Topics

Social Media Storm

Former leader of Claremont Colleges’ resource center for LGBTQ students believes he was fired for his Twitter comments on white people and the police.

July 11, 2017
 
Jonathan Higgins

Jonathan Higgins was hired just last month to head the Claremont Colleges’ resource center for queer students.

But after conservative media publicly called him out for his tweets remarking on police, white gay people and “well-meaning white women,” Higgins is out of a job at the consortium of institutions that tout themselves as highly progressive.

Higgins’s firing follows a spate of professors being reprimanded, shamed and threatened for their social media posts or their public comments, particularly about issues of race.

In one particularly controversial case at Trinity College in Connecticut, Johnny Eric Williams, an associate professor of sociology, was put on leave for a racially insensitive social media post. At one point, Williams felt so concerned for his safety, following right-wing media reports about the post, he left town. The Trinity campus also shut down because of threats.

Higgins was a student affairs professional, and so not subject to the same type of academic freedoms as faculty members.

Higgins, who is black and queer, wrote in a message to Inside Higher Ed that he felt he was targeted because he focuses on queer students of color in his work and speaks “openly and freely about heteronormativity, homonegativity, white fragility and white supremacy.”

He later declined to be interviewed.

Pomona College, one of the Claremont institutions, confirmed in a statement Higgins does not work for the college and the search for his replacement has restarted.

Last week, The College Fix, a student-written national news website with a conservative bent, published a piece about anonymous students who were uncomfortable with some of Higgins’s Twitter postings.

The website focused first on an April tweet in which Higgins replied to the question “who are you automatically wary of/keep at a distance because of your past experiences?”

“White gays and well-meaning white women,” Higgins answered.

In another tweet the website pulled, Higgins talked about law enforcement: “I finally have nothing to say other than police are meant to service and protect white supremacy.”

In June, Higgins slammed “#heterosexualprideday,” a hashtag playing off Pride Month for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer community.

“So y’all been real quiet about #heterosexualprideday, I mean I thought I’d see parades celebrating rape culture, homophobia and transphobia,” he wrote.

And he added in a separate tweet: “Oh wait: y’all do that every day …”

All the student criticism of Higgins in the College Fix article is attributed to anonymous sources.

At least one of the tweets has been removed.

Still, right-leaning outlets The Daily Caller and The Washington Times both published accounts of Higgins’s exit, based almost entirely on the College Fix’s reporting.

Jan Collins-Eaglin, Pomona’s associate dean of students for personal success and wellness, wrote in an email to students on Saturday that the search for the director of the Queer Resources Center would begin as soon as possible.

She indicated in the email that the college would appoint an interim leader for the center.

“Our priorities for the QRC remain the same -- to maintain in a seamless fashion the robust services of the center, including its ability to provide direct support to students, expertise in workshops and trainings, and an inclusive space focused on student success and support, with a demonstrated commitment to diversity and community,” Collins-Eaglin wrote.

Per Higgins’s website, he speaks regularly at universities, and in the past has spoken at Kansas State University, Colgate University and Wooster College. He earned his bachelor’s degree from California State University, San Bernardino, and his master’s from the University of Redlands, where he also completed his doctorate.

Read more by

Be the first to know.
Get our free daily newsletter.

 

 
+ -

Expand commentsHide comments  —   Join the conversation!

Today’s News from Inside Higher Ed

Inside Higher Ed’s Quick Takes

What Others Are Reading

  • Viewed
  • Past:
  • Day
  • Week
  • Month
  • Year
Back to Top