Claremont College fired its new director for the Queer Resource Center within days of his employment for controversial tweets, and now “student affairs professionals” are crawling out of the woodwork to condemn his termination as “an act of violence.”
Dr. Jonathan Higgins was initially welcomed aboard with a warm reception – divisive tweets and all, by those doing the hiring – and was introduced as “a motivational speaker dedicated to empowering all LGBTQ students with an emphasis on students of color,” by a dean at a cluster college. However, within 72 hours of his employment, his tweets had made the campus rounds with students, and Higgins was sent packing.
His tweets alluded to him being wary of “white gays and well-meaning white women.” He also took issue with the police and white people in general, tweeting, “police are meant to service and protect white supremacy.”
In late June, Higgins tweeted in response to gay pride day and the dyke march when Twitter was buzzing with the notion of a satirical straight day parade. “So y’all been real quiet about #heterosexualprideday,” he tweeted. “I mean I thought I’d see parades celebrating rape culture, homophobia and transphobia.” Then he added, “Oh wait: y’all do that everyday…..”
According to The College Fix, students at Claremont took offense to the tweets. One white, gay student said they feel they would not receive equal treatment under Higgins’ oversight.
Another gay student told The Fix that the tweets concerned him because his family is heavily involved in law enforcement. “My family will only ever be seen as enforcers of white supremacy in Higgins’ eyes with myself as an enabler,” the student said.
Regardless of what some might consider racist and bigoted tweets, the group calling itself “student affairs professionals” are calling foul on his firing and taking a stance for the beleaguered educator through an open letter. The signatories called the termination “a gross injustice” that “serves as an act of violence and silencing of queer black voices” and “sets a dangerous precedent for the field of student affairs.”
Although they laid partial blame for his removal on The College Fix for writing a piece on his racist tweets, their full-throttled attack was lodged against Miriam Feldblum, vice president and dean of students, and Jan Collins-Eaglin, associate dean of students for personal success and wellness at Pomona College. They accused the pair of “a form of gatekeeping that keeps Black queer professionals out of key positions to create change in higher education.”
They also took issue with both Feldblum and Collins-Eaglin for representing the larger segment of white society who they contend are more concerned with tranquility and keeping the status quo than social justice. However, their unabashed ire is with Feldblum. They’re calling for her resignation for “continuously refusing to support marginalized students.”
They then go on to support the substance of Higgins’ tweets and bash white gay men as being violent to queer people of color.
“If history has taught us anything, we know that Dr. Higgins’ experiences and caution are valid,” the open letter states. “White gay men have become the primary enactors of violence toward queer people of color. Recently in Philadelphia, white gay men were angered because the city introduced a new pride Rag with added black and brown stripes.”
White women didn’t fare much better under their assessment. They bolster Higgins’ distrust of white women with validation from Dr. Mamta Motwani Accapadi, the vice president for student affairs at Rollins College in Florida, who wrote an article on white privilege and how white women’s tears oppress women of color. The bottom line on white women is, “they have enacted violence on people of color and served to perpetuate and benefit from white supremacy.”
His advocates also expressed their belief that Higgins works toward an equitable space for all involved by focusing on and encouraging queer students of color and casting a spotlight on “the harm of heteronormativity, homonegativity, White fragility and White supremacy.” They are demanding his replacement possess the same qualities and the same kind of plan for “addressing White fragility and White supremacy” at the college consortium.
We refuse to sit idly by as Dr. Higgins, and by extension, countless black and brown queer and trans students, faculty, and staff, is denied his humanity and publicly shamed. To that end, we demand the following things as a response from Dr. Feldblum, Dr. Collins-Eaglin, Pomona College, and the Claremont Colleges:
- The resignation of Dr. Feldblum for the gross missteps of both Hring Dr. Higgins and continuously refusing to support marginalized students. For context, please visit https://goo.gl/2Rqn3V.
- A public apology to Dr. Higgins from all involved parties that acknowledges the harm done.
- A fully transparent search process while searching for Dr. Higgins’ replacement to ensure that queer and trans students of color will be supported and their perspectives will be actively included and valued.
- A carefully thought out plan for supporting queer and trans students of color and queer and trans faculty and staff of color. This is crucial in minimizing the suffering of queer and trans students of color that is inevitable now that their advocate has been ousted.
- A carefully thought out plan for addressing White fragility and White supremacy in the Claremont Colleges.
Moving forward, we, and those who join us through their signature refuse to apply to positions within the Claremont Colleges, as this environment is clearly not safe for anyone who fights for, promotes, or supports social justice.