Outspoken professor who called First Lady Barbara Bush 'racist' to return to class

FRESNO, California -- As Fresno State students go back to school, the return of an outspoken professor is rekindling a firestorm.

"This woman hates America," said conservative critic Ben Bergquam on his Frontline America Facebook feed. "She's racist."

Randa Jarrar brought the university unwanted attention in April with her social media posts attacking Barbara Bush right after the death of the former First Lady.

About a dozen students walked through the doors Monday to a new semester of fiction writing on the Fresno State campus.

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The professor on the schedule for this advanced class is Jarrar -- an award-winning novelist and a flashpoint for criticism after her April tweetstorm taking aim at Mrs. Bush.

Among other things, she called the former First Lady an amazing racist who raised a war criminal.

Several of her new students told us they had no idea about the controversy, but more than a few said they specifically wanted to learn from Jarrar.

"Her craft does not reflect her ideology personally," one of them said.

Another student told us Jarrar embraces her students and makes them better writers.

But conservative critics would prefer if Fresno State abandoned the professor.

"I'm here to confront Randa Jarrar, the hateful, hateful person, leftist," Bergquam said as he walked on campus holding a live Facebook feed. He wouldn't get the chance Monday.

Jarrar was already on leave from the university when she made the comments in April and her leave doesn't end until next week.

In the meantime, the university doesn't seem to have suffered any financial backlash, despite threats from some donors.

"We understand that some people still have concerns, but overall our gifts for last year exceeded previous levels of donations," said Lisa Boyles of the university's communications office.

University president Dr. Joseph Castro condemned the language Jarrar used but eventually decided not to pursue disciplinary action against a tenured professor.

"Private employers can follow different standards in disciplining employees for what they say, but public employees and university employees have greater latitude in their First Amendment speech being protected," Boyles said.

Jarrar has three fall semester classes and she's still speaking her mind on Twitter too, but her account is now protected, so her words will no longer reach as wide an audience.
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