The University of California at Berkeley is bucking the demands of an online mob that a music teacher at the school be fired because of a sardonic post he wrote about another musician more than ten years ago.
In a statement provided to the California Globe a school spokeswoman said the teacher would not be dismissed and she emphasized the school’s commitment to free expression–something you don’t hear much from school administrators who routinely cave to online mobs.
More than 200 people have signed a petition demanding that Dan Flanagan, a violinist and music teacher at Berkeley, be fired by the school.
But Berkeley won’t budge.
“The campus administration has no comment and is taking no action,” spokeswoman Janet Gilmore emailed. “When acting in their private capacities, University employees in the United States have the same rights and responsibilities as any other member of the public, including freedom of speech, as guaranteed by our Constitution. At the same time, individual employees, including faculty, do not speak for or represent the values, perspectives or positions of the University.”
At issue is something Dan Flanagan, wrote on Facebook in May 2012 after he performed with Lara St. John, also a violinist, in a concert together. At the time Flanagan was teaching at the University of California at Davis.
He wrote in a since deleted post, “I performed the Tchaikovsky Concerto with Lara St. John 3 times over the weekend. I haven’t been this disgusted with art since I watched Mel Gibson’s The Passion. She’s a beast… and she ought to be euthanized.
Then, apparently mocking St. John for being overweight he added, “And contrary to popular assumption, she is not pregnant.”
That was quite some time ago.
And for reasons that are unclear St. John started carping about Flanagan’s words last month in two Facebook posts.
On September 8 St. John wrote on Facebook that, “Some 10 years ago, I was playing with The California Symphony. It was later brought to my attention that a white male violinist named Dan Flanagan who was sitting only a few feet behind me didn’t like the way I played violin. In fact, he publicly suggested on his Facebook page that I should be killed. As if that weren’t enough, he opined on my reproductive state, which is, I can only guess, his inventive way of body-shaming a female soloist.”
St. John recounted her efforts back then to get Flanagan fired, saying she complained to his bosses at the University of California at Davis where he was then teaching and also the California Symphony. But to no avail.
“I brought this to the attention of the California Symphony’s then director, Walter Collins, as well as the conductor I performed with who then became their music director, Donato Cabrera. They professed shock and disgust and said Dan Flanagan would no longer be hired. UC Davis, where this person teaches, was also made aware. They basically shrugged.”
“Coincidentally, yesterday, I happened to see an Event page which has this man, Dan Flanagan, performing at Carnegie Hall on October 3, “ she wrote. “Curious, I went to the California Symphony page last night and found him listed under First Violins. He is no longer there as of this morning, because according to the music director he resigned a little while ago.”
“Apparently this means he had many more years happily playing in that symphony, was not fired, was not chastised in any way, and I can only wonder how many other women he felt the need to publicly demean for, basically, standing in front of him.”
She then posted his original comment from 2012.
The next day, September 9, St. John did another post attacking Flanagan and again reproduced his post from 2012. She said Flannagan had been defending his remarks as humor.
“SMALL ADDENDUM: It has come to my attention that the violinist Dan Flanagan has been telling colleagues and composers that the words he wrote (which I posted yesterday) suggesting I should be killed and speculating on my reproductive system, were written on some sort of private satirical review page and he took it down immediately. Among many choice words I may have for this man, I will now add liar. I think we can all see for ourselves that this was public on his page for at least 8 hours in May of 2012. Here is a much clearer page grab.”
St. John’s Facebook posts caught the attention of Berkeley graduate Pranav Sivakumar. He started a petition on change.org demanding that Flannagan be fired and claiming his presence at the school left students unsafe.
“Dan Flanagan must be removed as soon as possible from his position at Berkeley, not only because of his own behavior, but because of how it can affect the young people he teaches – especially female students,” the petition says.”The Berkeley music department will not be a safe place for anyone as long as he remains there.”
But Berkeley refused to cave.
Glenn Ricketts, spokesman for the National Association of Scholars, which promotes academic freedom on college campuses, told the California Globe that Berkeley standing up to the mob was a good development but probably an isolated incident nonetheless on college campuses where free speech is under assault by leftist students and administrators who do their bidding.
“It’s certainly a positive development, although I can’t get too optimistic,” he emailed. “It’s positive because it occurred in a super-woke venue like Berkeley. We can [hope] that others -such as Yale – will follow suit, but I’m not presently floating with optimism.”
Flanagan and St. John did not respond to requests for comment.
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