Students, administration condemn UI employee’s anti-Muslim tweets

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URBANA-CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) — A University of Illinois (UI) part-time employee is facing backlash for posting tweets some students say are prejudiced against Muslim people.

In 2013, Larry Jacobsen tweeted, “I won’t tolerate Islam.”

Last month, he said on Twitter that terrorists would say ‘thank you’ to now-President Elect Joe Biden for hiring Muslims in his administration.

The U. of I. released a statement, saying Jacobsen’s comments are hurtful and insulting to Muslim people in the community, “and are antithetical to our university values of exclusivity and respect for others.”

Jacobsen is a part-time hourly employee who does incident report data entry, the statement continued.

“He is not involved in any evaluation, adjudication or decisions on the student disciplinary office,” the university’s tweet said. “His comments were made on his private social media accounts outside of his university working hours, and he has the same personal freedom of speech and expression as any other individual.

“But it is always very disappointing and disheartening when individual use those freedoms to divide communities and to insult those with different viewpoints or backgrounds.”

When asked if the school was considering firing Jacobsen, Marketing and Communications Director Chantelle Thompson said no additional information can be provided as it’s an ongoing personnel matter.

Thompson added the employee did not have any direct interaction with students as part of his role.

Jacobsen’s Twitter account, along with his tweets, have since been taken down from the website.

UI senior Drake Materre studies community health and is pre-law tracked. He’s also Black and Muslim.

In response to Jacobsen’s comments, he says that he’s come to the point “where I laugh at racism, and I laugh at bigotry, especially in this day and age.”

“I laugh at it because I was aware of how the university would respond,” Materre said, “because the university has responded in a very inadequate way, regarding suicides on campus, issues regarding racism and Islamophobia, Palestinian rights on campus, conflating antisemitism with anti-zionism, and basically all of the -isms and the hatred that goes towards people.

“So I’m not surprised.”

When asked how he thinks the university should have responded, Materre said that “it’s so hard to really believe and see what justice really looks like.

“I think we haven’t even seen that to the point where it’s hard to recommend how the university should respond.”

“I recommend the university actively fund Black and Brown institutions on campus,” he said, “and since they want to protect first amendment privileges, then they must give a pardon or apology to Steven Salaita.”

Salaita was offered tenure in the UI American Indian studies program in 2013. His offer was rescinded after he posted hundreds of tweets protesting Israel’s bombing of Gaza in 2014.

Salaita sued the U. of I. and was awarded a settlement of $875,000.

In a Facebook post, UI’s Students and Justice for Palestine (SJP) described Jacobsen’s comments as Islamophobic and racist.

The student-run organization issued the following response to the UI’s statement:

“SJP, and other organizing groups, are not surprised by the fact that the university defends white supremacists. They do this regularly.”

“It is up to students now more than ever to mobilize,” Materre said, “because the university has explicitly proven to us multiple times over that they are only for the elite that thinks they truly run this campus. But students, faculty, and building service workers run this university. So it is up to us to fight even more because of the university’s neglect towards its students and vulnerable populations.”

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