use words like "moron" or "dumb" (or worse) to describe her.

One comment on the website of The Lantern, the student newspaper at Ohio State, said, "By using hashtags like #blacklivesmatter and #sayhisname, she is conflating someone who actively tried to murder his fellow students with black citizens who were killed unnecessarily by police officers. She is implying, if not outright saying, that the death of someone committing an act of terror aimed at students under her watch was wrong. She has no place at a university where she is [in] a position of trust and responsibility. If a student came to her and said, 'I’m thinking of hurting other people,' would you trust her to communicate this to proper authorities and prevent potential bloodshed? I sure don’t! She would probably sit on the information in the name of inclusion."

Others are defending Thompson. Many who have worked with her have praised Thompson for her commitment to students.

And others are saying that her words have been distorted, that she didn't endorse terrorism but called for basic human decency.

Dafina-Lazarus Stewart, an associate professor of higher education and student affairs at Bowling Green State University, posted a series of tweets defending Thompson. Among them: "Don't be silent, student affairs pros. Don't be intimidated. She's not the threat. This person and attitude like theirs are. Block and report," and "Fired for what, exactly? Being compassionate? Reminding the community that we shouldn't gloat over someone's death? Nope," and "This is the kind of professional I want working with students on my campus, who uses whatever means at her disposal to support all students."

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