Fresno State staff fielded “tens of thousands of calls” in the wake of the controversy involving English professor Randa Jarrar, university President Joseph Castro said Wednesday.
He offered the detail to students and staff who packed the North Gym to voice their thoughts on the university’s response to Jarrar.
The forum was the first of two events Fresno State has planned to hear from community members after the firestorm created by Jarrar when she tweeted that Barbara Bush was an “amazing racist” hours after the former first lady died.
A second event will be held at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Save Mart Center and is open to the public.
After acknowledging the staff members who took all the phone calls, Castro opened the floor to the audience for comments and questions.
One staffer who heard some of the calls said she eventually took her university sticker off her car because the public kept approaching her to voice opinions.
Castro also apologized for a “scary” incident last week when a threatening person was reported at the Henry Madden Library, highlighting the tension felt on campus in the wake of Jarrar’s tweets becoming a national story.
The threatening person turned out to be someone shooting live video, Castro said.
The tone of most of the comments was thoughtful and respectful, taking on the theme of what the university has learned from the incident and what it can do going forward.
However, some student speakers hinted at an undercurrent of resentment on campus, saying that Jarrar was reviled while other professors have expressed controversial and even offensive opinions without public backlash.
One soon-to-be graduate teared up as she spoke of her fear that her Fresno State diploma would now carry an air of controversy as she begins to apply for jobs. In replying to her comment, Castro choked up as well.
Castro was joined by Thomas Holyoke, chairman of the Fresno State Academic Senate, and Associated Students president Blake Zante.
Jarrar has been on leave this semester from her teaching job.
Aleksandra Appleton, 559-341-3747, firstname.lastname@example.org
If you go
What: Community forum on Randa Jarrar controversy
Where: Save Mart Center, Fresno State
When: 7 p.m. Thursday