Former Drexel University professor George Ciccariello-Maher, who drew controversy last year for tweeting, “All I Want for Christmas is White Genocide,” has been taken on as a visiting scholar at NYU Tisch School of the Arts’ Hemispheric Institute of Performance and Politics.
The professor resigned from Drexel on Dec. 31 after facing harassment for his notorious online presence and being placed on administrative leave in early October for what Drexel described as security concerns.
Prior to this past October, however, Ciccariello-Maher’s former university had released public statements disavowing the content of his Twitter posts.
The function of the white genocide myth is to tap into the mainstream by concealing white supremacy under a veil of victimhood.
— George Ciccariello (@ciccmaher) June 9, 2017
Following his infamous, “white genocide” tweet, Drexel responded, writing, “While the university recognizes the rights of its faculty to freely express their thoughts and opinions in public debate, Ciccariello-Maher’s comments are utterly reprehensible, deeply disturbing, and do not in any way reflect the values of the university.”
This response led some academic groups, such as the American Association of University Professors, to criticize Drexel’s condemnation. In an interview with WSN, vice president of the AAUP Hank Reichman said that by condemning Ciccariello-Maher’s speech and placing him on leave, the school had given into right wing demands.
“This is a problem because I will acknowledge that in this atmosphere that has developed in the country that when you say something that certain elements of the society doesn’t like, there is a whole bunch of people who end up with these threats and some of them are pretty terrifying,” Richman said. “But the problem is that if you accede to the threats, if you give in to them, then it sends the message that it works. You have silenced the person.”
In a Washington Post essay penned by Ciccariello-Maher, the professor defended his statements and suggested that his critics were politically motivated.
During an interview with CNN, Ciccariello-Maher pulled out his phone and played a threatening voicemail he had received. A man with a deep voice said, “You’re nothing to be but just another target. You’re f-cking dead, kid. Watch out. You want a white genocide? We’re going to start with you motherf-cker.”
Following multiple written and verbal threats, Ciccariello-Maher expressed concern for his own and his family’s safety.
“More and more, professors like me are being targeted by a coordinated right-wing campaign to undermine our academic freedom — one that relies on misrepresentation and sometimes outright lying, and often puts us and our students in danger,” Ciccariello-Maher said.
Drexel students also voiced displeasure over the university’s response. Over 9,500 people signed their names to a petition defending the controversial professor.
While still at Drexel, Ciccariello-Maher was added to the Professor Watchlist, an online database created by Turning Point USA to highlight leftist college professors who allegedly discriminate against conservative students. The list of mostly left-wing professors includes four NYU faculty members. Also included on the list is former John Jay College of Criminal Justice professor Michael Isaacson.
Ciccariello-Maher’s ultra-left wing Twitter presence, including attacks on capitalism, police and the military, has made him the subject of numerous criticisms and vilifications online.
FOH if you have a single good word to say about the CIA, U.S. military, or George W. Bush.
— George Ciccariello (@ciccmaher) March 10, 2017
“After a year of harassment by right-wing, white supremacist media outlets and Internet mobs, after death threats and threats of violence directed against me and my family, my situation has become unsustainable,” he said in a Facebook post.
After December 31st, 2017, I will no longer work at Drexel University. pic.twitter.com/bAM37dbv1q
— George Ciccariello (@ciccmaher) December 28, 2017
On Jan. 1, just one day after leaving Drexel, he announced the beginning of his tenure as a visiting scholar at the Hemispheric Institute.
In an email statement, NYU Senior Vice President for Public Affairs John Beckman asserted that Ciccariello-Maher has little affiliation with the university.
“NYU has not hired Professor Ciccariello-Maher,” Beckman said. “Rather, during calendar year 2018, he will have an unpaid affiliation as a visiting scholar with the Hemispheric Institute of Performance and Politics.”
When asked by WSN to explain the specifics of Ciccariello-Maher’s security concerns, Drexel’s Executive Director of Media Relations Niki Gianakaris did not comment but instead referenced an early statement released by the university.
“Associate Professor George Ciccariello-Maher has decided to resign his employment from Drexel University in order to pursue other opportunities. Drexel University has accepted his resignation and recognizes the significant scholarly contributions that Professor Ciccariello-Maher has made to the field of political thought and his service to the Drexel University community as an outstanding classroom teacher. Drexel University wished Professor Ciccariello-Maher well in his future pursuits.”
The Institute, while headquartered at NYU, has over 60 member universities from North and South America.
“Visiting scholars are selected by faculty involved with the Institute,” Beckman said. “Their appointments do not entail classroom or other academic duties.”
Gallatin senior Gabriel Medrano, who has been following Ciccariello-Maher for some time, is looking forward to his presence on campus.
“I think it’s a really good move for the university to take on a scholar who has been a subject of so much hate from the right,” Medrano said. “I really like how bold and unapologetic he is online. The [College Republicans] have brought on right-wing speakers. I think it’s great that there will be a leftist speaker on campus.”
Medrano also believes Ciccariello-Maher’s December 2016 tweet, “All I Want for Christmas is White Genocide,” has been taken out of context.
“That specific tweet is how boldness from an academic can be misinterpreted,” Medrano said. “‘White genocide’ has been a term used by the alt-right for a long time to describe things like interracial marriage. Ciccariello-Maher was just satirizing the term.”
CAS senior and NYU College Republicans President Elena Hatib feels differently about his status as a visiting scholar.
“I don’t think he’s different than people like Milo Yiannopoulos who say extreme things on social media,” Hatib said. “They do it for their image and provocateur status. [Ciccariello-Maher] is more appropriate for being on social media or blogging rather than being a scholar here.”
Ciccariello-Maher did not respond to multiple interview requests.
A version of this article appeared in the Monday, Jan. 22 print edition. Email Sakshi Venkatraman and Mack DeGeurin at [email protected]