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Opinion: Professor’s post disrespectful, insensitive and disgusting

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Opinion: Professor’s post disrespectful, insensitive and disgusting

by Talia Raoufpur, Senior staff columnist

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San Diego State political science professor Jonathan Graubart’s recent Facebook post expressing irritation towards the outpour of positive wishes for Senator John McCain’s glioblastoma diagnosis sparked national controversy.

In his post — which has since been made private — Graubart quotes political theorist Hannah Ardent to underline the idea that the lives of the elite are more valued than the layperson’s. He also claims that Albert Einstein, for example, possessed humanitarian instincts that made him more worthy of public goodwill as an elitist in comparison to McCain.

According to the American Brain Tumor Association, it is estimated that more than 12,300 cases of glioblastoma will be detected in 2017. Of course, a majority of these diagnoses are unknown to the general population. If the media was to report on the common person’s cancer experience more often, greater attention by the public would be awarded to them too.

The issue presented by the post is not one of a college professor publicly expressing his political views on social media, but his blatant disrespect for a family man who may die from brain cancer — a disease that took the life of Professor Graubart’s mother 20 years ago.

Graubart should recognize that he is also an elite member of society. While his name may be unfamiliar to most, his profession has awarded him the privilege to serve as a vault of knowledge and the ability to sway his students’ opinions. His lack of empathy is shameful.

The SDSU College Republicans said in a statement that the organization “(does) not approve of the comments made by Professor Jonathan Graubart aimed at reducing the significance of Senator John McCain’s potential suffering.”

SDSU also issued a statement stating that “the viewpoints expressed by students, faculty and staff on their personal social media pages do not reflect the views of the university.”

McCain might not have been a productive politician to all his constituents. His grave diagnosis, however, has been met with empathy by politicians on both ends of the political spectrum, including Democrat Nancy Pelosi.

Second year English major John Ciulla said he was disgusted by Graubart’s post and engaged in a dialogue with the professor in the comments section.

“I was angry with the way he characterized McCain,” Ciulla said. “For him to speak so ill of him, it’s unbecoming.”

The sudden outpour of well wishes towards the senator are to be appreciated. In a time when name-calling, toxicity and hatred bleed through the veins of America’s political body, any immediate example of compassion is to be cherished. Thousands of Americans are uniting to send their positive energy to support a father who is vying for a chance at survival. His status as a public figure is not indicative of whether or not such support is acceptable.

In an interview with The Daily Aztec, Professor Graubart stated that the post was intended for his intimate circle of 90 Facebook friends, when in fact it was made public for the entire world to read. His actions were completely intended to overstep his boundaries as an elite member of academia.

At this time, Senator McCain should not be placed on a pedestal or blindly supported for his political endeavors. He should, however, be recognized for his battle with cancer and supported in it.

This is not the first time faculty at SDSU have made contentious political comments on social media. In June, Patrick McCarthy, the associate dean of library and information, said in a Facebook comment that the Republican party was an “extremist terrorist organization.”

The insensitive comments regarding McCain’s health is a reflection of Graubart’s character and only adds to the negativity that plagues the world.

“Dying or not, he’s a risible public figure. I have no idea what he is like on the personal level and I don’t care,” Graubart said in his post.

People should reject outright this type negativity and strive towards a more positive world. Human lives — all of them — have value.


Professor Graubart did not return Talia Raoufpur’s request for an interview, but spoke to The Daily Aztec here.

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4 Responses to “Opinion: Professor’s post disrespectful, insensitive and disgusting”

  1. Arturo Jimenez on August 2nd, 2017 2:29 pm

    I think the bigger news here is that Ms. Raoufpur (as with Mr. Jones) appear incapable of grasping Professor Graubart’s arguments. She clearly did not comprehend the point on Einstein. Originally I thought they were simply being disingenuous, now I fear they need to work on reading comprehension. It is becoming embarrassing.

