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Hartford — An Eastern Connecticut State University faculty member has apologized for comments made in a creative writing class Monday.
Brent Terry’s apology was requested on the floor of the state House of Representatives by Minority Leader Larry Cafero, R-Norwalk, “as a point of personal privilege.”
Terry was heard in an audiotape released by Campus Reform, a watchdog journalism group, saying, “It’s absolutely possible that the Republicans will take over the Senate as well as the House. And we will live in a very, very, very different kind of country if that happens. I mean, colleges will start closing up if they, if these people have their way.”
He also said, “There are a lot of people out there that do not want black people to vote, do not want Latinos to vote, do not want old people to vote, or young people to vote. Because, generally, people like you are liberal.”
In a written statement late Tuesday afternoon, Terry said he regretted the language he used and apologized.
“During my creative writing class yesterday, I allowed my own political opinions to color the discussion,” Terry said. “I regret the language I used and I apologize to any students in the room who were offended. As a liberal arts university, Eastern is known for encouraging debate and discussion about a host of social and political issues. My role in my own classroom is to keep the debate lively yet respectful. I did not meet that standard yesterday, and for that I am truly sorry.”
Cafero said on the floor of the House Tuesday that he felt attacked as a Republican.
“Though academic freedom is so very, very important in our state and in academia, divisiveness, that kind of talk does no one, no one any good,” Cafero said.
Connecticut Republican party Chairman Jerry Labriola Jr. said Gov. Dannel P. Malloy should investigate what is a “clear abuse of a taxpayer-funded position. ... And to make such a statement as a public employee teaching a class on creative writing at a public university is wildly inappropriate. Professor Terry’s attempt to indoctrinate his students constitutes a clear abuse of his position as a professor at a public university.”
Cafero said students in a classroom are “a captive audience” and that he was offended that a public university professor would make such a comment.
“Today was about Republicans, tomorrow it could be about Democrats, maybe the next day it could be about African-Americans, Italian-Americans, Jewish-Americans, the list goes on and on,” Cafero said. “Academic freedom is a precious thing and so is freedom of speech, but we realize that there should be some constraints and some decorum followed when we follow those rules.”
ECSU spokesman Edward H. Osborn said the university did not ask Terry to apologize. He said that the professor felt strongly that he should issue the apology.