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UWGB students demand action, calling professor's social media posts 'racist,' 'transphobic'

Professor Andrew Austin says he won't 'participate in furthering cancel culture.'
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Posted at 8:14 PM, Apr 23, 2024
and last updated 2024-04-23 21:24:55-04

GREEN BAY (NBC26) — UW-Green Bay students have started a petition to fire a professor over what they call transphobic and racist social media posts.

  • Students say several dozen have signed petition for Associate Prof. Andrew Austin's firing
  • University says it's aware of students' concerns
  • Austin says social media presence "not relevant" to role at school

    (The following is a transcription of the full broadcast story)

UW-Green Bay students want a professor fired citing concerns of racism and transphobia.
"I'm putting my social justice emphasis to use right now," said James Harris, a junior in Democracy and Justice Studies at UW-Green Bay.

Harris says he's studied under Associate Professor Andrew Austin.

"There's a certain point where those opinions become actual opinions become actual problems for students on campus," Harris said.

Austin is faculty with the university's Democracy and Justice Studies program.

Harris says posts, including a recent one from anti-LGBTQ group, Libs of Tik Tok, have left students feeling unsafe.

"To teach students how to be adults, how to be functional members of society, it requires an environment where students feel safe and I feel like that directly opposes that," Harris said.

According to campus pride index, UWGB has a five-star ranking nationally for LGBTQ inclusivity — a ranking displayed across campus.

"Coming here, it was a total 180, in terms of like everybody on campus was super supportive," Emma Embers, a trans female, said.

Embers also studies Democracy and Justice at UW-Green Bay.

"I felt safe and now knowing he's here and seeing the things he's said, I don't necessarily feel that way while he's here," Embers said. "It's not just that he's a student, he's a professor."

Embers and Harris both described Austin's social media posts as transphobic and racist.

They said he's used the N-word in class, but not directed at students.

In a 2008 blog post regarding Rev. Jesse Jackson attacking then-presidential candidate Barack Obama, Austin uses the word 11 times saying, "We have been reduced to first graders," to those who feel like they can't say and spell out the racial slur.

"It's not cancel culture, it's accountability," Embers said.

Students tell me there is now a petition with more than 30 signatures to get Austin fired.

I reached out to Professor Austin about the complaints.
He said, in a statement:

"My social media presence is not relevant to my role at this university. I won't participate in furthering cancel culture."

The university also said, in a statement:

"We are aware of the situation and the students' concerns. The process by which students report concerns is being followed and will move forward as appropriate."

The university does have a social media policy for employeesreminding them that posts can be misinterpreted as the institution's voice or opinion.