College prof suspended for posting pic of kid in 'Game of Thrones' shirt

A professor of art and animation posts a picture of his young daughter doing yoga in a T-shirt that reads: "I will take what is mine with fire and blood." This is taken as a security threat.

Chris Matyszczyk
3 min read

A threat? Or a promise? Francis Schmidt Google+

In the midst of all the philosophy, mathematics, law, and ethics, there's one class that educational establishments fail to include: common sense.

Perhaps they assume this is something learned naturally. Perhaps they should rethink.

I am moved to this didactic suggestion after hearing the story of Francis Schmidt. He's a professor of art and animation at Bergen Community College in New Jersey.

As Inside Higher Ed reports, Schmidt is a man unto himself. He likes to post cat pictures to social media. He's also partial to "Game Of Thrones." In this, he is not alone.

One day, he thought it would be fun to post a picture of his 7-year-old daughter Sophia doing yoga. She is wearing a "Game Of Thrones" T-shirt that reads: "I will take what is mine with fire and blood."

It's slightly surprising that anyone saw it. After all, he posted it to Google+.

Still, a dean at the college took one look at this young girl, with a cat lurking in the background, and decided it constituted a threatening message.

Schmidt was summoned to explain himself.

A so-called "security official" reportedly wondered whether, in using the word "fire," Schmidt was actually referring to "AK-47."

I feel sure that this a literary interpretation that George R. R. Martin might never have considered.

Schmidt told the Bergen Record: "I had no idea what to say to that. For God's sake, I'm a middle-aged art professor. I don't own any firearms."

Even Martin might find it an exalted form of cruelty that Schmidt was suspended and asked to take a psychiatric evaluation before any thought of reinstatement would be contemplated.

There might be more aspects to this tale. Schmidt was cross at not being granted a sabbatical and had filed a grievance.

College president Kaye Walter told Inside Higher Ed that there was nothing inappropriate about the sanction. There had been three school shootings in the US just in January.

A college spokesman further told the Bergen Record: "Since January 1, 2014, 34 incidents of school shootings have occurred in the United States. In following its safety and security procedures, the college investigates all situations where a member of its community -- students, faculty, staff, or local residents -- expresses a safety or security concern."

Walter finally reinstated Schmidt, though a condition of that reinstatement is that he isn't allowed to wear clothing with questionable or disparaging statements.

Who might be the judge of questionable and disparaging?

Would he be allowed to wear an FDNY hat? After all, this might suggest he supported the AK-47 Department of New York. Would his Bob Dylan "Blood On The Tracks" T-shirt have to be left at home?

And what if he became an NHL fan and purloined a shirt that said: "He shoots, he scores."

Bergen County is a relatively serene place. From my own experience, I can tell you it has an excellent Whole Foods and 24-Hour Fitness. It also enjoys some of the finest pedicurists in America, though the restaurants leave much to be desired. Tasty food, for example.

But it seems that there is more general turmoil in the Bergen Community College woods. Faculty members recently voted 2-to-1 to offer zero confidence in president Walter. This may have something to do with contract negotiations.

Still, when tales of this type emerge from the supposedly higher levels of education, one tends to shiver very slightly.

It may well be April, but I can't help think that in Bergen County winter is coming.