Update: The University of New Hampshire announced Friday that the professor under investigation has been placed on leave and is no longer teaching.
Students at the University of New Hampshire are protesting and school officials are investigating allegations that a chemistry department professor is behind an anonymous Twitter account that posted offensive messages and railed against diversity and inclusion efforts while masquerading as an immigrant woman of color.
UNH confirmed Wednesday it was aware of the allegations and is investigating a member of its faculty.
“We are deeply troubled by what we’ve learned so far and immediately launched an investigation,” a university spokesperson said via email.
NHPR is not naming the professor at this time, as it has not independently confirmed that he operated the Twitter account. The professor did not respond to a request for comment, and the school declined to confirm his identity.
The professor is accused of operating the Twitter account with the name "the Science Femme, Woman in STEM." That account, as well as the professor’s personal account, were both deleted this week after an internet post alleged he was behind both online personas.
The anonymous account was created in January 2019, and attracted more than 13,000 followers. In July, the person behind the account posted a message that they were “an immigrant woman of color who grew up in poverty, sleeping on a dirt floor.” The professor alleged to be operating the account, according to his online biography, is a white male from the Northeast.
The tweets from the account included a range of material: comparing the Black Lives Matter movement to terrorism, openly misogynist and transphobic messages, and even an expletive-laden message about a soccer team in Sacramento. It also laid out suggestions for how faculty members could undermine diversity and inclusion efforts championed by students in the wake of the killing of George Floyd by Minneopolis police officers.
On June 30, the account tweeted: “I was successful in killing my dept's woke statement on recent social unrest. This took several weeks and may have permanently burned some bridges, but I think it's important. It is a toxic ideologiy that cannot be given an inch." The tweet attracted nearly 15,000 likes.
Other users claim the professor used the account to harass and intimidate other scientists on Twitter.
According to screenshots shared with NHPR, the account also posted nude photos of a former California congresswoman leaked without her permission.
Late Tuesday evening, Glen Miller, chair of UNH’s chemistry department, emailed faculty members, naming the professor and writing that he admitted to operating the account.
“Everyone is entitled to their opinion, of course, but when those opinions are dismissive or hurtful or harmful to others, it is not okay with me,” Miller wrote in the email, which NHPR obtained.
Miller added the professor “is embarrassed and overwhelmed and shell shocked. He fears that this could be the end of his academic career.”
Some students and faculty gathered Thursday outside UNH's Parsons Hall, where science classes are offered, to demand the professor be fired, arguing his statements go beyond expressions of free speech and instead cross into hate speech.
“I think all the things we’ve seen on that account of his make him in no way able to teach at a public university like UNH,” said Taylir Bullick, a PhD student in the chemistry department during Thursday’s campus protest. “There’s no way he can do that safely, and in an equitable way. He’s just gotta go.”
Erinn Reville, a fourth-year graduate student in the department, said the protest was meant to show the university and larger scientific community that “we don’t stand with the racist, the homophobic, the transphobic, the Islamaphobic, the sexist comments that were said on that Twitter account.”
Along with operating a lab on campus, the professor also teaches a number of classes, according to his online biography. Jackson Kaspari, a graduate student, said he’s gotten to know the professor in recent years, and was in “disbelief” by the allegations.
“This wasn’t a small thing by any means,” said Kaspari. “Clearly he was getting satisfaction in spreading these hateful messages and harassing people."
Kaspari added, “Frankly, I’m ticked off about the whole thing. And I just think it’s disgraceful.”