Political science professor Melissa Harris-Perry, who parted ways with MSNBC in 2016 while accusing the network of trying to silence her, has become embroiled in a public feud with her long-time employer, Wake Forest University, where she says academic freedom is officially "dead."
The public meltdown between Harris-Perry and Wake Forest began when she gave a speech on Martin Luther King Day in which she called on people to "raise questions" about Wake Forest's expansion into downtown because the university had benefited from racist laws in the past.
After she says Provost Rogan Kersh contacted her "inviting" her to shut down her social justice and "intersectionality"-focused Anna Julia Cooper Center (AJC Center), the self-described "difficult employee" Harris-Perry chose to take the discussion public, tweeting out her complaints Thursday about the university and declaring her social justice center is "#notforsale." The Winston-Salem Journal first reported the story, which was picked up by Campus Reform.
"Academic freedom is truly dead @WakeForest," Harris-Parry wrote in the first of a series of tweets. "Two days after a public MLK address where I called into question the university’s labor practices Provost @rtkersh sends an email 'inviting' me to eliminate @AJCCenter as a university entity & offering a 'goodwill' payoff."
"I have given my lifeblood to @WakeForest in recent years- leading two centers @phiwfu and @AJCCenter without pay. And giving tens of thousands as contribution to their work," she added. She went on to cite the popularity of the programs she's headed up, including "Wake the Vote." Despite the impact she's had, and her full professorship, she said the university "has failed to even provide me with a faculty office this entire academic year."
Admitting she's a "difficult employee," she again defended her statements at the MLK event. "There is no question that I am a 'difficult employee'. I don’t play nice or toe the line or pretend injustice does not exist. On Monday I reminded our community @WakeForest benefited from slavery & Jim Crow and we should raise questions as it encroaches downtown," she wrote. A few of the tweets below:
The university has made clear that it's not happy with Harris-Perry publicly trashing it. In a statement issued in response to her tweets, Wake Forest suggested that she's deliberately being "misleading" about what really happened.
"Her recent comments about the university are misleading and disappointing," the university said in a statement reported by the Winston-Salem Journal.
Despite the ugly, now-public feud, the university confirmed to the Journal that she is in fact still employed there.
In another notable tweet in the series of posts, Harris-Perry said that she had been raped in a "public place by someone unknown to me" during a Wake Forest trip but continued to dedicate her time to the program despite a fear of public places. "In 2016 I was raped in a public place by someone unknown to me. I was on a @WakeForest trip at the time but I never allowed my personal trauma to slow my commitment to me students. I led the program for months after the attack even through my terror of public places," she wrote.
The professor has revealed this traumatic experience previously, saying that she was raped in the summer of 2016 but chose not to report it to police. "The second time a man raped me was the summer of 2016. There are people I told within hours. I have never reported it to the police. I learned from decades of living as a survivor, a public figure that reporting would only bring more pain, not justice," she wrote in a Sept. 2018 tweet.
Harris-Perry was let go by MSNBC in 2016, which she framed as a result of the network trying to silence her. The network, however, says that they simply were trying to feature more straight news coverage and chose to drop a few liberal commentary shows, hers among them.