A UNCW professor came under fire again after students’ brought attention to his prejudiced tweets about the Black Lives Matter movement. This sparked students and community members to share their experiences with Dr. Mike Adams, who works in the sociology and criminology department. Their outcries show a long history of problematic behavior from the professor. Three new Change.org petitions have been created to get Adams fired. Started by Jane Doe, Thomas Moore and J Smith they have all gained more than 55,000 signatures combined.
The Seahawk reached out to Adams on June 5, but Adams has not responded.
Rosemary Colen, a UNCW student and senator of the College of Arts and Sciences for the Student Government Association (SGA), reached out to The Seahawk about her feelings towards Adams.
“I believe Adams is a terrible representation of what UNCW tries to stand for. As someone who personally met professor Adams, my encounter with him was awful and he was rude. As he is someone that advocates for not being soft and easily offended, he has blocked a lot of the student body on Twitter for asking him questions or challenging his ideologies. He is not only a racist misogynistic xenophobic professor, but he’s a disrespectful individual as a whole. If UNCW wants to work on building a bridge with cultural centers and bringing in more students of color, you cannot have racist professors teaching criminology and sociology at your institution. You cannot be smart and racist, you cannot be smart and xenophobic, you cannot have this disgusting rhetoric and be in charge of teaching the next generation, he has to go or the black student body is leaving.”
UNCW Chancellor Jose V. Sartarelli released a statement regarding the Black Lives Matter movement on June 2, stating the university’s intolerance of discrimination and acts of hatred. For many students, the words feel contradictory to UNCW’s continued employment of Adams.
In a recent email Sarah Wynne, a UNCW student, sent to Chancellor Sartarelli and shared with The Seahawk, she voiced her disdain towards attending a university that lets their professors get away with intolerable behavior.
“I am genuinely ashamed that I attend a university that prioritizes money and their white male professors over the well-being of their students, faculty members, and the campus community,” wrote Wynne. “If this man is not fired by the start of the fall semester, I assure you that I, along with numerous other students who have already spoken with me about this matter, will protest. There is a new petition going around demanding him being fired. It is the fourth one to be created in the past 6 years! Chancellor, your email sent out yesterday was very eloquent and heartwarming about bringing the community together to fight against the injustices against black people right now; that email genuinely encouraged me about our campus and its values until I found out this information. Actions speak louder than words, chancellor. Make your students proud to attend this university which is praised as being one of the best in the UNC system.”
The UNCW Faculty Handbook section on termination, Article VIII: Due Process before Discharge or the Imposition of Serious Sanctions discusses the “permissible grounds for discharge from employment, suspension or demotion in rank.” Section C labels these permissible grounds as “misconduct of such a nature as to indicate that the individual is unfit to continue as a member of the faculty, including violations of professional ethics, mistreatment of students or other employees, research misconduct, financial fraud, criminal, or other illegal, inappropriate or unethical conduct. To justify serious disciplinary action, such misconduct should be either (1) sufficiently related to a faculty member’s academic responsibilities as to disqualify the individual from effective performance of university duties, or (2)sufficiently serious as to adversely reflect on the individual’s honesty, trustworthiness or fitness to be a faculty member.”
On June 5, UNCW released a statement on “faculty member’s comments,” where Adams was not named. The statement read “no matter how upsetting and distasteful the comments may be, they are expressions of free speech and protected by the First Amendment.” But some students think the problem has more to do with Adams’s interactions with students and establishing a learning environment.
“While he is allowed to say what he wants on his various social media platforms, by being employed by the university as a professor he has a duty to foster a safe and caring learning environment for all students,” wrote UNCW student Jude Ramos. “His actions are in direct opposition of that duty and means he should be fired. UNCW also has the same duty and are failing to perform it by the university’s continued support of him. The Chancellor said that empty [words] would not suffice and words without action are empty words. Until actual action to promote the safety, well being and inclusion of black and brown students at UNCW [is taken], any words will feel hollow. Firing Mike Adams would be a long-overdue action in the correct direction.”
Numerous UNCW alumni have also been emailing the university and voicing their own concerns about Adams. Many have even threatened to stop supporting UNCW financially until they fire him, including a former trustee.
Even UNCW alumni Kirsten Woolpert created an email template (tinyurl.com/y9suqjks) calling for UNCW to fire Adams.
“Unfortunately, after 2016, complaints/petitions regarding Mike Adams dwindled down,” wrote Woolpert. “Every once in a while a petition would come up, but it never got the movement it needed, and UNCW would stay quiet on the matter. After seeing some of his tweets on my feed a few days ago, it became clear that it was time to bring action to this issue. I’m still close with many of my friends from UNCW, so we all worked together in creating this email template…UNCW has the responsibility to suspend Mike Adams from his position at UNCW and conduct a full investigation of his actions.”
This is not the first time students have spoken out against Adams and demanded his firing.
In 2016, Adams, who has been apart of UNCW’s sociology and criminology department since 1993, made headline news when he released a blog post titled “A ‘Queer Muslim’ Jihad?” in which he targeted a former UNCW student, Nada Captor, for her religious beliefs and sexual orientation.
“Mike Adams is a professor of criminology and sociology at the University of North Carolina Wilmington,” wrote Hannah Granberry on a petition she created in 2016, urging UNCW to fire Adams. “Adams has a history of spewing misogynistic, xenophobic, transphobic, homophobic, racist rhetoric. Most recently he wrote an article outing a young woman, using her full name, and mocked her sexuality and religion. Adams’s followers have since begun sending death threats to the student, who has now decided to transfer schools.”
