MSU Denver professor’s tweet leads to uncertain future

NOTE: An edit has been made for clarification. Frei’s book was not specifically about the Battle of Okinawa as originally implied, and the passage discussing it has been amended.

The future is uncertain for former Denver Post sportswriter and part-time MSU Denver professor Terry Frei after a controversial tweet on Memorial Day weekend.

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Former Denver Post employee Terry Frei on Thursday, May 26, 2016. (Photo by Cyrus McCrimmon/The Denver Post)

Frei, who has taught a sports writing class at MSU Denver since 2015, was relieved from his position at the Denver Post less than 24 hours after posting a tweet regarding Takuma Sato, who became the first Asian driver to win the Indianapolis 500. The tweet went viral with nearly 2,000 replies in less than four hours.

The tweet read, “Nothing specifically personal, but I am very uncomfortable with a Japanese driver winning the Indianapolis 500 on Memorial Day Weekend.”

“This is crazy,” said Victoria Jessar, an MSU Denver graduate. “Do you realize what this does to our brothers and sisters on campus who identify with this race and ethnicity?”

Frei issued an apology, attributing his statement to a lapse of judgment on an emotional weekend during which he saluted his father, Jerry, who was a decorated pilot with over 300 combat hours for the 26th Photo Squadron in World War II. Frei has extensively researched the conflict, and at one point publishing a novel discussing it.

“I made a stupid reference, during an emotional weekend, to one of the nations that we fought in World War II – and, in this case, the specific one my father fought against,” the apology reads.

Frei is slated to begin a new semester with MSU Denver in August. While his full-time employer decided they had enough grounds to reasonably terminate him, the school has not concluded either way. This is true despite issuing a statement that implied that his position was secure.

“While the university does not agree with the sentiments expressed by Frei on Twitter, and these comments are unrelated to his teaching duties at MSU Denver, we do not deny his right to freedom of speech. Nor do we believe that in and of itself should it determine whether or not he have a continued appointment as an affiliate faculty member at the university,” the statement read.

However, the Department of Journalism and Technical Communication confirmed to The Metropolitan that the discussion was ongoing.

“As of this point in time, Terry Frei is scheduled to teach for the fall. That could change,” said Department of Journalism and Technical Communications Chair Robert Amend, “It is a topic that will be discussed further.”

Amend noted that nothing is for certain, in part due the fact that the Shaun Schafer will be taking over Amend’s role as department chair in the fall.

Per the “Office of the President” page on MSU Denver’s website, “With 39.5 percent students of color, we are proud to have the most diverse student body of Colorado’s four-year universities.” In a school that prides itself on its progressive nature, the tolerance of perceived xenophobia would be an unacceptable change of message for some of those who pay tuition. However, some lay on the other side of the debate, saying that a tweet alone shouldn’t be grounds for termination.

“To me, it sounds like he’s just a very passionate American. Your emotions get the best of you. In that moment, you say whatever comes to your mind,” MSU Denver student Jahsont’e Evans said.

Regardless of debate, Terry Frei adds himself to a list of people fired from their job for something they’ve said in a tweet. Among them are comedian Gilbert Gottfried, ex-CNN Senior Anchor Octavia Nasr and Chad Shanks, ex-digital communications manager for the Houston Rockets.

We await the beginning of the fall semester in August to see if it will cost another job.

Author: Richard Allen

5 Responses to "MSU Denver professor’s tweet leads to uncertain future"

  1. johnniemayes  July 3, 2017 at 2:56 pm

    No big deal. Stop making mountains out of molehills. Older people are set in their ways, you’re not going to change them. In this particular case he was taken out of context and perhaps didn’t explain the tweet enough.

    The younger generations are more open and at the same time more discriminatory toward older people and people who don’t share what they perceive as the accepted world view. Younger generations are borderline fascistic the way they want to oppress speech to anybody who doesn’t share their views. They want to put individual rights in the backseat in favor of the collective. It’s their way or the highway.

    Too many spoiled uninformed brats nowadays, not enough discipline. It’s a good time to self reflect to make sure you don’t become one of these carried away lunatics. Respect other peoples views.

    Reply
    • Pedro  July 5, 2017 at 4:11 am

      “Older people are set in their ways” is not exactly an appropriate defense for someone in a public position of leadership (both a professorship and a journalist in this case). The times are certainly changing, and they are changing fast, and if someone cannot keep up with the ever-changing times, then perhaps they need to move into a position where change is perhaps less frequent or unnecessary.

      Perhaps we are more discriminatory towards older people because they are so set in the immovable past. While there is no issue with uncomfortability of parts of modernity, we should not accept an intolerance of it. We don’t have to all share the same views, but the older generations should understand that the future is really going to be left to the younger generations. We will be experiencing the effects of the previous generations long after they die, and if they aren’t willing to accept that, then perhaps they shouldn’t be making decisions. So, yes, that way or the highway.

      Lastly, how can you ask us to respect other people’s views when those views don’t respect other people?

      Reply
  2. Pedro  July 5, 2017 at 3:49 am

    It seems that both the first quoted student and the professor’s apology both vastly miss the point. The tweet is not wrong because it could offend some students on campus, the tweet was wrong because it made a ridiculously racist assertion that a Japanese driver should not win a competition because of a national holiday. It is, in fact, perhaps the most American outcome that a non-American driver won the Indianapolis 500. We are the great melting pot of cultures, and we should be proud of our vastly multicultural heritage.

    As for the apology, it seems like the professor tried to make an excuse for his words, and it comes off quite poorly. A straight I’m sorry would have been far better than an “I’m sorry, but…” It doesn’t matter that Japan was an enemy during World War II, nor does it matter that his father fought in that war; WWII was 70 years ago and there’s no real excuse for still holding any of the nationalist sentiments that existed then. The apology is apologetic, but it still holds the xenophobic sentiments contained in the original post.

    Reply
  3. S.J.  July 6, 2017 at 11:45 am

    This professor’s reply can be interpreted as a reflection of the archaic thinking of several professors that I have encountered as a student of color on the university campus. This reply should serve as a sober reminder that there is still plenty of work to be done in the area of cultural sensitivity even though the campus has received awards. It is clear that being a professor should not exempt an individual from ongoing cultural proficiency training, because clearly it is still needed. Some professors get faculty positions and proceed to spread their cultural bias across campuses( through their interactions with students via classrooms), as well as social media. To keep them on as faculty with no repercussions for their actions is a slap in the face to all students of color and to social justice, so it is a” big deal”. Maybe a consequence like getting fired will teach these professors to keep their tweets to themselves.

    Reply
  4. Eric  July 11, 2017 at 11:45 am

    As a big Indy car fan I was actually thrilled to see Sato win the Indy 500. He has had a very tough career moving from F1 into Cart (only 2 wins in 7 years). I had a chance to meet him about 5 years ago and he is one of the friendliest people I have ever meet.

    The Indy 500 is a great multi national sport and Frei doesn’t seem to get that. Alonso from Spain was a fan favorite this year coming over from F1 specifically for the Indy 500 and actually led a few laps. Past recent winners like Kannan and Castroneves (both from Brazil), Franchititi (Scotland), Dixon (Australian), Montoya(Columbia) are not American and all are terrific drivers.

    If Frei had his way and could reduce the paddock to specific nationalities that would not only be completely xenophobic, it would be a shame.

    Reply

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