The leader of the Claremont Colleges' Queer Resource Center has been fired over a string of tweets in which he openly critiqued heteronormativity, "well-meaning white women" and the police.
Dr. Jonathan Higgins was hired just last month to head the resource center for the consortium of California colleges, which includes Pomona, Scripps, Claremont McKenna, Harvey Mudd and Pitzer. The student affairs professional was brought on board for his activist background and experience empowering queer POC students.
Soon after assuming the role, however, a handful of "controversial" tweets began to make the rounds at the various campuses, which caused alarm among some undergraduates.
The student-led website College Fix picked up the story, highlighting three of the tweets and sharing statements from the concerned individuals, all of whom chose to remain anonymous.
The first tweet is from April of this year and saw Higgins responding to the question "Who are you automatically wary of/keep at a distance because of your past experiences?" His answer: "White gays and well meaning white women."
In another tweet, Higgins criticized law enforcement: "I finally have nothing to say other than police are meant to service and protect white supremacy."
And this June, the former resource center director blasted "#HeterosexualPrideDay," a topic that began trending during LGBT Pride month.
"So y’all been real quiet about #heterosexualprideday," he wrote. "I mean I thought I’d see parades celebrating rape culture, homophobia and transphobia." In a followup tweet, he simply stated, "Oh wait: y’all do that every day..."
After the tweets began to gain national media attention, the consortium decided to fire Higgins and begin a search for a new Queer Resources Center director.
"Our priorities for the QRC remain the same—to maintain in a seamless fashion the robust services of the center, including its ability to provide direct support to students, expertise in workshops and trainings, and an inclusive space focused on student success and support, with a demonstrated commitment to diversity and community," wrote Jan Collins-Eaglin, Pomona’s associate dean of students for personal success and wellness, in a statement.
In response to Higgins' dismissal, a group of 100 student affairs employees and college students sent an open letter to Collins-Eaglin, slamming the firing as a "gross injustice."
If history has taught us anything, we know that Dr. Higgins’ experiences and caution are valid. White gay men have become the primary enactors of violence toward queer people of color. Recently in Philadelphia, white gay men were angered because the city introduced a new pride flag with added black and brown stripes. The colors, according to the Philadelphia Office of LGBT Affairs’ More Color More Pride campaign, represent inclusion of people of color in the LGBTQ community. Dr. Mamta Motwani Accapadi has written about and presented on the ways white women have enacted violence on people of color and served to perpetuate and benefit from white supremacy.
We would like to state in no uncertain terms that the firing of Dr. Higgins is a gross injustice and serves as an act of violence and silencing of queer black voices. The firing of Dr. Higgins sets a dangerous precedent for the field of student affairs—that those who directly and unapologetically challenge white supremacy, white fragility, and the multitude of problematic aspects of higher education and the dominant culture, will simply be discarded in favor of someone who will perpetrate the status quo.
For his part, Higgins has responded to the situation with resilience and humor on Twitter, ensuring his thousands of followers that he will continue to fight for justice despite the professional setback.