After starting his new job as dean of The University of Alabama, a man’s tweets surfaced expressing hatred for the American flag, police officers, and the opinions of “white people.” One day later, the campus made an unexpected announcement.
Less than a year into his career as a dean of The University of Alabama, Jamie Riley tasted the bitter relish of cancel culture when controversial tweets surfaced from his past. Unfortunately, the uproar was so severe that the school felt pressured to make a hasty decision about Riley, who is a political activist and self-proclaimed advocate for minority rights.
Riley had served for just 7 months as the assistant vice president and dean of students of the Tuscaloosa campus before his contentious beliefs came under fire. His trouble started when tweets from more than a year before he entered his position surfaced, calling into question the dean’s ability to serve his students and staff members without prejudice.
In the now-deleted tweets, Riley passionately expressed his disdain not only for the American flag but also law enforcement officers and “white people.” Over several posts, he suggested that the U.S. flag and police are systemically racist and that white people cannot experience racism due to their “privilege,” according to Breitbart, which broke the story.
“The [American] flag represents a systemic racism history of racism for my people. Police are a part of that system. Is it that hard to see the correlation?” Riley tweeted.
“Are movies about slavery truly about educating the unaware, or to remind Black people of our place in society?” another tweet read.
“I’m baffled about how the 1st thing white people say is, ‘That’s not racist!’ when they can’t even experience racism? You have 0 opinion,” Riley wrote, adding the hashtag “#missmewithyourprivilege.”
The resurfacing of Riley’s tweets quickly sparked controversy, which soon made its way to the university board. Within hours, a meeting was called between Riley and university officials to discuss a possible remedy. However, it wasn’t what Riley expected.
Just one day after his racially charged tweets surfaced, the University of Alabama announced that Riley and the college have “mutually agreed” to his resignation, The Crimson White reports. Press secretary for the UA Student Government Association Jackson Fuentes confirmed that Riley would no longer be affiliated with the school effective immediately.
“For us right now, basically all I can tell you is that the University and Dr. Riley have mutually agreed to part ways,” Fuentes said. “So yeah, that’s true, and we do wish him the best.”
Steven Hood, associate vice president of student life, stated in an email that “Dr. Jamie Riley has resigned his position at The University of Alabama by mutual agreement. Neither the university or Dr. Riley will have any further comments.”
Although the media initially questioned if the tweets had been fabricated, the posts were soon recovered, proving that Riley had made the comments from his Twitter account.
The backlash was enough to pressure the school into confronting Riley on his open views. However, few expected that he would lose his job over the opinions, regardless of how antagonistic they may be.
Despite seemingly being pressured to resign, Riley’s departure wasn’t without its benefits. According to AL.com, the university must pay the former dean $346,200 as part of his resignation terms. The package included a quarter of Riley’s salary as well as lost wages and “compensatory damages.” The deal also prohibits the school from discussing the nature of his leaving.
While it’s obvious that Riley’s openly stated opinions on racism are themselves racist, many who oppose his views still don’t believe that they warranted him losing his job. In fact, the very nature of free speech is to protect the most egregious and offensive speech.
However, the school has the right to enforce policies of its choosing. As it turns out, the university doesn’t think that a dean with a prejudice against a majority of his student body and staff members is a good look for the campus.