Fresno State professor under fire for celebrating death of Barbara Bush

Fresno State University is distancing the school from a professor who celebrated the death of former first lady Barbara Bush as it reviews the matter, officials said Wednesday.

“Randa Jarrar, a Fresno State English professor, made deeply disrespectful statements on her personal Twitter account,” Lynnette Zelezny, vice president of academic affairs at Fresno State, told reporters at a press briefing. “Understandably, many people are very concerned and upset about the nature of Professor Jarrar’s personal comments. Please know the university is taking this matter very seriously and the incident is under review.”

Zelezny declined to say whether the school intends to fire Jarrar.

“The university is a public institution and must follow certain specific procedures in addressing personnel matters,” she said.

According to Zelezny, Jarrar had taken a personal leave of absence and was not teaching classes this semester. Jarrar did not immediately return a request for comment.

On Tuesday night after news of Bush’s passing broke, Jarrar took to Twitter, apparently angry about the outpouring of tributes to the former first lady.

“Barbara Bush was a generous and smart and amazing racist who, along with her husband, raised a war criminal,” Jarrar tweeted. “F*** outta here with your nice words,” she wrote.

“I’m happy the witch is dead,” Jarrar continued. “Can’t wait for the rest of her family to fall to their demise the way 1.5 million iraqis have.”

She added: “All the hate I’m getting ALMOST made me forget how happy I am that George W. Bush is probably really sad right now.”

Randa Jarrar arrives at the Vulture Festival L.A. at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, Nov. 18, 2017. (Getty Images)
Randa Jarrar arrives at the Vulture Festival L.A. at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, Nov. 18, 2017. (Getty Images)

Jarrar’s Twitter account was later set to private. But her tweets, captured in screengrabs, continued to fuel outrage.

In response to one critic who warned that her tweets could lead to her losing work, Jarrar bragged: “I work as a tenured professor. I make 100K a year doing that. I will never be fired.”

Fresno State President Joseph Castro issued a statement late Tuesday condemning Jarrar’s comments, emphasizing that they were “made as a private citizen, not as a representative of Fresno State.”

Castro added: “Professor Jarrar’s expressed personal views and commentary are obviously contrary to the core values of our university, which include respect and empathy for individuals with divergent points of view, and a sincere commitment to mutual understanding and progress.”

According to her biography on the school’s website, Jarrar is an Arab-American who grew up in Kuwait and Egypt, and moved to the U.S. after the Gulf War. She was hired by Fresno State in 2010.

Her Twitter bio now includes a link to an Inside Higher Education article that argues “academic freedom means that both faculty members and students can engage in intellectual debate without fear of censorship or retaliation.”

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(Cover photo credit: Getty Images)