Statement of Support Against Grave Alt-Right Attacks on Graduate Student Instructor

Statement of Support Against Grave Alt-Right Attacks on Graduate Student Instructor

We are deeply concerned about the case of a graduate student in the English department at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, who is under attack by the alt-right, both on and off campus. On campus she has been the target of threats and harassment by a UMass undergraduate, Louis Shenker, whose Internet presence, including the “MinutemanBroadcast,” identifies him as an extreme alt-right personality who uses incel language.

On November 12th at an event being held at a full-house crowd of 1600 people at the Fine Arts Center at UMass entitled “Criminalizing Dissent: The Attack on BDS and Pro-Palestinian Voices,” Shenker, in a premeditated plan, disrupted the event. He shouted racial slurs at the speakers, who included Linda Sarsour, Cornel West and Shaun King. Even before his outburst he had been verbally harassing the graduate student, who is his former teacher, saying he was “going to get her.” He proudly filmed his disruption so he would have video footage for his subsequent self-promoting publicity campaign.

Not surprisingly, within twenty-four hours he had been invited onto Alex Jones’ Info Wars for a half-hour interview, reaching a massive audience of dangerous alt-right fanatics. The graduate student was the focus of his ire, and for weeks he has systematically and repeatedly spread her personal information, including her name, photo, and department, across alt-right networks.

In the following two weeks this campaign of abuse, the targeting of the graduate student has spread even further with alt-right media celebrities such as Michelle Malkin and Laura Loomer amplifying the threats. On social media Shenker constantly refers to his target as his ex-teacher in the English department and as a terrorist/jihadist, while simultaneously posting that he will shoot Amherst terrorists. He uses various incendiary terms to set a white nationalist audience on this individual, and compel action from that audience.

This is not a matter of protected free speech as Shenker has repeatedly threatened the graduate student, promising to bring “fire and fury, the likes of which the world has never seen” on his former teacher. As other students and teachers have seen these messages online, they are, not surprisingly, also concerned about their own safety on campus, and there is an atmosphere of fear in the department.

Given the nature of Shenker’s widespread audience and ties to hate groups, and the ways in which those responding to him online suggest violence, the graduate student is increasingly concerned for her safety as his reputation spread across alt-right networks. Shenker is getting more emboldened the more his reputation spreads across the alt-right networks. When he was served with an anti-harassment order issued by the Northampton District Court, he immediately violated it by posting threats online and was subsequently arrested. The Northampton Police Department have expressed concern about the threat he poses. The graduate student has been placed on administrative leave from teaching for the rest of the semester for her own safety.

Meanwhile, the university has repeatedly disseminated misinformation about the status of the case and publically dismissed the threats posed, compelling graduate students to return to work. Despite being the victim at the center of the crisis, no one from the administration has communicated with the graduate student or her attorneys.

What Shenker does as a private citizen is one thing. What he does as a student at the University of Massachusetts is a matter for the university administration. For reasons that escape us, they have been strangely passive regarding his actions despite the fact that he has already violated the Student Code of Conduct by his disruption of the Fine Arts Center event, and has created an environment of fear on campus with his campaign of harassment against his former teacher. If the University is serious about its claims that “Hate has no home at UMASS” or that it is committed to “building a community of dignity and trust,” then it must move swiftly to take protective action to protect the campus from Shenker - including expulsion and a no-contact order. Given the concerns that some law-enforcement personnel have about the threat he and the alt-right networks pose, anything less amounts to severe negligence regarding the safety of individual students/staff and the campus as a whole.

All faculty are invited to sign this petition here:

.Students, workers, and all others, please sign this one:

Original Signatories:

Bill V. Mullen
Professor of American Studies
Purdue University
Campus Antifascist Network
Organizing Collective, US Campaign for Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel

David Palumbo-Liu
Louise Hewlett Nixon Professor
Stanford University
Campus Anti-fascist Network
Organizing Collective, US Campaign for Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel

Chris Vials
Associate Professor of English
University of Connecticut-Storrs
Campus Antifascist Network

Cornel West
Professor of the Practice of Public Philosophy, Harvard University

Boots Riley
Filmmaker/Musician, screenwriter and director “Sorry To Bother You”

Roger Waters
Musician, Co-Founder Pink Floyd

Robin D. G. Kelley
Distinguished Professor of History & Gary B. Nash Endowed Chair in United States History
University of California, Los Angeles

Linda Sarsour
Executive Director, MPower for Change

Tim Wise
Anti-Racist Activist, author “White Like Me”

