A university professor suggested Harvey was karma for Texas Republicans. Then, he was fired. – Washington Post
The University of Tampa has fired a visiting professor who appeared to suggest on social media that Hurricane Harvey is karma for Texas for voting Republican.
Kenneth L. Storey, a sociology professor, was immediately slammed on social media after he tweeted this Sunday: “I dont believe in instant Karma but this kinda feels like it for Texas. Hopefully this will help them realize the GOP doesnt care about them.” Two days later, he was out of a job.
“We condemn the comments and the sentiment behind them, and understand the pain this irresponsible act has caused,” the university said, adding that other faculty members will take over Storey’s classes. “As Floridians, we are well aware of the destruction and suffering associated with tropical weather. Our thoughts and prayers are with all impacted by Hurricane Harvey.”
Storey, who also hosts a podcast, appears to have since deleted his Twitter account. Earlier, he followed up his initial tweet with two responses before deleting the entire thread, according to the Tampa Bay Times.
On Monday, he tweeted an apology, according to the Times: “I deeply regret the statement I posted yesterday. I never meant to wish ill will upon any group. I hope all affected by Harvey recover quickly.”
The Washington Post called a number registered to Storey, but a man who answered said, “No, thank you,” and hung up after a reporter introduced herself.
But in a statement to ABC affiliate WFTS, Storey said that he did not intend to offend anyone and that his tweets were taken out of context.
He said, in part:
I was referring to the GOP denial of climate change science and push to decrease funds from agencies that can help in a time like this. I hope all affected by the storm are safe and recover quickly. I also hope this helps the GOP realize the need to support climate change research and put in place better funding for agencies like NOAA and FEMA.
I’ve been clear with that through various tweets that followed the initial tweet. It is hard to express one’s full thoughts in 140 characters and I realize that taken out of context some tweets may sound extremely off-putting. I never intended it to be that.
Texas officials have confirmed that at least 16 people have died in the wake of Harvey, which has been battering the state since Friday night. Forecasters say up to 20 more inches of rain could fall on Texas and Louisiana by Thursday. Thousands have been rescued from high waters, and officials warn that many more could be forced out of their homes.
Ari Cohn, an attorney for the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, which advocates free-speech rights at American colleges and universities, said the organization is investigating Storey’s firing, which he described as problematic.
“The University of Tampa faculty handbook very clearly promises its faculty freedom of expression and academic freedom, which includes the right to speak privately as a citizen on matters important to the individual, so long as there’s no explicit claim that he’s speaking on behalf of the university,” Cohn told The Washington Post.