A Binghamton University professor is once again being criticized for racism, this time for posting a photograph of a man wearing a Confederate flag hat on social media.
Victor Skormin, a distinguished service professor of electrical and computer engineering, posted the image on Sept. 30 at 1:21 a.m. The picture displays a man in a Confederate flag hat with the word “REBEL.” The man, who is holding a gun, is also wearing a shirt that says “REDNECK JEW” and shows the Star of David.
In March 2018, Skormin also saw criticism from students and University officials for his reply to an electrical and computer engineering graduate Listserv email about an event being hosted by the National Society of Black Engineers.
“Please let me know about a dinner of the National Society of White Engineers,” Skormin wrote in the email. “Thank you.”
Skormin later apologized for his email.
He said his recent post is a “photoshopped cartoon” that was intended to be humorous, and noted he is not the person in the image.
“The photo is humorous because Jews are not known of being rednecks, and the antisemitism is very common among rednecks,” he wrote in an email. “I put on my [Facebook] page everything that I believe is humorous and useful to my students and friends.”
Skormin added that he feels clothing choices, such as wearing an article of clothing displaying the Confederate flag, are an individual decision.
“I believe that people are entitled to wear whatever they want providing that it does not insult others,” Skormin wrote. “Many people are offended by holes in ladies’ jeans exposing parts of the body and nobody protests this.”
In a later message to Pipe Dream, Skormin declined to answer follow-up questions about the source of the photo, and said he would “contact my lawyer” if the article was published.
On Thursday, several University administrators and student leaders reacted to Skormin’s post. Khaleel James, vice president for multicultural affairs for the Student Association and a junior double-majoring in economics and human development, said the image negatively impacts the University’s image among communities of color.
“Just how we recognize one of our professors for winning the Nobel Prize, we should also recognize our professors for posting this kind of content,” James said. “Every time you post something like this or you respond in the way he has in the past, it does damage to Binghamton University in terms of how we are marketed from students who have had this negative experience.”
He also said that even if Skormin isn’t in the photo, it remain deeply offensive.
“It doesn’t have to be you — you should be more conscious of what you post,” he said. “It doesn’t change the fact, even if that is photoshopped or whatever, at the end of the day it’s on his page.”
In an emailed statement on Thursday, Donald Nieman, provost and vice president for academic affairs, condemned Skormin’s post and wrote these types of images do not represent the University’s values.
“Posting a photo that displays a symbol of racism is hateful, bigoted and creates a chilling environment for many,” Nieman wrote. “While the University has no jurisdiction over a professor’s social media account, we find it imperative to condemn any expression of racism that is inconsistent with our values and longstanding efforts to create a campus that respects all individuals.”
It is unclear if the University will take any action against Skormin. Ryan Yarosh, senior director of media and public relations, said administrators dealt with Skormin’s Listserv email in March 2018 “in a timely and appropriate manner,” but declined to comment on his recent post.
“Because it is a personnel matter, we are not free to disclose any actions taken,” he wrote in an email.
James said he intends to speak with faculty in the engineering department about the incident and encouraged students in need of support to contact his office.