The remark came after Samuel Crankshaw, a Transylvania graduate who works with ACLU Kentucky, questioned on Facebook the university’s decision to accept Nick Sandmann. “Having experienced the incredibly high standards Transy requires for admission and then holds its students to, this seems like a slap in the face,” Crankshaw wrote, labeling the freshman “a provocateur in training with no intention of learning.”
“He exists only to troll, intimidate, and play victim,” the ACLU associate continued, noting that Sandmann was featured as a speaker on the second night of the Republican National Convention. “He’s no different from the likes of Milo Yiannopoulos, but he is more dangerous.”
— Nicholas Sandmann (@N1ckSandmann) August 26, 2020
One of the responses to Crankshaw’s post was from Avery Tompkins, an assistant professor teaching women’s, gender, and sexuality studies at Transylvania University. Tompkins said that while the university can’t deny “academically qualified students due to their political and personal views,” he personally found Sandmann’s public behavior “atrocious and uninformed.”
“I’m well aware of the anti-intellectual views tied to the organizations he’s part of, so I assume he’d view me as part of some liberal brainwashing machine,” Tompkins wrote. “If he were to cause problems by being disruptive, trolling, or engaging in unethical behavior of any kind, I would immediately document it (just like I would for any student doing the same thing) and he would just be putting himself in a position for me to file a conduct report.”
Jonathan Turley, a constitutional law professor at George Washington University and free speech advocate, expressed concern over the exchange.
“I have repeatedly defended the views of liberal academics attacking police, Trump, and a wide array of conservative causes,” wrote Turley in a blog post. “Here, however, Tompkins is speaking as an academic, acting a specific students [sic], and promising to monitor his conduct. That is deeply problematic.”
Nick Sandmann made national news after a short video showing his encounter with Native American activist Nathan Phillips on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in January 2019 became widely circulated on social media. The edited clip showed Sandmann “smirking” at Philips, while his MAGA-hat-wearing friends from Covington Catholic High School chanted and cheered in mockery, many reports claimed at the time.
The incident was extensively covered, alleging that the Covington boys who attended the “March for Life” parade that day surrounded and harassed 64-year-old Philips. A much longer, unedited footage that emerged later, however, told a different story: that the students were on the receiving end of racist verbal attacks from a group of Black Hebrew Israelites, and that it was Philips who approached Sandmann and beat a drum within inches of his face.
Sandmann sued CNN, The Washington Post, and NBC Universal in March 2019 for $800 million in damages, alleging that the media outlets falsely attacked and bullied him. CNN settled the defamation lawsuit with Sandmann in January 2020 for an undisclosed amount. The Washington Post settled the lawsuit with Sandmann in July 2020 for an undisclosed amount.