A University of Tampa professor tweeted his way to unemployment this week.
As Hurricane Harvey ravaged southeast Texas on Sunday, University of Tampa Adjunct Sociology Professor Ken Storey, safe in central Florida, had a remarkably mean-spirited take on the tragedy. Posting from his personal Twitter account on Sunday, Storey wrote, "I don't believe in instant Karma but this kinda feels like it for Texas. Hopefully this will help them realize the GOP doesn't care about them."
His comment was challenged immediately by another user who replied, "Lots of good people in Texas Ken. May want to rethink this one."
Storey doubled down. "Well, the good people there need to do more to stop the evil their state pushes. I'm only blaming those who support the GOP there," he wrote.
The user pushed back again, writing, "I guess since we're a Red state we deserve some bad karma too, right."
"Yep those who voted for him here deserve it as well," Storey contended.
The professor didn't "rethink" his position until after it was widely-publicized, tweeting an apology on Monday that read, "I deeply regret a statement I posted yesterday. I never meant to wish ill will upon any group. I hope all affected by Harvey recover quickly."
But by Tuesday morning, Storey had been "relieved of his duties," according to a statement from the university.
Storey's belief that voters who support Republicans "deserve" to be battered by a devastating hurricane is callous and bizarre. His tweets are also devoid of the prowess for reasoned debate that debt-burdened students and parents should expect from educators.
This incident recalls another professor's reaction to recent tragedy. Over the summer, Trinity College professor Johnny Eric Williams reacted to the shooting of GOP congressmen at a baseball practice by linking to an article on Facebook that argued African-American police officers should have let the Republicans die. "Saving the life of those that would kill you is the opposite of virtuous. Let. Them. Fucking. Die," the article asserted. Williams embellished his post with the hashtag "#LetThemF---ingDie," an implicit endorsement of that disturbing argument.
Expect Storey's firing to inflame the burgeoning debate over whether campus news outlets that report professors for statements similar to Williams' to a wider audience, occasionally pressuring schools to punish or release faculty members, have a chilling effect on free speech. That conversation will surely rage on over the course of the 2017-2018 academic year.
As I've argued before, when a professor makes a statement as absurd as those made by both Williams and Storey, it's blatantly unprofessional behavior that calls their ability to effectively educate students into question. Students should not have to sit in the classrooms of professors who believe people who think like them, or like their conservative family and friends, deserve to be left for dead during assassination attempts or hit with a hurricane.
The University of Tampa made the right call.
Emily Jashinsky is a commentary writer for the Washington Examiner.