UNC Wilmington Professor Mike Adams incited outrage with an article he wrote in September targeting a Sudanese refugee and LGBT student-activist at UNCW, Nada Merghani. The article was titled, “A Queer Muslim Jihad?” And said that her “claims to be a queer Muslim were probably an act to fit into as many victim categories as possible.”
In a statement released by UNCW, officials said that although his words didn’t represent the views of the university, they were protected by the first amendment. UNC System President Margaret Spellings said it’s a balancing act between making sure all are protected under the first amendment, but at the same time wanting to make sure all students feel safe.
“There is a very fine line between our First Amendment rights, which of course we respect and appreciate and enjoy ourselves,” she said. “But as the president of the university and as a parent, it’s very troubling when a faculty member criticizes and disparages a student.”
Adams’ article was in response to a status Merghani posted on Facebook before a local Donald Trump rally in August. In the status, Merghani said, “Expect to see me at the Trump rally on Tuesday. Y’all are not prepared for what I’m about to do. All I can say is pray I make it out alive.”
Secret Service agents then questioned her about the post. The agents did not find reason to believe Merghani posed a threat. But Adams said that it sounded like “a suicide mission” for those who did not know her.
Spellings said she does not believe anyone else in the university system holds the same views as Adams, but that hate speech is protected by the constitution.
“I don’t think any of us obviously endorse Professor Adams’ views,” she said. “In fact, we abhor his comments.”
Merghani spoke to Buzzfeed news in November and says she has since left UNCW because what Adams said “took a toll on her and severely affected her academic journey.” Merghani also said she felt unsafe at the university, and that Adams outed her because she had previously only identified herself as a queer Muslim woman on certain social media platforms.
However, Adams said she “outed herself when she consented to an interview with College Fix, and that her accusations against him were investigated and proven false.”
Spellings said it’s important for students to know and understand that there are options at UNC system schools to make sure their voices are heard. And to make sure they can feel safe on a day-to-day basis.
“We take great pains… with respect to safety, to make students aware of what they can do when they feel threatened,” she said. “When there are direct threats against them, and I am in constant conversation with Chancellor Sartarelli about those sorts of incidents down there.”
More than 5,000 people have since supported a change.org petition to “Remove Mike Adams from UNCW” for what the petition creator says is a violation of the school’s “Seahawk Respect Compact.”