A Fresno State University professor who celebrated the death of Barbara Bush in a profanity-laced rant on Twitter will not be disciplined, the university’s president said in a statement late Tuesday.
In a note to the “campus community,” Joseph Castro said that English instructor Randa Jarrar’s comments about the late first lady were “insensitive, inappropriate and an embarrassment to the university,” but “are protected free speech under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.”
Castro added that Jarrar would remain on leave through the spring semester, “which she had previously requested before this incident.”
Jarrar drew outrage when she tweeted hours after Bush’s death on April 17 that the wife of one president and mother of another was “a generous and smart and amazing racist who, along with her husband, raised a war criminal.” She added, “F— outta here with your nice words.”
Jarrar also said she was happy that “the witch is dead” and bragged that she wouldn’t be fired for her remarks because she had tenure.
“I make 100K a year doing that,” she told one Twitter user. “i[sic] will never be fired. i[sic] will always have people wanting to hear what I have to say.”
In his letter, Castro wrote that the university’s action “is an issue of free speech and not related to [Jarrar’s] job or tenure.”
A change.org petition calling for Jarrar to be fired had garnered more than 45,000 signatures as of Tuesday evening.
“Our duty as Americans and as educators is to promote a free exchange of diverse views, even if we disagree with them,” Castro wrote near the end of his letter. “At Fresno State, we encourage opinions and ideas to be expressed in a manner that informs, enlightens and educates without being disparaging of others.”
Jarrar grew up in Kuwait and Egypt and moved to the United States after the Gulf War, according to her university faculty page.
She describes herself in her Twitter messages as an Arab-American and a Muslim-American woman.
In an email to New York magazine Tuesday, Jarrar said that she “absolutely” stood by her comments about the Bushes.
“The Bush family — including Barbara Bush — supported policies that harmed and destroyed the lives of millions,” she wrote, adding “I am not the only person who has stated the belief that Barbara Bush was a racist. But women of color routinely have their tone policed, their justified anger painted as hatred, and their criticism of injustice framed as racism toward white people.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.