Wake Forest Professor Laura Mullen has resigned after she sparked outrage with a since-deleted tweet that blamed Israel for the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas militants, specifically the murders at the Supernova Music Festival that killed more than 250 Israeli civilians.
The private university publicly defended Mullen’s comments as an example of free speech, but she says she was “thrown to the wolves” because the administration did not defend her enough. Mullen was a creative writing professor and the Kenan Chair of the Humanities in the English department. She earned her BA in English from the UC Berkeley and her Masters of Fine Arts in Poetry at the University of Iowa.
“As this global crisis continues to unfold, members of our community may feel compelled to speak publicly, and at times in ways that may conflict with the University’s stated values,” said WFU President Susan Wente and Provost Michael Gillespie. “Free expression and academic freedom are foundational to the mission of higher education and the tradition of constructive and civil discourse and debate at Wake Forest. Adherence to both applicable laws related to First Amendment protections and Wake Forest policies guides University actions when free speech and our institutional values come into conflict.”
The university set up a “holding space” and website shortly after the attacks for students seeking community and information. Jewish students on campus say that they are afraid for their safety in the turmoil surrounding Mullen’s statement and resignation. Mullen said she took the post down to protect Muslim students from backlash.
Describing her post as “poetic,” Mullens told the student paper that she has received threats and decided to take it down because, “the people who are interacting with this are not good people,” according to OldGold&Black.
While she was reportedly not fired or asked to resign, Mullens told the Wake Report student publication that WFU’s leadership statement was “like if you watch animal films and you isolate one gazelle, that’s the one that gets eaten. They kind of threw me to the wolves.”
Mullen’s post drew widespread criticism from students, parents, and others in the university community. The Chabad Student Board, a Jewish organization, issued a statement condemning her comments.
“No student should have to fear for their safety or feel uncomfortable while sitting in class, but as she is a professor in a position of authority and influence, Jewish students now feel scared to take her classes,” wrote the board of students. “Her threatening language plays into anti-Semitic sentiment, a problem that poses a threat to Wake Forest students and that has no place at our school.”