Fourth Estate/Andani Munkaila

Professor presents threatening voicemail at Board of Visitors meeting.


During a Board of Visitors meeting on April 2, Associate Professor Bethany Letiecq addressed the floor during the public comment session. During her comment, Letiecq then played a voicemail featuring a threat she received on her work phone. This follows Letiecq’s publishing of a recent article in the Journal of Marriage and Family, which resulted in numerous threats and coverage from conservative outlets. Letiecq brought up the topic to the floor, claiming that it relates to the Board of Visitor’s conversations surrounding Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.

The threatening voicemail, which can be viewed, contained threats and sexist remarks towards Letiecq. According to Letiecq, the person who made the threat was found and given a no trespass order, however it is unknown whether any charges were filed. Letiecq reported the incident to Mason PD early on due to a series of hateful messages and voicemails she had been receiving.

The threats followed Letiecq’s publication of an article titled “Theorizing White heteropatriarchal supremacy, marriage fundamentalism, and the mechanisms that maintain family inequality” on Feb. 24. After a month of the article’s release, Letiecq’s work was critiqued on multiple conservative platforms such as Fox News, Washington Examiner, the Laura Ingraham show and The College Fix.

Letiecq claimed that The College Fix misrepresented her scholarship, while Fox News claimed Letiecq said marriage was a racist institution. “[That] is not at all what the article is about,” Letiecq said. “I was getting inundated with hate mail, emails, voicemails and… comments about about myself and my research.”

Letiecq said that the experience has impacted her personal life and shared gratitude towards the resources that she was provided.

“I also want to take this time to pivot and recognize that there are a lot of resources available to faculty who experience these kinds of harassing events. First and foremost, there’s a group called Faculty First Responders. They’re an amazing group that monitors social media. If they see faculty are being targeted, they actually reach out and let you know that this is happening to you and provide all kinds of resources that you can use to help navigate the situation…”

Letiecq thanked members of the Mason community for her support. “The administration and the police were excellent to work with. They were very supportive and and really walked beside me to make sure that I was okay through this time.”

Letiecq said she shared the voicemail to the Board of Visitors on Tuesday because it relates to the conversations the Board of Visitors have had surrounding DEI. “Many on the BOV have talked about their concerns about DEI. That’s the rationale for their interference into the Just Societies core curriculum, in my opinion.”

“I wanted to expand out a bit and talk about how this is playing at a broader level. Across the United States… this DEI propaganda campaign is targeting a higher education it’s weakening the academic freedom rights of faculty.”

“It’s that important that universities and faculty can teach and conduct research without fear or favor.”

Letiecq also shared appreciation to a letter from Interim Executive Vice President and Provost Kenneth Walsh, who said “Some faculty, including here at George Mason, are enduring virulent public recriminations – even threats – over the contents of their scholarly research.”

The full letter from Walsh, which was provided by Letiecq, and comment from Letiecq to the BOV meeting can be read below.



Dear Board of Visitors,

My name is Bethany Letiecq. I am a faculty member in the College of Education and Human Development here at Mason. Thank you for this opportunity to comment on the Just Societies core curriculum. In short, Mason’s faculty should determine our curriculum—not political appointees.

But I also want to point out that this scrutiny of the Just Societies core appears to be part of a larger, manufactured DEI crisis that is being used to attack higher education, weaken the academic freedom rights of faculty, and threaten our very democracy. Frontline targets of this “war on woke” are Black scholars and leaders and other critical scholars like me. Recently, this all got very personal when my colleague and co-author, Dr. Christina Cross (a Black sociologist at Harvard) and I (a White scholar of family life) were subjected to these attacks.

In my case, unreliable sources like the College Fix, amplified by social media, falsely claimed that I espouse in my writings that marriage is a racist institution. For the record: I am not against marriage, don’t think it’s racist. But these absurd, intentional distortions of my scholarship have led to a hateful campaign of targeted harassment.

For example, I have been labeled “satanic,” “idiotic,” and “dangerous.” One emailer stated, “the world would be a better place without you” in it. Another wrote, “I hope some Black men break into your house and r*pe you. You c***.” I have also received horrific voicemails, forcing me to shut down my office phone and seek police protection.

A voicemail I will play now is particularly hard to hear for its threatening and hateful words. Fair warning. [Play voicemail here.] The transcript reads: “Bethany Letiecq. God damn, you’re a stupid c***. We need to drag b****** like you. B****** like you, you need to be drug, you f****** racist c***. God, you’re an ugly c***. I wish. I hope you live in fear. I hope you live in fear. Knowing… knowing how many people want you dead.”

Also troubling is a retweet from Jay Greene of the Heritage Foundation’s Center for Education Policy who has been an outspoken critic of DEI at Mason (Visitor Burke is his boss, I believe). Greene’s retweet linked an unfounded allegation of plagiarism against my co-author, Dr. Cross, with distorted claims about my scholarship, and called on Governor Youngkin to “clean out GMU.”

I am deeply troubled by the apparent alignment of some members of this board with agendas that perpetuate racism and sexism and foment targeted harassment of scholars under the guise of opposing DEI. I implore the BOV to cease interference with our curriculum, take a stand in defense of academic freedom, and unequivocally and publicly denounce these toxic, political campaigns targeting scholars and the academy writ large. The rights of faculty to teach and pursue knowledge without fear or favor are central to our democracy and must be protected.

Before I conclude, I want to thank the Mason police department, my local police department, and the administration for their unwavering support and their efforts to ensure my safety and the safety of my family during this challenging time.

Thank you.

Bethany Letiecq, PhD

Associate Professor, CEHD, George Mason University

President, National Council on Family Relations

President, Virginia Conference of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP)

Vice-President, GMU-AAUP



Dear Mason Faculty:

The beating heart of any enlightened democracy is the free exchange of ideas. And the lifeblood of any great research university is knowledge incubation through unfettered scholarly inquiry. That process that can be imprecise, messy, and unpredictable – and exhilarating and rewarding beyond measure.

But unfettered inquiry has always come with an inevitable byproduct: opposition. While new ideas inform progress and inspire dreamers, they also offend, threaten, and outrage critics. They always have, and they always will. As faculty, we expect our ideas to be contested, even vociferously, from time to time.

Unfortunately, universities are currently experiencing opposition of a different kind – attempts to prevent the mere expression of certain ideas. Some faculty, including here at George Mason, are enduring virulent public recriminations – even threats – over the contents of their scholarly research. While this is not new for academia, it bears repeating that it is also repugnant to the very idea of a free and enlightened society.

George Mason University’s motto has always spoken volumes in three powerful words: Freedom and learning. First, last, and always, this is what we stand for. It is also what accounts for our broad diversity of faculty viewpoint. This university’s commitment to maintaining such an environment for our faculty is total and non-negotiable. After all, the future depends on it.


Kenneth D. Walsh

Interim Executive Vice President and Provost