Members of the state Senate majority caucus have signed a letter asking West Virginia and Marshall universities to clamp down on recent instances of controversial speech.
The letter, signed by state Senator Eric Tarr, R-Putnam, and co-signed by 16 others, takes issue with “Black Lives Matter” stickers on some West Virginia University football players’ helmets.
It also focuses on recent comments by a Marshall University professor who told students during a virtual lecture that she hopes all of President Trump‘s supporters contract the coronavirus and die before the November election.
Tarr and the other senators, including Judiciary Chairman Charles Trump, R-Morgan, and Finance Chairman Craig Blair, R-Berkeley, drew a connection between the stickers, the professor’s comments and taxpayer funding for higher education.
“A great many of those taxpayers whom I represent in the West Virginia Senate detest that those very hard-earned dollars are used to promote a domestic terror group on the helmets of West Virginia University athletes.”
Black Lives Matter refers both to an organization — the Black Lives Matter Global Network — and a broader decentralized movement. The Black Lives Global Network sometimes receives criticism for its stated position to to “disrupt the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure requirement.”
But the movement is broader and involves hundreds of locally organized groups.
“It’s important for our fans to know that this helmet sticker is not advocating for any organization or any political stance, violence, rioting, looting or destruction. The sticker is a call for unity, safety and equality,” WVU said in a statement today.
“No state taxpayer dollars were used relating to these stickers. It is also important to note that each individual student-athlete voluntarily chose to participate.”
WVU’s statement continued, “We have student-athletes who want to bring an end to the social injustices using peaceful and positive ideas. Our student-athletes take great pride in representing West Virginia University and the state of West Virginia and are impressive in their maturity and caring attitude.”
Tarr and the senators also scrutinized Marshall’s handling of a professor who told students in an online class that she had grown extremely frustrated by Trump supporters who go to events without facial coverings as a covid precaution.
“I’ve become the type of person where I hope they all get it and die,” Professor Jennifer Mosher said.
“I’m sorry, but that’s so frustrating — just — I don’t know what else to do. You can’t argue with them, you can’t talk sense with them, um, I said to somebody yesterday I hope they all die before the election.”
Mosher’s comments were recorded by a student and posted on social media. Marshall on Friday said the professor had been placed on administrative leave pending an investigation.
Tarr’s letter took note of the use of university equipment to convey Mosher’s comments.
Drawing a connection between the helmet stickers and the professor’s comments, the letter stated, “These behaviors are inherently disgusting, but the use of law abiding taxpayers’ money against their very country, especially in light of the violence these movements have displayed, is beyond any excuse,” Tarr and the senators wrote.
“So I expect that the people that have charged me with the responsibility to represent them would rather see those tax dollars returned to them or used for a more honorable purpose.”
Marshall University issued a statement to say that it does not condone the professor’s statement. The statement by President Jerome Gilbert said the university will take action after the conclusion of an investigation by the chief academic officer.
“Marshall University will not tolerate our employees using the classroom or other platforms to express hate toward individuals or wish harm on them because of their political beliefs or other opinions,” Gilbert stated.
“I personally abhor the actions of individuals who spew hate, intolerance, and incivility. As a university, we believe in respect of all ideas and all people.”