A University of Minnesota–Morris professor’s anti-immigrant Facebook rant is making the rounds on campus, inspiring an upcoming rally, teach-in, and discussion panel.
Dan Demetriou is a tenured professor who specializes in ethics, political philosophy, and philosophy of law. Two weeks ago, he posted a rambling statement on his personal Facebook page, which seems to have been written to resemble a series of absolute facts about immigrants and refugees. Demetriou appears to consider himself an authority.
The post was immediately brought to the attention of Dean Bart Finzel. However, the Morris administration did not address it until Tuesday, when Chancellor Michelle Behr sent a vague email blast reminding everyone on campus to express differences of opinion in a respectful way.
Demetriou is currently on sabbatical in Sweden. He did not respond to a request for comment.
Morris students and faculty have planned a rally on Monday in support of their immigrant peers. A teach-in led by nine professors will follow. A panel discussion is scheduled for Monday evening.
Psychology professor Heather Peters is one colleague who found alarming both Demetriou’s claims, and the notion that he knew what he was talking about.
She worked the post into one of her lectures on immigration, presenting Demetriou’s views anonymously, side by side with responses from two other Morris professors – one who attended college in his day as an undocumented student, and another who has studied xenophobia throughout American history.
Afterward, Peters had her students fact check Demetriou’s arguments for homework. They found ample peer-reviewed research about the complexity of IQ, and how immigration affects the American workforce and public schools.
One student discovered a paper that concluded the presence of immigrant children in math and science classes actually elevates overall grades.
“This wasn’t about Dan. It was about the thoughts that are out there,” Peters says. “Hopefully we can pull together as a community and refute these outright lies.”
Peters had a brief email exchange with Demetriou, telling him how it saddened her to see how his words hurt students.
Demetriou doubled down, posted his response to Facebook. It shows the professor believes himself to be something of a free-thought martyr fighting against the dogmatic monoculture of campus debate. Which is ironic, considering Demetriou helps himself generously to self-victimization:
“Greetings from Sweden. I am aware that words can harm. The opinions and advocacy of many UMM professors regularly offend, sadden, and demoralize students (and the occasional professor) who disagree with their politics.
"Although not a Christian myself, I can imagine how a stridently atheist professor may make Christian students feel. Although not a farmer or a climate change denier, I can see that many initiatives at UMM would alienate some of our demographic.
"Maybe you can imagine being me, hearing most of my colleagues advocate for policies that, as far as I can tell, are failing spectacularly overseas and in many communities at home. No one much cares for how their expressions may discourage, alienate, frustrate, or sadden someone who, like me, sincerely believes that his children -- our children -- will be put in grave risk by leftist immigration policies. Nor should they care, because my feelings don't determine facts. That someone is upset by a claim is wholly irrelevant to its truth.
"I feel that illegal immigration, mass migration (legal and illegal), and anything more than a trickle of refugees is bad for my country. My reasons, roughly, are: 1) that illegal immigration undermines rule of law for a perfectly reasonable type of law, 2) that mass migration burdens our institutions, waters down our (superior) cultural values, reduces social cohesion, and betrays our children of advantages they deserve from us, and 3) that refugees are for the most part a net negative for us on various dimensions. Some people debated the point with me on Facebook. I found the discussion quite productive.
"I'm wondering how you would have me express the views I have, for the reasons I have? Is it that I shouldn't have the views? Well, that's what debate is for. Is it that I shouldn't have expressed those views? Then you have to explain why people who disagree with those views get to express them, while I do not. Is it that I may express my views, but that I expressed them in an insensitive way? Well, who was the audience? *I* am not the one who copies my posts and distributes them around to a lot of people they weren't intended for, who don't know me or my background. Even so, my posts aren't one whit more vitriolic, hysterical, or outrageous than what is regularly expressed by some of our colleagues on their social media. The only difference as far as I can tell is that my views on this question happen to be on the right, as opposed to the left.
"The whole benefit of freedom of speech and intellectual freedom is that they allow unpopular ideas to be judged on their merits instead of silenced. It would be much easier for me personally just to censor myself. I am sacrificing a great deal of social capital, and probably putting my career or at least career ambitions in jeopardy because I feel I must say something, if not publicly, at least inside my social circle. I use social media to workshop ideas among my smart friends, who often give me great objections. But if some of my thoughts leak out, maybe that's for the best: Mill taught that unchallenged ideas tend to become "dead dogmas." By providing some resistance -- by standing up and presenting real opposition as opposed to a strawman -- I am doing UMM a service. Universities are often accused of being ideological monocultures. The intellectual diversity I bring to UMM will help it avoid that criticism.”