  2. Estefania on August 2nd, 2017 8:51 pm

    You know what’s disrespectful, insensitive and disgusting Talia? An article with the sole purpose of smearing Dr. Graubart’s reputation and contributing to the slander campaign spearheaded by students who pose themselves as victims. It’s articles like these, including the one written by Will, that are affronts to free-speech, academic freedom, and any dissenting views. Articles such as these ones are just trying to extract more juice from the story and over-senationalize something that is completely irrelevant. Also, I would recommend that the author check’s her spelling of Hanna ARENDT (not Ardent) or, perhaps to read some of her books to know the context of what Dr. Graubart was writing about. What is the purpose of an education in journalism if you are not even going to understand the story you are writing about?

    I am a former student of Dr. Graubart and I am deeply troubled that the SDSU administration has not issued a statement in support for him, especially now that he is facing multiple threats. There is a tendency of right wing students to establish themselves as victims and mobilizing criticism against anything they disagree on, including this ridiculous case against Dr. Graubart. None of the media outlets have pointed out the hypocrisy behind the students that came out and erroneously claimed that Dr. Graubart wished cancer and even death towards McCain when in reality their actions are affecting Dr. Graubart in a very personal way to the point where he is receiving death threats.
    I also want to call to attention the hypocrisy behind this ordeal. While many right-wingers, including the current president, called into question Obama’s citizenship status no one batted an eye. Furthermore, republicans often complain about “political correctness” but these actions from the students demonstrate that they only care about right-wing political correctness–that is to say, they engage in campaigns to silence all forms of speech that they disagree or find inappropriate.

    The fact of the matter is that the university has not done enough to support him because they care more about what damaging their relations with the donors. When there is a campaign against academic freedom it undermines the voices of differing political views..which is essential to have in academic institutions. By being a bystander and refusing to publicly support Dr. Graubart, SDSU is contributing to the attack and the punishment against academics and students simply for expressing their opinion. I will point out that this is not the first time it has happened. In 2016, SDSU refused to stand up for students that were being called terrorists for supporting the BDS movement. If they can’t even support professors how can we expect SDSU to support students that face slander campaigns and violent threats?

    And in response to the claims that he is not emphatic or that he is extremely disrespectful I’ll just tell you to refer to the original post and point out what is disrespectful about it. We are also talking about someone who is completely unaffected by the comments made by Dr. G.

    Whatever Dr. Graubart wants to write in his Facebook is protected by the first amendment and was written in HIS personal Facebook account. Given that we are living in a political climate that opposes civil liberties, the university should be fighting back by denouncing the threats to free-speech and the vicious attacks against Dr. G for expressing his opinion in a private forum. To many of us, Dr. Graubart has been a mentor, role model, and has helped us achieve our professional/academic goals. Regardless of your political opinion, NO ONE should be punished and face the threats that Professor Graubart has been receiving. Most importantly, we need to look at the hypocrisy behind the actions of the students who spearhead campaigns against academics who they disagree with because ultimately, their actions are a threat not only to free-speech, but to academic freedom.

  3. Jill on August 3rd, 2017 10:37 am

    The International Youth and Students for Social Equality at SDSU extends its unequivocal support to Professor Graubart and condemns the campaign against him. We call on the students and faculty of SDSU and other universities across the United States and internationally to join us in the fight to preserve free speech and democratic rights. With the acceleration of the attack on core democratic principles under the Trump administration, this fight has become even more pressing.


  4. Mike on August 3rd, 2017 11:30 am

    As an alumnus, ex-Aztec writer, and former student I support Professor G. His ‘guest speakers’ were some of the finest folks to speak on our campus. The phony deference to a disgraced member of the Senate is what is ridiculous; not the comments expressed by the professor.

    I find it odd that the comments are deemed ‘disrespectful, insensitive, disgusting’ when the Senator has carelessly sent thousands of Americans to their deaths in numerous wars over the past few decades. He has never opposed a war. I suppose it’s easier to be outraged at comments than it is at the actual policy and ramifications of a hawkish bureaucrat. I urge SDSU students to squash the political correctness in lieu of something a bit more tangible. Take a stroll in Arlington Cemetery if you want to really be outraged.