Students back professor who caused uproar for wishing the Queen 'excruciating pain' in death

13 September 2022, 01:13

The professor received a backlash for her comments over the Queen's health
The professor received a backlash for her comments over the Queen's health. Picture: Alamy/Twitter

By Emma Soteriou

Hundreds of students have signed a letter in support of one of their professors who wished the Queen "excruciating pain" in death.

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The rallying behind Dr Ujua Anya, a professor of linguistics at Carnegie Mellon University, came after the university condemned her controversial comments about the monarch.

Ahead of the announcement of the Queen's death on Thursday, she tweeted: "I heard the chief monarch of a thieving raping genocidal empire is finally dying. May her pain be excruciating."

It caused a huge backlash, including from Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, who said: "This is someone supposedly working to make the world better? I don’t think so. Wow."

Read more: Guard of honour for monarch and mother: Charles leads Queen's children in vigil as mourners line streets to see coffin

Read more: First Royal fans descend on London ahead of Queen's coffin's arrival as mourners warned of 30-hour queues

Following Mr Bezos' response, the university in Pittsburgh was quick to react, saying it does "not condone the offensive and objectionable messages" posted by Dr Anya.

It added: "Free expression is core to the mission of higher education; however, the views she shared absolutely do not represent the values of the institution, nor the standards of discourse we seek to foster."

Twitter removed her original tweet, saying it violated company policy.

However, students at the American university have since written a letter in solidarity with the professor.

The letter - signed by both current and former students - said: "We recognise her immensely impactful role on campus and believe firmly in her right to free speech and safety."

The letter went on to say that the university's "public condemnation of her tweet provides no institutional protection from violence and places her in a precarious position, ignoring a long history of institutional racism and colonialism.

"Rejecting calls for 'civility' that are frequently leveraged against the marginalised to silence dissent, we express our solidarity with Dr. Anya and reject the tone-policing of those with legitimate grievances."

Dr Anya later told NBC that she is "a child of colonisation" and that her views on the Queen were shaped by her family's suffering during the Nigerian Civil War.

In an update, Dr Anya thanked "everyone who rallied for me here and elsewhere".

She added: "From what I've been told, there is no plan to sanction or fire me, and my job is not in jeopardy.

"My university leadership showed very clearly they did not approve of my speech; however, they stand in firm support of my freedom of expression on my own personal social media.

"I am not in a battle with Carnegie Mellon University.

"As the letters of support from the students, faculty, staff, and others in my university community clearly show, I am wanted and I belong here."

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