SALT LAKE CITY — Nearly 1,800 people have signed an online petition calling for the ouster of Weber State University criminal justice professor Scott Senjo.
The professor posted provocative tweets commenting on protests and news media in the aftermath of the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man who died at the hands of Minneapolis police on May 25.
WSU officials said the “abhorrent” social media posts are under investigation and are inconsistent with the school’s values.
Some of Senjo’s tweets were aimed at news organizations or journalists.
Responding to a tweet by a Wall Street Journal reporter Tyler Blint-Welsh, who tweeted his ankle was injured and glasses knocked off when he was reportedly struck in the face by New York City police multiple times with riot shields despite wearing a press credential and holding his hands up, Senjo allegedly responded:
“Excellent. If I was the cop, you wouldn’t be able to tweet.”
Another tweet @ProfSenjo referred to protesters vandalizing the CNN building in Atlanta: “Nothing about this makes me happy but there’s this tiny sense of rightness in the burning of the CNN headquarters.”
Still another addressed a widely viewed video of New York Police Department vehicles that plowed into a crowd of protesters.
The tweet said: “That’s not how I would have driven the car into the crowd.”
The Change.org petition posted Sunday says in part: “His tweets go against freedom of speech and diversity of opinion as he is pushing for violence against press, as well as people of color. Criminal justice students at Weber deserve better. Students of color at Weber deserve better. This is a call for Weber State University to do better and be better by firing Scott Senjo.”
It notes, “Weber State University has a long-standing tradition of embracing freedom of speech and diversity of opinion. Professor Senjo’s tweets do not represent these values.”
When asked for comment, Senjo wrote in an email that he was responsible for the tweets. “But I don’t stand by them and will have to suffer the consequences of my recklessness,” he said.
“I made those tweets in the sordid atmosphere of Twitter knife fights where sarcastic put downs and tasteless humor are often the norm. I failed to respect my role as a college professor in the hyper-emotional atmosphere of the recent police brutality protests. I apologize for my Twitter contributions. In the aggregate, they reflect a great deal of ugliness.”
Senjo is a tenured professor who has taught at Weber State University for 20 years. He holds a number of advanced degrees, including a doctorate from Florida Atlantic University, a law degree and master’s degree in public policy and administration from the University of Utah and an undergraduate degree in political science from the University of California, Berkeley.
A statement on the university’s website says the matter is under investigation.
WSU spokeswoman Allison Barlow Hess said Tuesday that the university is aware of the petition and officials “are hearing many comments from all perspectives, through social media, email and phone. Most of them express anger at the Twitter posts. The posts were abhorrent and inconsistent with the values of Weber State University and our work to create an inclusive and welcoming environment.”
A statement by Weber State University President Brad Mortensen said in part that the university stands “with peaceful protesters in Ogden and across the globe and call for change: an end to racism, an end to oppression and intolerance, an end to violence. I call upon all members of our campus community to join me in pursuing a calm, respectful, yet urgent path.
“The tragic death of George Floyd ignited anger, outrage and fear. The resulting tensions, protests and riots expedite our need to do more and be better about erasing the inequities in our society — not just in this moment but in all moments. That means working on ourselves and our communities.”
It continues: “We will continue to promote civic engagement and dialogue among all of our students, I encourage us all to begin by self-reflecting, reading and participating in thoughtful dialogues to examine our own attitudes and actions. Then, let us build within our communities the example through which our society can eliminate the larger systemic and institutionalized problems around race and identity.
“At Weber State, we continue to seek and support transformation to a better place for all.”
An earlier statement by the university’s notes WSU does not condone violence or threats of violence under any circumstance.
“The comments made by our faculty member are hurtful and inconsistent with the values of Weber State University and our work to create an inclusive and welcoming environment. We join with our students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends who found these comments to be abhorrent.
“We know these views make many of our students and members of our campus community feel isolated or unsupported. We will reach out to students, faculty, staff and others to provide resources. Students or community members who need support may contact WSU’s Assistant Vice President for Diversity Adrienne Andrews 801-626-7243 or firstname.lastname@example.org.”