UNC Wilmington professor to retire after backlash from social media post calling governor 'Massa Cooper'

Tuesday, June 30, 2020
One Tree Hill stars call on UNCW to remove professor
One Tree Hill stars call on UNCW to remove professor

WILMINGTON, N.C. -- A North Carolina college professor will retire amid criticism over his latest social media comments, which include calling the state's governor "Massa Cooper."

Mike Adams, a sociology and criminology professor at University of North Carolina Wilmington, will retire on August 1, Chancellor Jose V. Sartarelli said in a statement on Monday. While Sartarelli did not offer further details about Adams' retirement, the university said it would share an update later this week.

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The latest controversy began in late May when Adams tweeted that he dined with six men at a six-seat table and "felt like a free man who was not living in the slave state of North Carolina." He then wrote: "Massa Cooper, let my people go!"

An online petition calling for his firing has received more than 60,000 signatures, with celebrities even jumping into the mix. Earlier this month, former stars of the show One Tree Hill, which was filmed in Wilmington, called for fans of the show to take action to remove Adams from the university.

It wasn't a first for Adams, who in 2016 posted an article about a student activist under the title "A 'Queer Muslim' Jihad," The News & Observer reported at the time.

Faculty members at the University of Montana later opposed Adams' visit to their school, writing that he had "a long record of mocking, demeaning and verbally attacking women, people of color, members of the Islamic faith and the LGBTQ community," the newspaper reported.

On June 5, UNCW posted the following statement on its website:

UNCW is aware of the outrage and sadness being expressed in regard to comments made by a UNCW faculty member.

Hateful, hurtful language aimed at degrading others is contrary to our university values and our commitment to an environment of respect and dignity. Its appearance on any platform, including the personal platforms of anyone affiliated with UNCW, is absolutely reprehensible. However, no matter how upsetting and distasteful the comments may be, they are expressions of free speech and protected by the First Amendment. We review any perceived threats that are brought to our attention, and at this point, the conduct and materials at issue do not contain any evidence of a true physical threat toward any members of our community.

That said, please know that the university's constitutional obligations and support of free expression do not lessen our disgust when those viewpoints offend or otherwise upset those who read these comments. These comments may be protected, but that is not an excuse for how vile they are. We stand firmly against these and all other expressions of hatred. We cannot and will not ignore them. The university is reviewing all options in terms of addressing the matter.
We know this isn't a fully satisfactory response to your concerns. We want to encourage all UNCW students and employees to continue to utilize university procedures and policies to raise issues or complaints related to discrimination, harassment, and/or possible threats. Further, we encourage everyone in our audience to fully engage in their rights of free expression.

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