A sociology professor offering a controversial new course titled “White Racism” at Florida Gulf Coast University said he has received so many disturbing messages that two campus officers were called to guard the class on its first meeting Tuesday, Jan. 9.
The class has sparked concerns since its announcement back in November and assistant professor Dr. Ted Thornhill said he has been inundated with thousands of comments from people saying “unspeakable” things on social media, CBS News reported.
“Individuals started posting on the comment section and on social media, all types of vile statements,” he told local CBS affiliate WINK. “Wishing ill will towards me and my family, referring to me with racial epithets.”
People’s hateful comments weren’t enough to send the professor packing, however, as Thornhill shows no signs of backing down.
“The course needs to be taught, and so, that’s what’s going to happen,” he added. “It’s a legitimate course.”
Given the nature of some of the things posted on social media, the sociology professor said he thought it a prudent decision to have uniformed officers stationed outside the classroom that day. Students and staff agreed, expressing concerns about their security and safety.
“I think it’s necessary considering the name they chose and the response they are getting,” FGCU freshman Sabrina Lynch, who disagrees with the title of the course, told the station. “I think it’s a good precaution. If they chose a different name, maybe they wouldn’t need the police. But, you chose that name, now you gotta take that route.”
According to the course description, “White Racism” will discuss everything from ways to challenge white supremacy to the ideas, policies and practices in the U.S. that condoned “white racial domination over those racialized as non-white.” Nearly 50 students were signed up for the class after it was announced last year.
The Naples Daily News reported Tuesday that the class’ first meeting went down without a hitch as students spent much of their time going over the syllabus, nailing down the class requirements as well as Thornhill’s expectations for his pupils.
“It was pretty cool,” said JoAnna Edeme, a student enrolled in the class. “Everybody was chill. We are here to learn.”
Classmate Natoya Lambert, a senior at the university, agreed, describing the first day of class as “pleasant.”
“There was no real tension,” Lambert told the newspaper. [Dr. Thornhill] was really funny. Everyone was laughing. It was a good first day.”