A Grand Canyon University professor has been placed on administrative leave after saying during a school-sponsored forum that some members of Black Lives Matter “frankly should be hung.”

The private Christian school hosted the panel discussion nearly a year ago, but top-level officials said they were unaware of professor Toby Jennings’ “reprehensible” remarks until local NAACP and Black Lives Matter leaders contacted them last week.

“The University wants to be clear that the professor’s rhetoric in no way reflects the heart of this University or its dedicated students, faculty and staff,” Phoenix-based GCU said in an apology published on its website this week. “The University’s President is leading an investigation into this incident.”

‘Yes, I did say that on video’

Jennings was one of four professors who spoke at the Sept. 19, 2016, “Ministry Forum,” which focused on justice from a biblical perspective and examined how to apply it in modern society. He’d begun working at GCU the month before, according to the university.

A video of the forum shows an audience member requesting panelists’ thoughts on the Black Lives Matter movement about an hour into the discussion.

Jennings responded by stressing that the movement is “not a monolith.” He deemed some Black Lives Matter members “very thoughtful” and “very gracious and discerning” before saying there are “people on the opposite extreme of that that frankly should be hung.”

“Yes, I did say that on video,” Jennings continued. “They are saying things that are not helpful to any way, shape or form of human dignity or flourishing. That is not helpful to any conversation. That kind of rhetoric is not helpful to any conversation. And that’s what I mean by they should be hung.”

Leaders of the university’s College of Theology “were aware of this offensive language at the time it was made and addressed it with the professor at the conclusion of the event,” GCU said. But the college “did not escalate the matter to University executives.”

NAACP and Black Lives Matter leaders urged public action in an email to GCU Provost Hank Radda last week, saying it wasn’t enough for Jennings to be “privately contrite.”

“Left unchecked, this sort of divisive rhetoric is a dangerous seed in the soil of impressionable minds,” they said.

Investigation underway

In response, the university launched an investigation into Jennings’ controversial remarks and placed him on leave at least until the end of the semester.

“As we continue our investigation, we will interview students who have attended this professor’s classes and students and guests who attended the forum to gain their perspective on this professor and this incident and why it was not brought to the attention of University executives sooner,” GCU said.

Jennings and College of Theology Dean Jason Hiles also issued public apologies.

“I deeply and sincerely regret having communicated such ill-motivated rhetoric — particularly in light of our nation’s present rhetoric-saturated distress,” Jennings said. “While words, once spoken, can never be taken back, my hope is that my sincere apology for my own words can pave a more gracious path toward reconciliation.”

Hiles accepted full responsibility “for failing to adequately address comments which clearly have no place in civil public discourse.”

“It was not my intention to leave ambiguity about the University’s position on these complicated matters, nor did I intend to imply that the comments were acceptable,” he said. “While this is by no means an excuse for my misjudgment in this case, I am confident that what I have learned from the incident will enable me to respond more adequately if faced with a similar situation at a future date.”

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SOURCE: Maria Polletta
The Republic | azcentral.com