The dean of nursing at the University of Massachusetts-Lowell has been fired just two weeks after she was excoriated on Twitter for an email in which she told nursing students that “everyone’s life matters.”
The furor began after former Dean Leslie Neal-Boylan sent out a mass email on June 2 to members of the Solomont School of Nursing addressing “anti-racism” protests that were beginning then to be tinged with violence and rioting, according to Campus Reform, which said it was given a copy of the email.
“I am writing to express my concern and condemnation of the recent (and past) acts of violence against people of color. Recent events recall a tragic history of racism and bias that continue to thrive in this country. I despair for our future as a nation if we do not stand up against violence against anyone,” Neal-Boylan wrote in the email.
Then came the controversial phrase.
“BLACK LIVES MATTER, but also, EVERYONE’S LIFE MATTERS,” she wrote. “No one should have to live in fear that they will be targeted for how they look or what they believe.”
The email was made public two days later from a Twitter user who wrote, “An upsetting statement made by the Dean of Nusing at UMass Lowell, including the statement ‘all lives matter’ was uncalled for and shows the narrow minded people in lead positions.”
The plot began to thicken when on June 5 the university tweeted back, “Haley – Thank you for bringing this to our attention. The university hears you and we believe black lives matter. See the letter the chancellor sent out Monday.”
Haley – Thank you for bringing this to our attention. The university hears you and we believe black lives matter. See the letter the chancellor sent out Monday. https://t.co/WIrxOSC8o9
— umasslowell (@UMassLowell) June 5, 2020
Fourteen days later, Neal-Boylan was fired.
She did not go gently, firing off a letter to Provost Julie Nash that said she was denied the courtesy of an exit interview.
“It is important to point out that no one ever gave me an opportunity to share my views of how the college and school were interacting nor explain myself regarding the BLM email. My meeting with you, [Dean] Shortie [McKinney], and Lauren Turner was clearly not intended to give me an opportunity to defend my actions. I was condemned without trial,” the letter said.
Neal-Boylan said her firing was “attributable to one phrase in my initial email that otherwise was very clearly a message to NOT discriminate against anyone,” Fox News reported.
“To those students who were upset regarding my email, wouldn’t it have been better to use that as a teachable opportunity to explain that leaders also make mistakes and use this as an example of why lifelong learning is so important?”
“The university ended the employment of Dr. Neal-Boylan on June 19 after 10 months in her role as dean of the Solomont School of Nursing. As with all such decisions, it was made in the best interest of the university and its students,” university spokesperson Christine Gillette told Campus Reform.
“Although we are not able to discuss specifics of a personnel matter, it would be incorrect to assume any statement by Dr. Neal-Boylan was the cause of that decision,” a spokesperson told Fox.
In a blog post about the case, George Washington University Law School professor Jonathan Turley wrote, “As a blog dedicated to free speech, it has been difficult to keep up with the rising number of cases of the curtailment of speech or academic freedom on our campuses.”
“What is equally alarming is the relative silence of most faculty members as individual professors are publicly denounced by their universities, forced into retirement, or outright terminated for expressing dissenting views. This case however raises an equally serious concern over the loss of due process for academics who find themselves the focus of a campaign for removal — or simply summary dismissal,” he went on.
“The uncertainty over the process used in this case creates an obvious chilling effect for other faculty members. In 30 years of teaching, I have never seen the level of fear among faculty over speaking or writing about current events, particularly if they do not agree with aspects of the protests. Not only is there a sense of forced silence but universities have been conspicuously silent in the face of the destruction of their own public art and statues.”
An unnamed university faculty member told Campus Reform “sheer injustice that has been done to her is, it’s just so upsetting… In the meetings that we’ve had in the last week, people feel unsafe for their jobs if they have a differing opinion or they say something the wrong way.”
“This is as most unjust as I’ve come across. I understand that I work for a system that is very liberal… Until you experience firsthand, it’s shocking,” the source said.
“The real travesty in all of this is the woman who has built a wonderful career– 40 years… This could ruin her career, and it’s not right.”
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