Robert Chase, a 2016 UNCW graduate, recently took to Facebook to share about Adams and the comments he has made on Twitter. In his post, he urged people to share in hopes the university will fire Adams.
“The university put out a very bad post trying to “share the positive” in people’s inclusive experience at UNCW,” wrote Chase, referring a deleted Facebook post from UNCW. “This reminded me of Adams. I went back to the articles written about the incident in 2016 and came across a few of his racist tweets reported there concerning Black Lives Matter. This prompted me to dig deeper into this Twitter to find what else he had posted concerning people of color. He has consistently been an enemy to the concerns of POC in the name of dog-whistling racism back to his followers. If he shares his thoughts so openly there, I’m horrified to think what parts of his racist soul he imparts on his students.”
When a woman recently emailed Chancellor Sartarelli with her concerns about Adams, he then took to his public Facebook page to share her personal email and urged his followers to reach out to her (for privacy reasons The Seahawk has marked out her name and email).
According to Chase, this is not the first instance of this and mentioned that he was the student who contacted the BuzzFeed reporter responsible for an article on Adams.
“Adams, for years, has attacked several students and professors personally, by name in 2016 and 2015. When he did, he would pass off personal information to his followers to have them attack that person. One such professor was sent death threats and attacked for years. He has done this consistently since winning the law case against UNCW in 2014,” wrote Chase.
This woman, Woolpert, Colen, Wynne and Chase are not the only ones fed up with Adams’s behavior. Many others have left comments on Chase’s and various UNCW posts voicing their frustration and urging the university to fire Adams.
“[Mike Adams’s behavior has been an] important issue since day one, and should have been addressed years ago. But it is especially pertinent in this time of civil unrest and injustice that each and every one of us speaks out against those who seek to divide us. If we don’t, then no one will, and people in our communities will never feel safe or included. This division will breed hate, and hate will only lead to violence. Our country, our communities, and our schools should be better than that,” wrote UNCW student Jordan Smith.
A senior at UNCW, who would like to remain anonymous due to worries of being targeted by Adams, took Adams’s Criminal Procedure class when they transferred to UNCW.
“Adams is a super engaging lecturer,” they wrote. “It’s impossible not to pay attention. He uses a lot of his experience from his cop days in Wilmington and lives to talk about his experience living downtown. I did not know he was a racist/misogynist/transphobe until he started making sideways comments about Black Lives Matter. When I expressed my frustrations to a fellow student they were shocked I didn’t know about his infamy at UNCW and pointed me towards his twitter accounts/news articles that had been posted from his original court case against UNCW where he sued for tenure. I was shocked.”
They noted that even during her transfer orientation no one had informed her about Adams.
“He is a harsh teacher,” they wrote. “Some questions pertaining to the subject matter of the class he won’t even entertain because it doesn’t align with his views. He would target students and pick on them throughout the semester in ways that would cross the line between what is friendly and what’s taking things too far. I remember him shutting down a review session one day because I asked a question he did not want to answer and he claimed he was doing us a favor by even having a review session before he huffed and puffed out of class…I was scared to upset him because I thought he would be biased and reflect his dislike of me in his grading. I am usually very engaged in my classes but once I learned the truth about him, I kept my mouth shut.”
Adams is also a regular columnist on Townhall and in 2003 he attacked UNCW history professor Lisa Pollard. In his column, Adams criticized her for things she said at a forum the university held called “America in Iraq; What Next?” where she, in what many deemed, made unprofessional comments about the war.
Adams also sued UNCW in 2007 on the basis of religious and speech-based discrimination when he was not promoted to a full-time professor, according to the Star News. Both parties reached a settlement in 2014 where Adams received the promotion, “$50,000 in back pay and an annual salary of $75,000 – a $9,000 raise, according to the StarNews public employees salary database.”
Some students blame the university’s lack of action as allowing prejudice to fester on UNCW’s campus.
“When [the case] became too costly, they settled out of court. I believe the university is bending over backwards to a cost/value arithmetic that has allowed him to hate, attack and endanger with impunity. They value the money, time and effort it would take to dismiss him over the lives and safety of its own students,” wrote Chase.
Chase continues by pointing out the heightened pressure on the university to stand behind its statements and make changes to eradicate prejudice on campus.
“In this national moment, is it not clear that this inaction to real change only results in institutions being poisoned to the same level that led George Floyd being strangled to death…And while I know Mike Adams doesn’t have the power or position to physically harm people in the same fashion as police, I want to be made clear that he is a criminology professor. His racist interpretation of how the justice system should operate is being taught to the next generation of cops, lawyers, judges and officials that sit in his classroom. These students will fill our broken justice system for the next 60 years. In a time when this very system needs clear and drastic reform for the sake of our country, how can the university continue to allow a racist man to teach at their school?”
For many people, the solution is clear.
“Fire him,” wrote Chase. “Immediately. If the school truly values the lives of its students and will protect them, then he needs to go. Otherwise what is to stop him and his followers attacking students in the future, as they have done for nearly a decade.”
“I think as long as Mike Adams is a professor at UNCW and representing the criminology department, I cannot be proud of the school I am about to graduate from,” wrote an anonymous UNCW student. “I will not represent UNCW, I will not donate, I will not recommend them to friends. You cannot say you promote diversity and opportunity when you have someone representing you who wants to whitewash and target the very people who make UNCW diverse. He is an embarrassment to the school every time he tweets, similar to another white Republican racist/misogynist we all know. Fire Mike Adams. Take a stand UNCW.”