Security beefed up for first day of "White Racism" class at Southwest Florida college

FORT MYERS, Fla. - Florida Gulf Coast University beefed up security for the first day of a provocatively-titled class called "White Racism." Tuesday morning, several campus police officers made a visible presence in and around Reed Hall, where the first day of class was being held.

"Out of an abundance of caution, we decided it was prudent to have them here the first day," said Professor Ted Thornhill, who teaches the class.

In late 2016, several racially-charged messages were found on white boards around FGCU's campus. One showed a stick figure hanging from a noose, with the words "kill n-------." Another message on a white board read "Noose-tying 101.

When the "White Racism" class was added to the university's curriculum for this semester, the title raised a few eyebrows. Thornhill believe the class is needed to address what he sees as pervasive social injustice.

"The way in which the life chances of people of color are truncated, constrained or limited by our society, that's organized based on the logic of whiteness," he explained.

Students said there weren't any problems the first day of class.

"We just went over the syllabus," said senior Natoya Lambert, who plans to go to law school, with a focus on social justice. "It was pretty extensive."

Thornhill said he received a number of racially-charged emails and voice messages after the course was announced, some of which he plans to present and discuss in class.

"It just testifies to the urgency of the course, why we teach these type of materials," he said.

Thornhill would not elaborate on whether officers might be present at future class sessions.

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