A college professor in Iowa resigned after he indicated support for the militant leftist movement Antifa and after the media dug up social media comments in which he stated that he wanted “revenge” against evangelical Christians.
Jeff Klinzman, who served as an English adjunct professor for Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids, stepped down from his position last week following a report from KCRG that indicated that Klinzman declared he was part of the militant leftist organization Antifa.
Klinzman had served at the school since 2010 and his resignation was announced via a statement from Kirkwood President Lori Sundberg.
“Kirkwood Community College leadership has been assessing this matter in recent days, especially its potential impact on our learning environment,” Sundberg’s statement reads. “With the safety of our students, faculty and staff as our top concern, we made the decision this morning to identify an instructor who will take over the one course that Mr. Klinzman was to have taught this semester. We have spoken with Mr. Klinzman this afternoon about this matter and have accepted his resignation.”
Sundberg added that the decision to remove Klinzman from the classroom was made not because of the “substance of [Klinzman’s] views” but rather as a safety precaution following threats made to the college.
The Cedar Rapids ABC News affiliate reported last week about concerns over Klinzman’s online rhetoric. Klinzman was quoted as telling the news outlet in an email: "I affirm that I am antifa.’” Additionally, he expressed no regret in his email for the postings he made online in the past.
Antifa is a movement comprised of autonomous leftwing anti-fascist groups that aggressively oppose what they perceive to be authoritarian movements and groups, according to the Anti-Defamation League. While many of the Antifa counterprotests have been peaceful, there have been times when encounters between Antifa groups and far-right groups have become violent.
President Donald Trump said this month that he was considering designating Antifa groups as terrorist organizations.
Klinzman reportedly responded to a post on the “Iowa Antifa” Facebook page that featured a tweet from Trump in which the president called Antifa groups “radical left wack jobs who go around hitting … people over the heads with bats.”
According to KCRG, Klinzman wrote: “Yeah, I know who I’d clock with a bat.”
A KCRG search of Klinzman’s Facebook page revealed disturbing comments he made in the past, such as expressing a desire to “stop evangelical Christians.” In a post, he reportedly posted a poem that reads: “Kill them all and bury them deep in the ground.”
"It's not pretty, and I'm not proud, but seeing what evangelical Christians are doing to this county and its people fills me with rage, and a desire to exact revenge,” Klinzman was quoted as writing in the post.
Although Kirkwood declined to comment at the time in response to KCRG’s inquiry on Klinzman, increased pressure was put on the institution after the story was picked up by the national conservative media outlet Fox News.
Klinzman told The Gazette that he feels the college violated his First Amendment rights and that he plans to sue Kirkwood.
Although the school removed him from a three-credit course he was scheduled to teach, Klinzman stated that he was told he had to resign as an adjunct professor or he would be terminated. He said he agreed to resign when the school committed to paying him for the fall.
“[School administrators] talked about how this had broken on Fox and they were getting thousands of complaints,” he said. “They were getting threats. People were threatening to burn down the college. They said, ‘We can’t have you coming back this semester.’”
Sundberg also confirmed that claim, telling The Gazette that she decided to remove Klinzman from the course because of the threats. She said she didn’t want to put the school, Klinzman or students in harm's way.
“As of Thursday of last week, he was going to be teaching Monday, and we were well aware of the content,” Sundberg explained. “There is no evidence that he has espoused those views in his class. But then once the news story ran and we had this outcry from the public and what we perceived as threats.”
Sundberg said that there are tough decisions to be made today when it comes to protecting free speech and ensuring safety on college campuses.
“We were trying most definitely to respect his right to free speech,” she said. “At the same time, I have to respect that I have students’ lives on my campus that I’m responsible for.”
In her statement, Sundberg explained that Kirkwood supports Klinzman’s right to express his views in whichever forum he chooses.
“However, when the expression of views by him or any member of our community is perceived as placing public safety in jeopardy or hampers our ability to deliver on our mission, we will always do what is necessary in service to our students’ pursuit of a higher education,” she stated.
Sundberg added that the Kirkwood security team will have a visible presence through the campus going forward and that the security team is working with the local police department to implement a safety plan.