Weber State University will investigate a criminal justice professor who allegedly made several threatening comments about those involved in the nationwide protests this weekend against use of deadly force by police, including a Twitter post about how he would have driven a car into a crowd.
The school declined to say Monday if professor Scott Senjo would be put on leave or what the review would include. WSU spokeswoman Allison Barlow Hess said the university is aware of the posts and “looking into the issue.”
She added: “Weber State University does not condone violence or threats of violence under any circumstance.”
Senjo, who has been at the school since August 2000, did not respond to a request for comment. The account where the comments were posted, @ProfSenjo, is linked to his Weber State email address and the cellphone number listed on his curriculum vitae.
One comment from the account was a response to a video of a police car speeding into a crowd of protesters in New York City. That action has been criticized both by the New York police commissioner and mayor, along with those at the demonstration who say they feared being run over.
The comment from Senjo’s account said: “That’s not how I would have driven the car into the crowd.”
Another tweet responded to a black reporter Sunday. Tyler Blint-Welsh of the Wall Street Journal said he was hit in the face by New York police officer and pushed to the ground — after showing his press badge. A tweet from the Senjo account told Blint-Welsh that if he were an officer, “you wouldn’t be able to tweet.”
Several individuals on Twitter have said that they’ve reported the tweets and the account. And many shared them, too, calling for Senjo to be fired.
The demonstrations across the country have come in response to the death of George Floyd, a black man who was killed last week after a white Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes. Protesters have denounced racism and deadly force by law enforcement. And in many cities, including Salt Lake City, the rallies have turned violent.
In Utah’s capital, demonstrators overturned a police car and lit it on fire. They also threw rocks at the windows of businesses. Officers responded with rubber bullets and arrests. And the city was put under a strict curfew.
A tweet from Senjo’s account responded to that curfew, too, which had been instituted by Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall. It calls the protesters “disgusting losers” and also attacks Mendenhall.
“You got what you deserve, idiot. You arrest them,” it read.
Other posts label those demonstrating as “savages and criminals” and “thugs and rioters.” A May 30 post said that some are just “bored from the pandemic lockdown” and looking for “some great stuff for their Instagram followers.” And it suggests that they are paid to be there by billionaire George Soros.
The responses came amid retweets of many right-wing conservative figures, including commentator Tomi Lahren and President Donald Trump.
Another post attacks U.S Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minnesota, with the writer saying he would send her back to Somalia if he were in charge (though she is a naturalized American citizen). Some also applaud that a CNN building in Atlanta was damaged during the protests, and state that if an officer “wants to murder someone, it will happen with a firearm in a dark alley.”
On May 31, a post from the account said he wouldn’t “just display firearms,” but suggested a reader come to his neighborhood and “I’ll show you how they work.”
One questioned why people weren’t rioting “because 20 blacks kill each other every weekend in Chicago.” And another said, in response to concerns that a woman was hit by a rubber bullet in New York, that “if the woman who got arrested in that park was black, and got shot, gosh maybe she should’ve avoided that park.”
In a longer statement later Monday, Weber State said, those "comments made by our faculty member are hurtful and inconsistent with the values of Weber State University.”
The school said it would take appropriate action after a full investigation.
It added: “We join with our students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends who found these comments to be abhorrent.” And it advises anyone who needs support to talk to WSU’s assistant vice president for diversity, Adrienne Andrews, at 801-626-7243 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Senjo, according to the faculty page, started at Weber State in 2000 as an associate professor in criminal justice. He was promoted to tenured professor in 2008. Generally, getting tenure protects faculty from action against their positions.
He has previously taught at California State University, Bakersfield, and Florida Atlantic University. He studied, too, at the University of Utah.
He instructs on criminal law and arrests, according to his curriculum vitae, as well as “victimology.”