SGi calls for the termination of History instructor, students gather in socially distant protest



Adjunct instructor Richard Taylor was removed from instruction on Sept. 7 following social media outrage from anonymous claims stating that Taylor asked his HIS1000C class to come up with ways to justify slavery. 

Ten days later, on Sept. 16, Student Government Inc. (SGi) called for the termination of Taylor through two letters published to their Instagram, the first directed toward senior leaders atSt. John’s University and the other toward history department chair professor Nerina Rustomji. The following day a student-led protest took place in front of St. John’s Hall, with dozens in attendance. 

“As the elected representatives of our undergraduate student body, we are calling for Professor Taylor’s position as a Professor to be terminated,” SGi said in their letter to Rustomji. 

“In no antiracist institution can it ever be possible for a professor, or any university employee, to justify and to persuade their students to justify slavery – a racist system that is the foundation for how and why Black people and other people of color are oppressed to this day,” SGi states in the letter to the University’s senior leaders.

The letter to the senior leaders claims Taylor has expressed a “harmful attitude toward the Black Lives Matter movement” on his public and private social media platforms and this, combined with  his recent actions in his History class, are “clear acts of racism.” 

“Proslavery arguments are not to be validated in this century, and they shall not be defended by an antiracist institution’s administration, by allowing a professor who has shown disregard for the pain of his Black students and other students of color, both in the classroom and on social media, to continue to teach at the very same institution,” SGi continued in the letter.

“We would like to respectfully request that you take all possible action to prevent Professor Taylor’s continuation under your Department. Our instiution’s recent announcement of its commitment to antiracism requires action,” SGi said in the letter to Rustomji. 

“We believe transparency to be crucial, and while you are not able to comment on the investigation of Professor Taylor, we would like to aid you in the ways possible to better understand and communicate your efforts to the rest of our student body,” the letter to Rustomji states. SGi also extended a “personal invitation” to Rustomji to meet with their Executive Board in this letter.

This University and Rustomji declined to comment on any details in SGi’s letters. University Spokesperson Brian Browne told the Torch in an email that, “this remains an active investigation, the University is not commenting on this matter.

SGi did not respond to requests for comment from the Torch on Sept. 17 regarding these letters. 

In response to the situation, a student-organized protest was conducted on Sept. 17. The protest, entitled, “Teach the Children the Truth,” was organized by SJU Radicals, a “non-University related entity [of] radical social justice warriors … fighting against systemic injustices on campus,” on the Queens campus. It was promoted on the group’s Instagram.

Upwards of 60 students and several faculty were seen gathered on the Great Lawn in front of St. John’s Hall at approximately 3 p.m., socially distanced as they stood in front of the building. It is not known what was said at the protest.

The University has declined to offer comment on the protest at this time.