When receiving feedback from professors, especially in a conservatory setting, you normally would expect constructive criticism or maybe encouragement. Then again, you also might have a professor who will give it to you straight with blunt honesty which can be much appreciated.
What you wouldn't expect or deserve would be racist comments along with grossly ignorant statements about your religion. No one deserves that.
Yet, that's what happened in October at the University of Cincinnati's College-Conservatory of Music (CCM), one of the most prominent conservatories in the world.
A Muslim student, taking a class titled "What's Hot in Popular Music", wrote in an assignment that the Thirty Seconds from Mars Song "Walk on Water" inspired her.
She wrote, “I am a Middle Eastern Muslim female therefore, Trump’s presidency and all the hate he has promoted and encouraged has impacted my family, friends, and I. This song restores my faith in America by depicting what America is really about and why we celebrate July 4th. It includes a diverse range of people from white, black, young, old, straight and gay all coming together to celebrate the birth of a country that is built off the idea of freedom.”
In response to her comments on the assignment, her professor Clifford Adams, who is an adjunct at the conservatory's music program, made statements that not only were Islamaphobic but also mocked mental illness and suggested what she could do when it comes to speaking up.
His notes, from the screenshot, included:
“The U.S. President’s first sworn duty is to protect America from enemies, and the greatest threat to our freedom is not the President, it is radical Islam. Review this list of Islamic terrorist attacks and then tell me about your hurt feelings.”
“Now, about Muslim females. As you well know, young Muslim women are murdered by their father or a brother for dating – or for holding hands with – a non-Muslim boy …”
“Muslim females are safer in America than in any Middle Eastern country. How dare you complain while enjoying our protection!”
“And just FYI: July 4th is not the day we tape a sign to a damn stick and go out and march with smug college brats and dysphoric drama queens, it is a federal holiday commemorating the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. I am glad you took my class; you really do need to shut up, listen, and learn. Welcome to America, and welcome to college. – Adams”
Obviously, these comments are beyond insulting and the boundaries of what any educator should say to a student. They are unprofessional, racist and just plain moronic.
So how does Clifford Adams still have a job at CCM? How does a professor at one of the most prestigious music schools in the world still have a job after spewing such non-sensical hate towards a Muslim student?
Despite the furor over these comments, UC tried to ease the tension. UC spokesman Greg Vehr released a statement:
"The University of Cincinnati takes seriously all concerns for discriminatory or harassing conduct occurring within its community and pursuant to its policies, will conduct an appropriate review," UC spokesman Greg Vehr said in a statement. "Our commitment to excellence and diversity are affirmed in UC's very mission statement and fundamental to our very purpose as a public university."
However, the student body was not pleased. According to cinncinati.com, CCM Tribunal President Connor Howard released a statement that said the members of the student government group do not support the rhetoric that Adams espoused.
"I'm very disappointed, albeit not surprised, that such an incident has occurred within CCM," Howard said.
Also, The Record, UC's student-run media organization said the following in response, calling for Mr. Adams' firing,
"There is no need to “conduct an appropriate review” if our university is going to actually make the commitment to diversity and inclusion. The evidence is concrete and it is undeniable. The entire statement by Adams was full of unprofessional and inappropriate remarks."
In response to the growing outrage of his comments, Mr. Adams apologized in a statement. It read,
"As I reconsider what I wrote from an online student’s vantage point, I now realize that I did come across like a religious bigot and that makes me feel horrible. I have inadvertently hurt feelings and offended many and for that I am deeply sorry.
I wanted a lively exchange of views and ideas about closed minded bigotry and a discussion about how it is incorporated in modern music through a smart, academic, collegiate argument. Instead, I have given my students the wrong impression that I am a religious bigot. It is, above all, important that it is understood that I do not wish to disparage anyone’s religion. My remarks were intended to amplify our ongoing discussion on the pervasive abuse and objectification of women in today’s popular music culture."
There are a couple of things here:
1. Apologies were certainly needed but keep in mind it occurred only after the outrage grew. Any sensible human being and educator would have either never said such terrible things or apologized IMMEDIATELY after posting them. According to when the screenshot of the comments were posted online, there was at least a four day period of silence before the University made a statement and Adam apologizing the next day.