George Ciccariello-Maher
Decolonizing Humanities Project
The College of William & Mary

Johnny E. Williams
Professor of Sociology
Trinity College

Andrej Grubacic
Professor and Chair, Anthropology and Social Change
California Institute of Integral Studies

Adrienne Pine
Associate Professor and Graduate Program Director, Anthropology
American University

Robert McChesney
Gutgsell Endowed Professor,
University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

Sut Jhally
Professor of Communication
University of Massachusetts at Amherst

Mark Bray
Lecturer in History
Rutgers University

J. Kehaulani Kauanui
Professor of American Studies
Wesleyan University

Shane Burley Journalist

Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, University Professor in the Humanities, Columbia University
H. Bruce Franklin, The John Cotton Dana Professor of English and American Studies, Rutgers-Newark, Emeritus
Ian Balfour Professor Emeritus of English, York University
Jacques Lezra Professor of Spanish, UCRiverside
Jason Read Professor of Philosophy, University of Southern Maine
Steven Marsh Professor University of Illinois at Chicago
Larisa K Mann Assistant Professor, Media Studies and Production, Temple University
Daniel Vitkus Professor, UC San Diego
Ben Brucato Lecturer, Department of Sociology, Rhode Island College, Providence, RI
Bob Majzler Lecturer, UC Santa Cruz
Katrin Wehrheim Associate Professor of Mathematics, UC Berkeley
Mary Danico Professor, Cal l Poly Pomona
Melissa F Weiner Associate Professor of Sociology, College of the Holy Cross
Dana Luciano Associate Professor, English, Rutgers University
Andrea Lawlor Assistant Professor, Mount Holyoke College; UMass ‘12 (MFA)
Cynthia Wu Associate Professor at Indiana University
Sara Feldman Preceptor in Yiddish, Harvard University
Christian Haesemeyer Professor of Pure Mathematics, The University of Melbourne
Juliana Chang Professor of English, Santa Clara University
Srdan Keca Assistant Professor, Department of Art & Art History, Stanford University
Rebecca Karl Professor, New York University
Benjamin Balthaser Associate Professor, Indiana University, South Bend
Simona Sharoni Director, Interdisciplinary Institute, Merrimack College
Adam Miyashiro Associate Professor, Stockton University
Michael Rothberg Professor of English, UCLA
Kathleen Feyh Asst. Teaching Professor, Syracuse University
Laura Martin Professor, South Puget Sound Community College
Seth Kahn Professor of English, West Chester University of PA
Zoltan Grossman Faculty, Geography/Natuve Studies, The Evergreen State College
Denise A Heckman Associate Professor, Syracuse University
Rush Rehm Professor, Theater and Classics, Stanford University
Laura Jaffee Visiting Instructor, Colgate University
Krystal Klingenberg Assistant Professor, University of Hartford
Robyn Schroeder Director, Humanities for the Public Good Initiative; Adjunct Professor, American Studies, UNC-Chapel Hill
David Copenhafer Assistant Professor Bard Early College
Anthony Alessandrini Professor of English and Middle Eastern Studies, City University of New York
Satya P Mohanty Professor of English, Cornell University
Robert Haug Associate Professor of History
Chris Funk Adjunct Professor
Dorothy Kim Assistant Professor, Brandeis University
Ryan Skinnell Asst. Professor of English, San José State University
Peter Ikeler Assistant Professor Sociology SUNY Old Westbury
Bruce Carlson Associate Professor of Biology, Washington University in St. Louis
Franklin Ridgway Adjunct Professor, University of Cincinnati
Lucas Klein Associate Professor, University of Hong Kong
Karin Evans Professor of English, College of DuPage
Lisa Duggan Professor, Social & Cultural Analysis, NYU
Jeremy Siegman Lecturer, Harvard University
Dainy Bernstein Adjunct and PhD Candidate, CUNY Graduate Center
Stuart McLean Professor of Anthropology, University of Minnesota
Tom Eyers Associate Professor of Philosophy, Duquesne University
GPat Patterson Assistant Professor of English, LGBT Studies Coordinator; Kent State University
Alexander F. Day Associate Professor of History, Occidental College
Nicholas W. Mason Teaching Assistant, Maxwell School of Citizenships and Public Affairs, Syracuse University
Mark Dobbins Adjunct Professor of Art History
Robert W. Barrett, Jr. Associate Professor of English, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
Aaron Kashtan Lecturer, UNC Charlotte
Erin Graff Zivin Professor, USC
Norman Ajari Assistant Professor of Philosophy, Villanova University

Comments are closed.