Virginia Wesleyan University professor resigns after controversial social media comments

Norfolk

NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — A Virginia Wesleyan University professor has resigned over criticism of controversial comments he made on social media regarding President-elect Joe Biden.

The university reported the news of Dr. Paul Ewell’s resignation Monday afternoon.

Ewell, a management, business and economics professor at the university, also resigned the previous week as dean of Virginia Wesleyan University Global Campus.

A now-deleted Facebook post Ewell made on social media the week of the general election asked people who chose Biden for president to “unfriend him.”

His post went on to say that anyone who chose Biden for president is “ignorant, anti-American and anti-Christian.”

Over the weekend, President Donald Trump supported Ewell’s message on Twitter saying, “PROGRESS.”

The Virginia Wesleyan released the following statement on Nov. 6.

“The University is aware of a recent comment made on social media by a member of the campus community. These views and opinions are expressly the individual’s own. Civic engagement and religious freedom are at the core of the University’s values, and we remain an inclusive and caring community that empowers meaningful relationships through listening, understanding, and communication.”

The university posted the statement to Facebook. There are currently more than 1,000 comments on the university’s Facebook page, many calling Ewell’s message unacceptable and embarrassing.

There are some comments of support for Ewell. Facebook user Chris Milner posted this in of support the dean: “This cancel culture nonsense needs to stop. He does not need to be fired for comments that are merely unfair and unfortunate. How does he interact with his students? Well, thus far, no students have come out publicly to complain about his treatment of them in class. But yes, fire him because his comments hurt the frail sensibilities of the snowflakes. Nonsense.”

Ewell told 10 On Your Side that he “set a poor example in that post of what a Christian should be” and that he should not have spoken out of anger. He apologized for the post, “I have many Democrat friends and I want to apologize for saying that I didn’t want to be friends with them and for calling them names. I am genuinely sorry for letting my anger get the best of me.”

A university spokesperson said the school does not comment on personnel matters, but it is addressing the situation internally.

We spoke with Virginia Wesleyan alumni Monday about the post.

“For somebody in that position, as a dean, not just a professor but as a dean, it’s not right,” said Jasmine Paterson, VWU class of 2014.

VWU alum Katie Giwa-Osagie now works at another institution of higher learning, she says a post like Ewell’s coming from a person in his position is unacceptable and unprofessional.

“I work at a college. I understand the politics and there are just certain things we are not allowed to do. Certain things we have to be conscious about because we are on social media, we are human, but we also interact with students who are influenced by us daily. So there’s just a certain level of professionalism you have to maintain. Just as we teach students about social media conduct, why would we be exempt from these principles?”

“I do not want him fired, that is not my stance. I’m not out for his job or anything like that,” Giwa-Osage continued. ‘What I would expect the university to do is try to create steps to create and embrace culture and diversity.” 

At a time when the country is more divided than ever, VWU alumni say having conversation with those you disagree with is crucial.

“His post does not invite engagement to a conversation. It closes off the idea of having one to work through a difference of opinion,” said Jasmine Patterson. “He can resign if he wants to, but I don’t think that should be the end all be all. Because even though he is inciting to be closed off from conversation, that could be a conversation for him to engage in, to think about.”


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