A few weeks ago I wrote about Julio Pino, a tenured Kent State professor who openly supports Hamas on his Facebook page and calls for the destruction of Israel. The convert to Islam also wrote, “MESSAGE MY WAY FROM ZION: While we were educating the world your parents and their ancestors were giving BLOW JOBS to apes!! THAT’S A FACT jack!!” and vowed that he would not work with his fellow professors who support Israel saying, “Collaborate with no one who collaborates with Israel, and let her or him know why. I have started with the head of our ‘Religious Studies’ program, who sends student-dupes to Israel every year.”
Kent State did not respond to my request for a comment about the Facebook posts and Adam Hirsh, Assistant Director of Hillel at Kent State declined to comment on the posts, instead referring me to a statement the group made earlier in the month about Dr. Pino’s “repeated hate rhetoric.”
Basically, the incendiary Facebook posts were met with a yawn. Just more bigoted rantings from Kent State’s resident anti-Semitic scholar.
But, oh, the outrage at Kent State this week when Urban Outfitters tried to sell a vintage Kent State sweatshirt that appeared to be blood-spattered! Many students were upset, saying it reminded them of the May 4, 1970 shootings of four students by members of the National Guard. In fact, the Plain Dealer reported that Kent State students were “collectively disgusted” by the shirt.
“I was just appalled,” said Marvin Logan, president of Undergraduate Student Government. “As a member who represents the entire student population, I felt for our community. May 4 is a sensitive topic. It’s a part of our legacy and should not be taken lightly.”
“How could somebody be so insensitive?” asked Jerry Lewis, a professor emeritus of sociology at Kent State who witnessed the Kent State shootings. “Even if you don’t know the parents like I do or you don’t know the wounded students, 13 people were shot protesting, legally protesting. (That) should be enough to make you outraged by the sweatshirt.”
Congressman Tim Ryan, a Democrat who represents Kent, even felt the need to weigh in on the controversial sweatshirts. “It is deplorable for Urban Outfitters to exploit the pain and suffering of this national tragedy for their gain,” Ryan said in a press release. “May 4th was a seminal and transformational moment in American history and we should never lose sight of its immense impact. Those who cannot remember the past, are condemned to repeat it,” said Ryan (or was it Santayana?)
Likewise, the university was outraged at the insensitivity of Urban Outfitters. “We take great offense to a company using our pain for their publicity and profit,” the university said in a statement Monday. “This item is beyond poor taste and trivializes a loss of life that still hurts the Kent State community today.”
Kent State spokesman Eric Mansfield said he has been contacted by media from around the world about the shirts. Urban Outfitters also called to let him know the company was posting an apology on Twitter. “Urban Outfitters sincerely apologizes for any offense our Vintage Kent State Sweatshirt may have caused,” the company posted on Twitter. “It was never our intention to allude to the tragic events that took place at Kent State in 1970 and we are extremely saddened that this item was perceived as such.”
Mindy Farmer, who was leading freshman students through the May 4 Visitor Center as part of their First Year Experience class this week said, “There was nothing but outrage,” about the sweatshirts. “May 4 was a sad event and we are seeing nothing but support (for the university). They have a sense of history and for that we are grateful.”
Farmer told the Plain Dealer that the Urban Outfitter sweatshirt incident is a teachable moment for students.
“We are the right place to combat ignorance,” she said.
Meanwhile, tenured anti-Semitic professor Julio Pino continues to teach at Kent State with no apparent outrage about his behavior or insensitive statements. In addition to his controversial Facebook posts, Pino came under fire last month for writing an open letter to his fellow academics who support Israel, holding them “directly responsible for the murder of over 1,400 Palestinian children, women and elderly civilians over the past month.” Pino said, “Your names are scrawled on every bullet fired, bomb dropped, body buried and burnt forehead in Gaza. May your names become a curse word on the lips of every justice-loving person on earth, along with ‘Obama’ and ‘Netanyahu.’”
Apparently, there’s nothing especially insensitive about accusing one’s co-workers of genocide. Certainly no reason for every last person at the university to be “collectively disgusted.” No need to “combat ignorance” in this case. Just an average week at a publicly funded university in America.
Kent State Provost Todd Diacon told KentWired last week that unless a professor is facing legal, ethical, or moral issues in the classroom, he will most likely retain continuous employment.
“Tenure protects what the professor does in the classroom, and tenure protects what the professor does in her or his research,” Diacon said. “What [professors] do as a private citizen doesn’t really, unless they’re violating laws, it doesn’t really impact their condition of employment.”
Associate history professor Kevin Adams said Pino is an eccentric man, but also a serious thinker and a valuable colleague.
“It’s political speech. It’s a political issue,” Adams said. “Political speech is especially protected under the First Amendment, so people can hold all sorts of opinions, no matter how unpopular. I generally have the opinion that unpopular speech is sometimes necessary because first of all, it expresses our freedoms. Also, I think it’s important to get some of the ends of the spectrum in terms of political opinion. You need someone to be in the margins, I think, to have a more productive discussion as a society about any issue.”
Adams didn’t say whether he thinks Ohio taxpayers should subsidize Pino’s speech (to the tune of around $100,000 a year) but it appears he has no objections.
Pino told KentWired he has not been contacted by the university or the history department about his attacks on his colleagues.
“I’ve been advocating this cause for more than a dozen years,” he said. “[My colleagues] know I’m not afraid to speak out, and they respect my right to speak out.”
He vowed to continue to promote his pro-Palestinian rhetoric and is pleased about the controversy.
“I accomplished my mission,” he said. “I got my message out to the widest audience as possible.