2. There are dozens, hundreds, thousands of ways to amplify discussion on various topics rather than disparaging a students' background or religion. The fact that this knowledge seems to have escaped Mr. Adams leads me to question his abilities as an educator at, once again, one of the finest music conservatories in the world.
3. If Mr. Adams was trying to do some type of role-playing, devil advocate response here, he never prefaced that. Instead, he spewed his comments and signed his name at the bottom as if he were dropping some sort of backward thinking microphone. Yes, it's an online class, where tone and context can get muddled, but that's where prefacing comments is a necessity.
So why is he still employed at the school?
While the school said they would investigate, according to their course offering site, Mr. Adams is teaching four classes this semester. Including the very one where he made his Islamaphobic comments. I do know from previous experience that university investigations like these, especially if they involve Title IX, do take time. It might be unrealistic to think two months with winter break included would be enough time for the school to conduct a thorough investigation. But if they are conducting such an investigation, why is Adams being allowed to teach while it's being conducted? Why not suspend him during the duration of the investigation? Also, the fact that nothing has been said publicly by UC-CCM since this story broke two months ago is worrisome.
Yes, we all have freedom of speech protections in this country but there are limits on where certain speech can be used and the consequences that can occur. CCM is a phenomenal school and has been a beacon of diversity in fields that tend to favor less of it. Which is why it shocks me that Clifford Adams still gets to teach there when his actions are so far beneath everything the school stands for.
I hope CCM is being truthful when they stated they would investigate this, otherwise I question how sincere they are about embracing diversity on their campus.
Clifford Adams has responded by sending me the folliwng email:
How did you come by information that originated in a private, online class for a weekly homework review? What is your stake in my remarks to a student? My comments were prefaced by 10 weeks of lectures, but you couldn't know that. In fact, you know precious little. A you libel me.
I have been targeted by the CAIR. Are you associated with the terrorist-affiliated CAIR?
CAIR is a pressure group, not a kindly religious group – religious people pray for you, they do not bully you. They laid siege on the dean's and president's offices with walk-ins, emails, letters, and phone calls. I am under investigation.
Here are some examples of CAIR efforts to destroy teaching careers in eight states:
· A parent testifies before the school board, exceeds his 1-minute limit - https://www.theblaze.com/news/2017/05/10/dad-goes-off-on-school-board-when-did-you-decide-that-it-was-ok-to-teach-my-children-about-islam
· 7th grade teacher pens pro-Islamic fight song - https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2015/nov/21/calif-middle-school-teacher-makes-kids-sing-islam-/
· Islamophobia” is a propaganda term designed to manipulate people…” - https://www.jihadwatch.org/2017/10/hamas-linked-cair-indoctrinated-philadelphia-public-school-teachers-about-islamophobia
· ‘Muslim Mafia trains teachers - http://www.wnd.com/2017/10/muslim-mafia-trains-teachers-to-combat-islamophobia/
· “Oh your hair is so pretty” is characterized as an attack and bullying by a secondary teacher - https://www.cair.com/press-center/press-releases/14786-cair-calls-for-further-action-against-va-teacher-placed-on-leave-for-pulling-off-muslim-student-s-hijab.html
· a “5-year-old was subjected to relentless bullying and harassment by both his classmates and teacher.” http://www.wcnc.com/news/local/local-muslim-kindergarten-student-reportedly-assaulted-by-teacher/357091950
· The CAIR perspective (accusation of physical violence and punishment):
FBI rescinds its policy of outreach to CAIR:
U.S. Department of Justice:
UAE – The United Arab Emirates considers CAIR in league with HAMAS:
Mr. Peterson, get a real job."
Full disclosure, CAIR is the Council on American–Islamic Relations is a Muslim civil rights and advocacy group. They are not a terrorist affiliated group as Mr. Adam so eloquently stated. However that belief is shared among many right wing websites despite evidence. In this denial of not being a religious bigot, Mr. Adams isn't doing himself any favors.