When Jordan Davis saw the tweets, she gasped.
“It felt like a gut punch,” Davis said, after viewing a series of tweets put out by IU Kelley School of Business professor Charles Trzcinka.
Davis is the vice president of Outreach for Kelley Student Government. She is also a Black student in a school where she often finds herself as the only Black woman in her classrooms.
Last month, Trzcinka tweeted, “Here’s how to make money on racism in the US: buy property next to a black person. In Bloomington, I bought next to a black family, she’s a doctor, he was an IU football coach. The market discount was about 10-15%. As society becomes less racist your property values rise.”
A few weeks later, this was followed by another tweet, which stated “BLM only tolerates art they approve of and arrogantly believes they can destroy all else,” with an image of the Peoples Park mural painted over with “Black Lives Matter.”
While Davis said she was disappointed and devastated when she learned about the tweets, she wasn’t surprised. Last fall, another Kelley professor, Eric Rasmusen, was accused of posting sexist and insensitive tweets on his account. “How am I supposed to be educated by people who want to deny my existence?” Davis said.
Trzcinka apologized for his posts in a written statement to the Indiana Daily Student. Trzcinka's Twitter account has been made private as of publication.
“I would like to apologize to anyone offended by my recent posts on Twitter which personalized my response to opinions on racial matters and made factual errors,” he said. “I certainly do not want my recent social media posts to misrepresent the environment on campus and in our school. As we all should know in this social media-driven age, quickly-written words posted online can have great impact. Those words should be considered carefully and I promise to do so in the future.”
Tzcrinka further said he has researched issues related to the Black community in the business world, such as how name bias can lead to difficulties for Black managers and a “Black tax” that Black financial advisers have to overcome. He said he teaches about racial justice and implicit bias in his classes. He also said he’s previously raised over $100,000 for scholarships for underrepresented students, efforts which he said raised his sensitivity to issues related to underrepresented students.
“While the faculty member was speaking in his individual capacity, using his private social media account, I want to state unequivocally that his message is inconsistent with the values and ideals of Indiana University and the Kelley School of Business,” Idalene Kesner, dean of the Kelley School of Business, said in an email.
“Even before becoming aware of the professor’s statements, our School was already committed to a variety of actions aimed at diversity, equity, and inclusion,” she said. “Throughout the upcoming academic year, the Kelley School faculty and staff will collectively participate in training programs focused on social justice and eliminating racial bias and prejudice.”
IU spokesperson Chuck Carney said Kelley is implementing a committee of faculty and staff as well as two student advisory committees to make recommendations to address social justice, racial bias and prejudice.
Like Davis, Kelley student Kalea Miao said she was disappointed seeing the tweets because this wasn’t the first time this had happened. She was particularly shocked by another tweet Trzcinka put out in which he used the term “Wuhan virus” when talking about COVID-19.
“My identity as an Asian-American has always made me feel like an outlier, both in Kelley and in my day-to-day life,” Miao said in a survey conducted by the IDS. “COVID-19 has put a spotlight on this part of my identity, and a harmful one at that. Hate crimes against Asian-Americans have grown through the course of the pandemic, and phrases like the ‘Wuhan virus’ only fan the flames.”
IU Kelley alumna Trina Grogan said that the problem goes beyond individual professors.
“There is clearly a business school culture that makes people feel comfortable or act complicit with their racist views that we have to do better at fighting against,” Grogan said in the IDS survey.
Grogan said she believes there is a lack of education at Kelley surrounding racial issues.
“There are historical ties between capitalism and business and systemic racism,” she said. “There is a system in place that has been fueled by capitalism. I think I got one week of systemic racism in my whole career at Kelley, and that’s something I got in my sustainable business co-major.”
Both Miao and Davis said changes are necessary. They have both been the only or one of the only people of color in classrooms and organizations.
Davis said she feels like she is always on defense, and continuously having these conversations is exhausting.
“Because I’m the only Black person in a room, I feel like people think I represent the entire Black community so I feel like everything I do has to be so carefully planned and executed," she said. “Even though I know I don’t represent everyone, I feel very tokenized at times, and I feel like there’s this added immense amount of pressure just to live up to expectations for myself and for the Black community because I love being Black so much. I don’t want anyone to get an impression of me and hate Black people.”
Read Kelley dean Idie Kesner's full statement about Trzcinka's tweet:
"I’ve been in contact with the faculty member and expressed my disappointment and displeasure about statements he has made on Twitter. While the faculty member was speaking in his individual capacity, using his private social media account, I want to state unequivocally that his message is inconsistent with the values and ideals of Indiana University and the Kelley School of Business. Even before becoming aware of the professor’s statements, our School was already committed to a variety of actions aimed at diversity, equity, and inclusion. Throughout the upcoming academic year, the Kelley School faculty and staff will collectively participate in training programs focused on social justice and eliminating racial bias and prejudice."'
Read professor Charles Trzcinka's full statement about his tweets:
"I would like to apologize to anyone offended by my recent posts on Twitter which personalized my response to opinions on racial matters and made factual errors. Any personalization and factual errors were intemperate in that they did not fully consider the impact of those words before posting and should not reflect on the Kelley School and Indiana University. I certainly try to follow the guidelines of the American Association of University Professors which states:
'College and university teachers are citizens, members of a learned profession, and officers of an educational institution. When they speak or write as citizens, they should be free from institutional censorship or discipline, but their special position in the community imposes special obligations. As scholars and educational officers, they should remember that the public may judge their profession and their institution by their utterances. Hence they should at all times be accurate, should exercise appropriate restraint, should show respect for the opinions of others, and should make every effort to indicate that they are not speaking for the institution'
In making these posts, let me present another layer to the discussion. First, it’s important to realize that on particularly difficult issues Twitter is not a place to present statements that need further explanation. Second, I teach about racial justice in my class on portfolio management where one of my consistent observations is that, regardless of performance, Black portfolio managers have less money to manage. I’ve researched how bias about names can lead to Black managers having a more difficult time. I’m now looking at a research project that measures what I call the “Black tax” that African American financial advisers must overcome. This research and teaching grew out of my time as department chair when for the first time the finance department hired an African American professor for a tenure track job in finance and I raised $100,000 for scholarships for under- represented minorities. Both efforts heightened my sensitivity to the problems of under-represented minorities at this university.
In short, in my research I point out things that should not be true, including noting discrimination in housing values. And in a class discussion I help students examine the various aspects that comprise the problem of implicit bias. I am very sorry that anyone took my recent comments as supportive of such discrimination. As a faculty member I am committed to teaching and research that attacks such issues.
Finally, I certainly do not want my recent social media posts to misrepresent the environment on campus and in our school. As we all should know in this social media-driven age, quickly-written words posted online can have great impact. Those words should be considered carefully and I promise to do so in the future."