Opinion: Students stand with Dr. Anya, others fear polarization
Promptly after Carnegie Mellon Professor Dr. Uju Anya posted a stark tweet on her personal account wishing Queen Elizabeth an “excruciating” death, major public figures like Jeff Bezos and Piers Morgan turned to social media to share their contempt for the comment. Carnegie Mellon issued a statement on Friday condemning Anya’s actions stating that “the views she shared absolutely do not represent the values of the institution.” However Anya has no intention of apologizing — “I stand by what I said” — and Carnegie Mellon’s students stand with her.
Many have taken to social media to defend the professor, standing by her statement and expressing frustration at the institution for its response, calling it a means to protect Carnegie Mellon’s image. A student who has chosen to remain anonymous, Class of ’26, shared her belief that CMU wouldn’t have felt the need to respond if not for Bezos’ backlash, and the growing press surrounding the statement.
Senior Sarah Niklaus drew parallels to a similar incident at Carnegie Mellon in 2020 regarding Richard Grenell and statements made on his personal Twitter account and other social media platforms that drew student and faculty concerns about his hiring. The statement Carnegie Mellon issued read:
“Regarding Mr.Grenell’s tweets on social media and in general, given that they are an expression of personal opinion outside of his work at CMU, they are protected under the First Amendment of the Constitution… it would set a dangerous precedent for the university to take punitive action based on the way in which a member of our community is exercising their first amendment rights, even if we disagree with them.”
With this in mind, according to the standards that Carnegie Mellon set for Grenell, Anya was exercising her first amendment rights as a member of the Carnegie Mellon community. “You can really see the double standard,” said Niklaus. Carnegie Mellon seems to be making the distinction on when to condemn the actions of their community members, based on when it is in the University’s best interests externally.
Internally, the response was a failure to open up a larger, much-needed conversation surrounding racism at Carnegie Mellon. A student who asked to remain anonymous, Class of ’23, found the response “really weird … CMU is riddled with racist professors who have actively caused harm to students with zero repercussions.” Senior Ethan Fusilero understands Anya’s positionality on a personal level, as he is Filipino and finds it “very easy to see how damaging imperialism and colonization are to a nation. Imagine if a person who ruled a country that oppressed your nation and watched your people starve was being praised for their lifetime achievements.” Fusilero sees England and the United Kingdom as a whole as the epitome of colonial power and anti-liberal ideals; thus, they find it ironic that American liberals even support the crown in the first place. As one student in the Class of ’24 stated, “It is fascinating to see how objections of colonizers are seen as more offensive than the actual colonizers themselves.”
While on campus many students stand with Anya, one student who wished to remain anonymous fears the repercussions of Anya’s tweet may further harm students of color on campus. “I think it was irresponsible of her because tweets like that will obviously draw a lot of white supremacists and incels to target CMU and specifically Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) campaigns and students of color.” However, Carnegie Mellon’s response fails to also address this crucial element of the discussion and stands with our community’s students of color.
During this time, it is the responsibility of Carnegie Mellon faculty, students, and staff to ensure that our first priority on campus is ensuring the safety of our students of color and that we are ultimately working towards an open discourse surrounding anti-racist and anti-colonialist practices on campus.