Zandria Robinson, an assistant professor of Sociology at the University of Memphis, has left her job in the wake of media attention to her tweets on whiteness and the Confederate flag.
Robinson’s Twitter account is now locked, but according to an article in today’s Washington Times she recently tweeted that the Confederate flag is “the ultimate symbol of white heteropatriarchal capitalism,” and that “Whiteness is most certainly and inevitably terror.” She also retweeted a Tweet declaring that”the USA flag stands for the same thing as the confederate flag.”
About an hour ago, the University of Memphis tweeted the following:
Zandria Robinson is no longer employed by the University of Memphis.
— UofMemphis (@uofmemphis) June 30, 2015
Early this month Robinson was criticized by the conservative website Campus Reform for her comments on Facebook directed at those who believe “that students of color will simply get into graduate programs because they are racial or ethnic minorities,” as well as for tweets about whiteness and racism.
I have reached out to the university for clarification of their tweet. I will update when and if I receive a response.
Update | Worth noting that Robinson’s research field is the sociology of race, specifically blackness as it intersects with popular culture. She was employed as an assistant professor at the U of Memphis, where she received her MA, for three years.
Second Update | The original version of this post said that Professor Robinson was “apparently fired” — given the tone and timing of the university’s announcement, that seemed the most likely explanation for their tweet. Now, however, multiple people on Twitter, including a guy who seems to be her husband, are indicating that Robinson left voluntarily and has taken another job.
I put a request for comment into the university president when I first posted, and I will continue to follow up.
Third Update | If, as it increasingly appears, Zandria Robinson quit the U of Memphis for a more congenial job, then today’s tweet from her former employer — and their subsequent silence — was incredibly churlish and vindictive. The tweet was constructed to leave the impression that she was fired, and that she was fired for her social media posts. The effect of that is to hype up her attackers, poison the well at her new job, and ratchet up other scholars’ fears.
And this not merely from her employer of three years, but from her alma mater as well. Way to treat an alum, guys.
July 2 Update | The University of Memphis responded to my request for comment yesterday, confirming what Robinson had already stated through friends — that “Dr. Robinson no longer works at the University of Memphis and has accepted a position at another University.” It provided no reply to my query as to whether she had left voluntarily.
July 3 Update | Rhodes College in Memphis, a small private liberal arts college serving a primarily white student body, has announced that Robinson has taken a position at their institution. Their statement on the hiring described Robinson as “a leading scholar and author in the areas of race, class, gender, culture, and the South” whose public statements “are sometimes provocative, controversial, and debatable.” It lauded her “expertise in…gender studies and social movements,” as well as “her extensive understanding of the complex problems of race in American society, her deep roots in the Memphis area, and many years of successful teaching experience.”
The statement goes on to note that Robinson taught at Rhodes in 2008-09, when she “was well received by students,” and that “throughout her academic career, she has consistently demonstrated a commitment to mentor all students.
It concludes as follows:
“Dr. Robinson has an extensive and impressive body of scholarship that provides clarity and context to the sound bite world of social media. This situation ultimately shines a light on Rhodes as a place where intellectual engagement and the exchange of ideas are among our highest priorities.”