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Rantz: Seattle University professor may teach violent resistance, admin again silent

After significant public pressure from KTTH listeners, Seattle University finally went on record to condemn a professor’s dangerous position promoting violent resistance. But, questions remain, including whether or not the professor actually uses the classroom to promote the concepts the school now condemns.

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Dean Spade is an associate professor at Seattle U’s School of Law. On his branded Facebook page, Spade promoted the value of using violence to push back against climate change.

The school refused to provide me a comment. So KTTH listeners were asked to contact the university to get one. This wasn’t to get the professor fired — they shouldn’t fire anyone based on protected speech posted on a Facebook page — but to hear if the message is in line with the school’s values. If they are, parents and prospective students should know.

An afternoon of phone calls later, the school finally relented and contacted me with a statement, provided by Dean Forbes, a media relations specialist for the school:

The views expressed by the professor on his personal Facebook page do not represent the views of the university. As a Catholic Jesuit university, we do not condone violence.

I appreciate the statement and take them at their word.

But the statement brings up a greater concern: given the activist professor’s fringe, dangerous beliefs, how confident are they that he doesn’t teach students to engage in violence to forward social justice positions they hold?

The school, yet again, refuses to respond to questions.

“I will contact you if the university has anything further to add,” Forbes emailed.

Perhaps they’re silent because Spade’s Facebook endorsement of violent resistance may extend into the classroom.

Spade’s troubling syllabus

Spade teaches Race and Law at the law school. A quick review of the syllabus suggests the courses are less about teaching legal concepts and more about pushing ideology. Indeed, the syllabus implies Spade teaches about violent resistance. Given his endorsement of it — which the university condemns — one might wonder if he’s advocating the concept to his students.

In Race and Law, students are tasked with reading “The Anti-Fascist Handbook” by Mark Bray. According to the publisher:

Simply, antifa aims to deny fascists the opportunity to promote their oppressive politics, and to protect tolerant communities from acts of violence promulgated by fascists. Critics say shutting down political adversaries is anti-democratic; antifa adherents argue that the horrors of fascism must never be allowed the slightest chance to triumph again.

Part of the book provides commentary from antifa activists. The book features text promoting violence, including “You fight them with knives so you don’t have to fight them with guns. You fight them with guns so you don’t have to fight them with tanks.” Per the New Yorker review of the book, “Violence, Bray insists, is not the preferred method for past or present Antifa — but it is definitely on the table.”

This isn’t the only content promoting violence.

Spade has students read another piece: “For Our Nations to Live, Capitalism Must Die,” an insufferably convoluted thought exercise in sounding smarter than the author actually is. In it, Glen Coulthard writes:

Dismantling these oppressive structures will not be easy. It will require that we continue to assert our presence on all of our territories, coupled with an escalation of confrontations with the forces of colonization through the forms of direct action that are currently being undertaken by communities like Elsipogtog.

Elsipogtog First Nation, in Canada, turned to violence — including burning law enforcement vehicles — in protest of a shale gas project.

So what’s this all mean?

Simply teaching about violent resistance doesn’t mean Spade is teaching students how to engage in it. Spade has not responded to multiple requests for comment so we don’t have his perspective.

But it’s clear from Spade’s own words that he supports violent resistance. One can reasonably conclude his worldview bleeds into the classroom. The practice of violent resistance is obviously horrific: ideologically bigoted simpletons don’t get to decide who is deserving of violence. Their actions, ironically, are fascistic and, of course, illegal.

But, this issue brings up the concept of academic freedom. Professors — even ones with deeply ridiculous, fringe, laughable positions — should be offered that freedom.

But, if violent resistance is taught in the classroom, SU needs to take a position. Is this the professor that the school wants to be known for? And simply not answering media requests so they don’t have to go on the record is simply unacceptable.

Listen to the Jason Rantz Show weekday afternoons from 3-6 p.m. on KTTH 770 AM (or HD Radio 97.3 FM HD-Channel 3). Subscribe to the podcast here.

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