The first time Nada Merghani discovered Professor Mike Adams, it was because she was reading his Facebook post about her.
“The only thing more disgusting than a jihadist Muslim is a pro-choice Muslim,” Adams, a criminology professor at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, wrote in April 2015. *
Merghani was just a 17-year-old freshman, and said she had never spoken to Adams before.
The self-described “black Queer Muslim” and Sudanese refugee said the post was just the beginning of what she says became a relentless period of harassment from Adams and his followers for the next year until she left the school in November.
Adams’s social media accounts and blog posts are littered with hate speech against gay, lesbian, transgender, and queer people. He condemned “the gay lifestyle” and likened same-sex marriage rights to “rape.” He called trans people mentally ill and asserted that any doctor willing to help with gender-reassignment surgery should be charged with mutilating a mentally ill person.
Adams won’t speak to the media about Merghani or another student who accuses him of harassment (he didn’t return requests for comment from The Daily Beast), but he frequently criticizes them on Twitter and Facebook.
Adams continues to attack and mock Merghani and other students, staff, and faculty in blog posts on Daily Wire, a website that according to its official Facebook page exists to “unmask leftists in the media for who they are, destroy their credibility with the American public, and devastate their funding bases.”
Last August, Adams published an article about Merghani, using her full name, stating she is bringing a “Queer Muslim Jihad” upon campus. Merghani said she feels personally threatened and unsafe on campus after the professor published the blatantly anti-Muslim, anti-LGBT rant “suggesting I’m a terrorist without a hint of truth or any regard for my personal safety.”
Adams does refer to Merghani as a jihadist in the title of his post for Daily Wire. Adams clarifies that he does not see Merghani as a real terrorist threat in the content of his blog post, but by then damage is already done. Google “Nada Merghani” and her name appears besides the words “jihad” and “terrorist”—two words that could be a highly damaging association for a Muslim person.
This is far from the first time Adams has been fixated on a UNCW student.
In July 2009 UNCW student Chaz Housand and friend Chet Saunders were beaten unconscious after leaving a bar in downtown Wilmington. According to the Wilmington Star News, the police investigated the attack as a hate crime because Housand and Sanders are both openly gay.
When Adams heard about what happened to Housand and Saunders he expressed outrage about the beatings being investigated as a hate crime. In an August 2009 he wrote a scathing piece for conservative website Town Hall about the attack.
“There will never be a shortage of people who choose lifestyles that make them more susceptible to violence than others,” Adams wrote. “It isn’t the job of the government to protect these people.”
According to a friend of Housand who wished to speak anonymously, “Chaz was still in the hospital with broken bones when he heard the professor was blaming him and attacking him. It made him feel worse. Chaz is not really online or on social media anymore. What Adams did to him was disgusting.”
Adams calls students who accused him of harassing them “weak pansies” and makes fun of the LGBTQ community for being too dramatic.
“Sometime I wonder whether LGBT stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Thespian. So much drama, so few letters in the alphabet,” he wrote on the Daily Wire.
He even compared gay rights to rape in an open letter entitled, “Rape Wins.”
“You should be ashamed of yourself for committing spiritual rape in the name of tolerance and inclusion,” Adams wrote to a man who sued a wedding photographer for refusing to shoot his same-sex nuptials.
Despite all of this, the school said Adams has done nothing wrong by its own standards.
“Dr. Adams’s online column and social media presence represent his personal expressions and opinions on a variety of topics,” UNCW said in a statement. “These expressions and opinions are neither within the requested scope of Dr. Adams’s duties with the university, nor do they represent the views of this institution. However, they are expressions protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.”
The school also said that speech didn’t cross the line when it came to Merghani.
“At this point, the university has not found evidence that Dr. Adams has improperly released any private or confidential information related to the student, or violated the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). There is no evidence of unlawful discrimination by Dr. Adams toward this student in UNCW’s working, living, or learning environment, per the university’s harassment prevention policy. Finally, Dr. Adams’s conduct and written material do not contain any evidence of a true threat toward this or any other student.”
If the school were to fire or discipline Adams, he might sue—again.
In 2007, Adams sued UNCW for religious and speech-based discrimination after he was not promoted to full professor in 2006. A federal district court ruled in favor of UNCW in 2010, but then a federal appeals court overturned that ruling in 2011. In 2014 a jury upheld Adams’s appeal of the initial ruling and awarded him $50,000 in back pay and ordered the school to pay more than $600,000 in legal fees. In the settlement the school also agreed to promote Adams to full professor, and administrators “agreed to adopt procedures protecting Adams from renewed retaliation.”
Since winning the lawsuit, Adams has ramped up his efforts, churning out more posts for Town Hall and the Daily Wire. He calls himself a “vocal critic of the diversity movement in academia” and brags about receiving ‘countless hate mails [sic].”
UNCW student Sydney Burton said she was hoping the school’s code of conduct would offer more clearly worded rules against hate speech, because the current wording doesn’t protect students from Mike Adams.
The Seahawk Respect Compact is the UNCW code of conduct document addressing “University Diversity and Inclusion.” This November the administration took measures to update the Compact, but the final draft is still in progress.
“Right now, this university has done more to protect those that spread hate speech than the students that are victims of it,” Burton said.
If the Compact doesn’t protect students from hate speech, some UNCW students and faculty like Professor Wendy Brenner are wondering if Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act does.
Brenner, an associate professor in the Department of Creative Writing, said “teachers are supposed to protect and challenge students, not harass or attack them. As a Professor, what am I going to tell students past, present and future? That they aren’t safe here? That they can expect to be harassed? You’d think if the school won’t protect them Title VI would. How is this not an example of a protected class?”
According to the U.S. Dept. of Education Office of Civil Rights website the responsibilities of school districts, colleges, and universities under Title VI require the school to address racial and national origin harassment.
“Title VI requires an educational institution to respond to racial or national origin harassment that is sufficiently serious to deny or limit a student’s ability to participate in or benefit from the recipient’s education programs and activities (i.e., creates a hostile environment).”
Some students and faculty are hoping the opportunity to finally relieve the school of Adams lies within the language of Title VI. More than 2,000 students and community members have signed an online petition asking for Adams to be removed from UNCW. Even if the UNCW administration and a federal appeals court grants Adams the right to free speech, Title VI states that his right to free speech stops when he starts to create a hostile environment.
Merghani says she was initially planning a lawsuit against UNCW, but now she is focused on continuing her education elsewhere. She says it’s important to keep going.
“Strength is not an option for black women. I don’t have time to fall apart. I still have an education to pursue. There are people who want to see me fail but they aren’t going to keep it away from me.”