Since no administrators at this university will speak up to challenge those on their staff who desire to spread misinformation, we will.
The confirmed comment by professor Thomas Brennan in itself is incredibly concerning, and his adamant denial of the existence and tragic impact of COVID-19 is frankly disgusting. To disregard the thousands of people who have died and who have lost loved ones to COVID-19 is blatantly disrespectful to so many people, including those in our university community.
Everyone in the College of Arts and Sciences meeting saw this comment live in a zoom call: “The pandemic and riots are a leftist stunt to overthrow the United States government and destroy our [civil] liberties.”
Interim Dean Trinidy Williams assured faculty and staff that she would address this, but what she meant by that is unknown. As far as we have heard, no apology was made by Brennan and he still teaches here. Either he was reprimanded privately, or his superiors decided to pretend they didn’t have a science professor who doesn’t believe in science.
If the Twitter account does indeed belong to him–and the significant amount of evidence we have suggests it does–the fact that he is teaching at our university is unacceptable. To spread racism, anti-semitism and homophobia on social media is deplorable and hateful rhetoric like this impacts many in our university community.
While Brennan’s alleged Twitter account does not directly represent the university, a tweet from the account identifies him as a Ferris professor, and to have a connection between our university and an account like this is disheartening and will bring others to question the integrity of our university. There’s a definite line between your First Amendment right to free speech and spewing misinformation.
Brennan’s comment and the Twitter account in question spread the kind of divisive language that has contributed to the polarizing political climate in the United States right now. These beliefs, founded on conspiracy theories, are harmful and dehumanizing.
For a university that prides itself on diversity, inclusion and collaboration, it is incredibly disappointing to see nearly every person we reached out to refuse to acknowledge and respond to the offensive comments of a faculty member. Ferris had multiple opportunities to set the record straight on this and they did not.
We hope that the university will take action in response to the revelation of a faculty member who wishes to use their position to spread misinformation and unfounded conspiracy theories. Even if they don’t, we will continue to speak the truth, especially when no one else will.