A transgender philosophy professor defended herself in a Twitter spat last week following a tweet in which she lauded the death of David Koch: “It’s okay to be happy, even celebrate, when bad people die.”
Things escalated when, according to The Post & Courier, a Twitter user asked Prof. Rachel McKinnon if that sentiment would apply to “online feminist influencer” Magdalen Berns, who is suffering from terminal brain cancer.
The College of Charleston academic has had a beef with Berns and has referred to her a “transphobe.”
You honestly think it’s acceptable or a sign of decency to take pleasure in hearing that another human being is going to die, at a relatively very young age, from an inoperable and incurable brain tumour? And then to express that pleasure publicly on social media?
— Adrian Harrop 🏳️🌈 (@AdrianHarrop) August 25, 2019
Outrage over the remarks is the result of “an angry campaign to have me fired or disciplined,” McKinnon alleged. “It’s never worked before, it’s not going to work now. And now I have the extra protection of tenure.”
Angry social media users wrote up a letter addressed to College of Charleston Philosophy Department Chair Larry Krasnoff demanding an apology from McKinnon. As of Monday, the letter was endorsed by over 300 people.
However, the college issued a statement noting that, while it hopes faculty “conduct themselves within the bounds of its adopted core values,” Prof. McKinnon’s comments “are protected by the First Amendment and the college’s academic freedom policies.”
Krasnoff declined to answer if the college was planning to take any action against McKinnon.
McKinnon started working for the college in 2014 and was awarded tenure in March. She became an associate professor in August.
McKinnon has remained active on Twitter, and has tweeted multiple updates as the backlash continued on Wednesday.
“I never said that *I* am happy that Magdalen is dying of brain cancer. I merely said that I think such an attitude is ethically justified when the person dying has engaged in extreme harassment of a marginalized group …” McKinnon tweeted.
McKinnon has also tweeted that her comments about being happy when bad people die is a common ethical question.
“The issue of whether it can be appropriate to express pleasure at the death of a bad person is a recognizable question in moral philosophy,” Krasnoff said in an email.
McKinnon, a biologically male cycling champion, head-scratchingly claimed back in March that efforts to keep transgender women out of (biological) women’s sports were akin to prohibiting black women from participating.
Following Donald Trump’s election in early 2017, the parent of one of McKinnon’s students complained that the professor “had a mental breakdown” and was “silencing conservative students in class.”
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