A Weber State University professor who made threatening comments on Twitter about those involved in the nationwide police protests said in an email Wednesday that he regrets the posts and will now resign.
“I agree that my tweets were far beyond the realm of acceptable university policy as well as acceptable social norms,” wrote Scott Senjo in a message to The Salt Lake Tribune. “I made those tweets in the oftentimes vulgar, extreme back-and-forth that can occur on Twitter and they were simply wrong.”
Senjo said the university has asked him to step down. And he has agreed to do so, he wrote, “effective immediately.” His account, @ProfSenjo, has also been deactivated.
“Those are my tweets,” he added, “but I don’t stand by them and will have to suffer the consequences of my recklessness.”
The criminal justice professor, who has been at Weber State since August 2000, was first put under investigation by the university on Monday after several individuals pointed out his tweets. His Twitter profile was previously linked to his Weber State email address and the cellphone number listed on his curriculum vitae.
In a statement Wednesday, Allison Barlow Hess, the school’s spokeswoman, confirmed his resignation, but she said the school never requested that Senjo leave. He had been placed on paid leave while WSU began reviewing the situation.
Shortly after, though, the professor sent an email to his department chair and college dean, she said, saying he would step down. The school released a few lines from Senjo’s letter. It read: “I studied the situation and the public fury is too great. I have to resign immediately. There’s no other option."
The school had previously called the professor’s social media comments “abhorrent.” And on Wednesday, it added, “The Twitter posts in question were hurtful and inconsistent with the values of Weber State University and our work to create an inclusive and welcoming environment.”
One post was a response to a video of a police car driving into a crowd of protesters in New York City while they were demonstrating against deadly force by officers. That action has been criticized both by the New York police commissioner and mayor, along with those at the rally who say they feared being run over.
Senjo wrote: “That’s not how I would have driven the car into the crowd.”
The professor also responded to a black reporter Sunday who was covering the protests. Tyler Blint-Welsh of the Wall Street Journal said he was hit in the face by a New York police officer and pushed to the ground — after showing his press badge. Senjo told Blint-Welsh that if he were an officer, “you wouldn’t be able to tweet.”
After individuals reported Senjo’s account, students started a petition calling for the professor to be fired.
In response, Senjo apologized for what he calls “irresponsible tweeting activity over the last several months.” He said “they reflect a great deal of ugliness,” particularly about the recent nationwide protests.
The demonstrations over the last week 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 had been put under a strict curfew, which Mayor Erin Mendenhall ended on Wednesday.
On Twitter, Senjo responded to that curfew, which had been instituted by Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall. He called the protesters “disgusting losers” and then attacked Mendenhall. “You got what you deserve, idiot. You arrest them,” he posted.
Other tweets labeled those demonstrating as “savages and criminals” and “thugs and rioters.” One post attacked U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minnesota, with Senjo saying he would send her back to Somalia if he were in charge (though she is a naturalized American citizen).
Another questioned why people weren’t rioting “because 20 blacks kill each other every weekend in Chicago.” Senjo also talked about showing one reader how his firearms work. And he said that if an officer “wants to murder someone, it will happen with a firearm in a dark alley.”
In response to concerns that a woman was hit by a rubber bullet in New York, Senjo wrote that “if the woman who got arrested in that park was black, and got shot, gosh maybe she should’ve avoided that park.”
The comments came amid retweets of many right-wing conservative figures, including commentator Tomi Lahren and President Donald Trump.
Senjo, according to his faculty page that has since been taken down, started at Weber State in 2000 as an associate professor in criminal justice. He was promoted to tenured professor in 2008.
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.”