Should College Professor Who Joked About Colorado Theater Shooting be Fired? [POLL]
Gregory F. Sullivan, a professor at the United States Merchant Marine Academy on Long Island could be fired for doing a bad “Sheky Green” imitation where he made a joking reference about the Colorado theater shooting before showing a documentary to a class, one of whom had a father who was among the victims.
First thing I thought, exceptionally poor taste and he should have known that one of his students was directly affected by the shooting.
It’s one of those moments where your mouth runs ahead of your brain.
And yes, you can be taken to task for it…but should you be fired?
Personally, I don’t think so.
After turning down the lights in his classroom at the United States Merchant Marine Academy, Prof. Gregory F. Sullivan began showing a documentary and prepared to step out for a moment.
But first, according to an internal personnel document, he paused to make a parting joke: “If someone with orange hair appears in the corner of the room,” he is said to have remarked to his students, “run for the exit.”
In this classroom, 11 days after the shootings, it was dreadful. One student’s father had been killed in the shootings. Hearing his teacher’s joke, the student left the room, obviously upset, according to the internal document.
The institution’s academic dean has recommended that Professor Sullivan, who, according to the internal document, said that he had been unaware of the student’s loss, be fired for the remark.
In a “notice of proposed removal” issued last week, the dean wrote that the joke constituted “notoriously disgraceful conduct” under the academy’s rules forbidding “misconduct generally criminal, infamous, dishonest or notoriously disgraceful.”
The notice said that Professor Sullivan, a tenured humanities instructor who has been at the academy, in Kings Point, N.Y., since 2006 and had a positive reputation among students, had offered a “quick and remorseful admission” to administrators and a “personal apology immediately following the incident” to the bereaved student and to the class as a whole.
But the notice said that Professor Sullivan “reasonably should have been aware” of the student’s loss, because the academy had sent out an academy wide e-mail about it on July 25, because that student had been absent from Professor Sullivan’s course for several days and because the professor had given two other students permission to miss class so that they could attend a funeral.
“I find there is no lesser sanction to effectively address this misconduct” than dismissal, the dean, Shashi Kumar, wrote.
The notice, dated Aug. 10, informed Professor Sullivan that he had 10 days to contest his dismissal. He has been suspended with pay in the meantime.
B. Robert Kreiser, a senior program officer in the department of academic freedom, tenure and governance at the American Association of University Professors, said “Given that it was a single remark — an indefensible remark, but nonetheless a single remark, for which he has apologized — it’s hard to imagine why the administration decided he should be suspended” in the interim, he said.
While I can’t climb into the head of Professor Sullivan to know what his intent was; I could only imagine his was a bad attempt at humor and nothing malicious.
Again, you’d have to put yourself in the mind of the professor.
Sheky Green he ain’t.
And as far as being disciplined, I’d go with the apology and leave it at that.