(Hartford, Conn./ CBS Connecticut)– The Trinity College professor who sparked national controversy with a Facebook post interpreted as sympathetic to bigots has been placed on leave by the school.

Johnny Williams, a sociology professor at Trinity since 1996, referenced an article that supports white supremacist groups. He then posted a hashtag “let them all f****** die.” This was interpreted by many to mean that Williams supported the ideas in the article, and that he was referring to the shooting at a ball field in Alexandria, Virginia two weeks ago. Williams and the school community received threats from across the country following the post, causing the school to shut down for a day.

A letter written to the school community by President Joanne Berger-Sweeney says:

To the Members of the Trinity Community,
As a follow-up to my note from last week, I write to inform you that Professor Johnny Williams has been placed on leave, effectively immediately. We’ve determined that a leave is in the best interest of both Professor Williams and the college. The review by the Dean of the Faculty of the events concerning Professor Williams will continue.
Meanwhile, I want to take care to note that the principles that underlie this particular set of events go far beyond the actions of any one person. These involve principles that concern how we think about academic freedom and freedom of speech, as well as the responsibilities that come with those fundamental values. It’s true, too, that as scholars and citizens, and as individuals and as a community of higher learning, our roles in and relationship to social media and the public sphere are complicated. We must be able to engage in conversations about these difficult and complex issues, and Trinity College and other places like it are precisely where such conversations should occur. I, for one, welcome them.
Joanne Berger-Sweeney
President and Trinity College Professor of Neuroscience

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