The Sussex County Scanlan Show (Sans Scanlan)

NEWTON – The meeting was all about Jerry Scanlan, but Jerry Scanlan didn’t bother showing up.

So with his seat at the table conspicuously vacant, the Sussex County Community College trustees Tuesday night asked the freeholders to remove Scanlan from the board.

The trustees themselves can’t do that, but after Scanlan’s sexist and homophobic tweets, they took the only action they could. They disavowed the tweets, censured Scanlan and removed him as Vice
President of the board of trustees, but not from the board itself.

That is now up to the freeholders.

Tuesday’s action culminated (perhaps) weeks of turmoil in the Sussex college community. Scanlan, who also chairs the county’s Republican committee, retweeted a series of offensive messages earlier this
summer. Among other things, they called for the elimination of the Islamic faith, labeled four Democratic congresswoman “whores” and “bitches” and called soccer star Megan Rapinoe a “lesbian hag.”

This became your proverbial hot potato for college trustees, who are not normally entwined in such controversies.

Close to 100 people attended the meeting on the college campus. Most who spoke supported the resolution, which passed with only two no votes.

Trustee Howard Burrell explained his vote by saying, “This is a good county; we’ve got good people.”

His point was clear – the only way to emphasize that point was to denounce hate. As a black man who grew up Mississippi, Burrell said he was well familiar with bigotry.

While he said Sussex County is nothing like that, the county has seen periodic racist episodes, including the defacing of property with swastikas. That made condemning Scanlan’s tweets an imperative.

Opponents of the resolution against Scanlan offered a variety of reasons why it should have been defeated.

Collectively, they said Scanlan apologized and that his retweets were not made in his capacity as a college trustee. Moreover, they urged the board not to “cave” to pressure.

The most bizarre argument was offered by a man who said he once lived in Sussex, but now pastors a church in Hoboken. In a peculiar presentation the man managed to say that those who don’t accept Jesus Christ are doomed to end up in a “lake of fire.” How that impacted the issue at hand was unclear.
More than one Scanlan defender mentioned free speech.

Fair point, but that really misses the point.

Scanlan had every right to tweet what he wanted.

But freedom of speech doesn’t exist in a vacuum. The trustees also had the right and the freedom to say that Scanlan’s tweets were incompatible with a college environment. And Tuesday night, they exercised that right.

So, what happens now?

It will be interesting to see what the all-Republican freeholders do.

It also will be interesting to see how county Dems use this issue in the fall election.

As for Scanlan, if he remains on the board, will he attend any upcoming meetings?

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