A Cal State Fresno professor who posted disparaging remarks on Twitter about former First Lady Barbara Bush will keep her job, university officials said Tuesday.
Randa Jarrar drew swift and widespread condemnation when she called Bush, wife of former President George H.W. Bush and mother of former President George W. Bush, an “amazing racist who, along with her husband, raised a war criminal.”
In a letter to the campus community, Cal State Fresno President Joseph Castro called Jarrar’s comments “disgraceful” and “an embarrassment to the university,” but said they were protected under the 1st Amendment.
After reviewing the tweets with the university’s counsel, administrators concluded that Jarrar, who teaches creative writing, did not violate the school’s policies and was acting as a private citizen when she posted the comments online.
“Therefore, the university does not have justification to support taking any disciplinary action,” Castro wrote.
Jarrar’s tweets came within an hour of the April 17 announcement that Barbara Bush had died.
“I’m happy the witch is dead. can’t wait for the rest of her family to fall to their demise the way 1.5 million iraqis have. byyyeeeeeeee,” Jarrar wrote.
Jarrar brought up comments Barbara Bush made in 2005 about her son’s administration’s much-criticized response to Hurricane Katrina.
While touring the Houston Astrodome, which was used as a relocation center for New Orleans residents, Barbara Bush said, “Many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this is working very well for them.”
Facing a fierce backlash on social media, including calls for her termination, Jarrar bragged about her $100,000 salary as a tenured professor.
“I will never be fired,” she wrote.
Her Twitter account has since been turned private. On the contact page of her website, she wrote, “I do not read or respond to messages about Barbara Bush,” followed by a red heart.
A slew of civil liberties organizations came to Jarrar’s defense, calling the university’s investigation a chilling threat to free speech on campus.
“The university’s response is antithetical to a core value of our democracy: the right to express views on issues central to our national conversation in ways that might be provocative or disagreeable,” wrote leaders of civil rights groups, including the ACLU Foundation of Northern California and the National Coalition Against Censorship.
Jarrar is the American-born daughter of Palestinian and Egyptian parents and grew up in the Persian Gulf region, in Cairo and on the East Coast. Her 2008 novel, “A Map of Home,” chronicles the life of a girl growing up between the Middle East and the U.S.
Castro said Jarrar will remain on leave — which she had requested before the Twitter incident and backlash — through the spring semester.