An ACLU Kentucky communications associate criticized Transylvania University on Saturday for accepting Nick Sandmann, the high school student who sued major news outlets for their coverage of a controversial interaction he and several of his classmates had with a Native American activist.
“Does anyone else think it’s a bit of a stain on Transylvania University for accepting Nick Sandman [sic]? I’m sure it’s a “both sides” defense, but it’s pretty counter to their mission and another instance of there not actually being equal sides to an issue,” ACLU’s Samuel Crankshaw said in a Facebook post first uncovered by Jonathan Turley.
“I think TU should accept anyone willing to have an open mind and engage in debate, regardless of their views. That’s how we all learn,” he continued. “But this kid clearly is a provocateur in training with no intention of learning. He exists only to troll, intimidate and play victim.”
An assistant professor and diversity scholar at the university, Dr. Avery Tompkins, commented on the post calling Sandmann’s “public behavior and rhetoric atrocious and uninformed” and saying he would closely monitor Sandmann at the school.
“We can’t not admit academically qualified students due to their political and personal views. If he ends up in my Intro class, fine. He might learn something that is actually based on research and evidence,” he said.
Tompkins said Sandmann is part of organizations with “anti-intellectualist views” and would likely “view me as part of some liberal brainwashing machine, but signing up for Transy and my class means he is required to learn that information, even if he disagrees.”
The professor continued: “If he were to cause problems by being disruptive, trolling, or engaging in unethical behavior of any kind, I would immediately document it (just like I would for any student doing the same thing)…and he would just be putting himself in a position for me to file a conduct report.”
The university said in a statement to National Review Tuesday that it would be reviewing the situation and that “Transylvania, like nearly every campus, is composed of those holding the full range of viewpoints.”
“There are two things that, as a university, we are not able to discuss: our students (without their permission) and personnel matters,” the statement said. “In response to posts on social media and other websites over the Labor Day weekend, we reiterate that point. A review of the situation will be conducted expeditiously by the appropriate university officials.”
Tompkins later issued an apology for his comments in a statement: “I want to apologize for my mistake in singling out a student and any misunderstandings that arose from that.”
“One of my favorite things about working at a liberal arts institution is that our community has diverse perspectives,” he continued. “All students, faculty and staff are able to engage in civil discourse with those whose views may be different from their own, and to learn about those views in an academic setting. I value and support these conversations with students, and I know that students value these conversations with their peers as well.”
Crankshaw had also accused Sandmann and his attorney of using their platforms to promote the QAnon conspiracy theory and criticized the teen for defending Kyle Rittenhouse, the 17-year-old who allegedly shot and killed two people in Kenosha, Wis. while trying to defend local businesses from looters.
“Having experienced the incredibly high standards Transy requires for admission and then holds its students to, this seems like a slap in the face. I hope some time in a real classroom changes him, but his twitter and public persona suggest otherwise,” he concluded.
Crankshaw defended his comments in a statement to National Review, saying, “The views I expressed on my Facebook page are my personal views that I shared on my personal time. I have a First Amendment right to express them just as Nick Sandmann has a First Amendment right to express his.”
“I will continue to express my views on my personal time,” he added.
ACLU Kentucky’s deputy director Amber Duke defended Crankshaw’s right to post his views on his personal accounts.
“These were personal views expressed on personal time on a personal Facebook account. The views in this post do not necessarily reflect the views of the ACLU of Kentucky,” Duke said. “As a stalwart defender of the First Amendment, the ACLU of Kentucky respects its employees’ freedom to express themselves on their own time.”
Sandmann sued multiple major news outlets for defamation after he and his Covington Catholic High School classmates were portrayed as racist aggressors who harassed Nathan Phillips, an elderly Native American man, near the Lincoln Memorial on January 18 of last year. Video of the incident shows Phillips loudly beating a drum while a smirking 16-year-old Sandmann stood inches away.
Though media reports said the students, who were attending the annual anti-abortion March for Life and wore “Make America Great Again” caps, initiated the confrontation, longer footage of the incident later revealed that Phillips approached Sandmann.