Photo: For the AJC
Photo: For the AJC

Georgia Southern attempts to address book burning controversy

Georgia Southern University faculty are holding events Tuesday and Wednesday to address the uproar surrounding students who burned copies of a book written by an author who spoke there last week.

Meanwhile, university administrators are pushing back against claims that a crowd gathered outside the lodging where the author, Jennine Capó Crucet, initially stayed, saying there was no report to campus police of anyone threatening her. 

“We contacted the owner of the establishment where she was scheduled to stay on Wednesday night, and the owner confirmed there were never any unwanted visitors that evening,” university spokeswoman Jennifer Wise said via email Monday.

Video showing a group of students burning Crucet’s book as some of them laughed, first posted on social media, has drawn national attention and widespread condemnation.

Crucet, an American-born daughter of Cuban immigrants, said she was asked to speak about diversity and the college experience at the university last Wednesday at a workshop for first-year students. She discussed white privilege during the meeting. A white, female student questioned her credentials to discuss such topics, sparking a heated exchange among students, said Crucet, who teaches English at the University of Nebraska.

Jennine Capó Crucet is an author and professor. Photo Credit: University of Nebraska.

Crucet said after the meeting, she was moved by her campus hosts to another hotel — after being told some people came to her initial lodging. The book burning reportedly occurred a few hours later.

Georgia Southern administrators have said “while it’s within the students’ First Amendment rights, book burning does not align with Georgia Southern’s values nor does it encourage the civil discourse and debate of ideas.” Others have criticized university leaders for not speaking more forcefully against book burning.

> MORE: Georgia Southern incident: Do students go to college read books or burn them? 

The university’s history department has scheduled a teach-in on book burning, censorship and free speech Tuesday afternoon at its main campus. Some faculty members are planning a read-in midday Wednesday at its Armstrong campus.

Additionally, student government association leaders have encouraged classmates to attend a meeting Wednesday.  

Georgia Southern has more than 26,000 students, the fifth-largest enrollment in the state.

“Use this episode as a teaching moment,” Carl L. Reiber, the university’s provost, said in an email to students. “Embrace our distinctive, unique campus cultures while encouraging a strong institutional unity.”

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