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Prof’s Class Canceled at Simmons After Harvard Controversy

September 28, 2022

Simmons University has canceled a course taught by an instructor accused of making racist social media posts when he taught at nearby Harvard University. The instructor, David Kane, was not renewed by Harvard following a 2020 controversy in which students alleged that he’d made racist posts on his blog using a pseudonym. Kane’s alleged posts said that most Black students at Williams College wouldn’t have been admitted if not for their “Black’ness” and that Williams was wrong to condemn the white supremacist group Identity Evropa without condemning the Black Lives Matter movement, too. Kane also invited Charles Murray, co-author of the controversial book The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life, to speak to Harvard students.

Apparently unaware of the controversy, Simmons hired Kane to teach an introductory statistics course this year. Simmons students soon brought Kane’s alleged posts to the university’s attention. Simmons then gave enrolled students the options of transferring out of the course without penalty. According to information from Simmons, enough students transferred out that the course fell below the minimum enrollment threshold and was canceled, per university policy. Russ Pinizzotto, Simmons’s provost, said in a statement that Simmons added a new course section and that the university “will not be renewing [Kane’s] contract.”

President Lynn Perry Wooten addressed a related student sit-in in separate statement, saying, “Simmons respects the right of student free expression, and we believe that sit-ins, protests and peaceful demonstrations are important forms of that expression. Many students have understandably expressed concerns about past statements reportedly made by Prof. Kane, which run counter to the Simmons mission of fostering a respectful and welcoming environment.” Wooten continued, “We appreciate the passion of our students and their commitment to standing up for equity and social justice. First amendment issues are often difficult to navigate, particularly when we disagree with an individual’s views.” Simmons also will host a meeting with students in the coming days and is reviewing its human resources policies.

Kane declined comment on the incident. He has not denied that he wrote the posts in question.

The Harvard Crimson’s editorial board wrote this week that “as we praise Simmons students for their valiance, we sympathize with them for having to go out of their way to make the Simmons campus a safe, welcoming, and inclusive space—a responsibility that lies in great part with the university administration, and one which was evidently neglected in the hiring of Kane. Placing the burden on students to opt out of courses taught by faculty who allegedly hold discriminatory views reflects not only questionable professional standards for what constitutes ethical and responsible pedagogy but also a degree of institutional apathy that has tangible, damaging effects on students.”

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Colleen Flaherty

Colleen Flaherty, Reporter, covers faculty issues for Inside Higher Ed. Prior to joining the publication in 2012, Colleen was military editor at the Killeen Daily Herald, outside Fort Hood, Texas. Before that, she covered government and land use issues for the Greenwich Time and Hersam Acorn Newspapers in her home state of Connecticut. After graduating from McGill University in Montreal in 2005 with a degree in English literature, Colleen taught English and English as a second language in public schools in the Bronx, N.Y. She earned her M.S.Ed. from City University of New York Lehman College in 2008 as part of the New York City Teaching Fellows program. 

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