The University of Central Florida has placed an accounting instructor on paid administrative leave while the university and its police department investigate a reference he made to "a killing spree" in talking with students.
Hyung-il Jung, a lecturer in the university's Rosen College of Hospitality Management, has expressed regret about the remark and characterized it as a joke.
Nevertheless, the incident is not being taken lightly by the university, which had a major scare last month when a former student killed himself before carrying out a planned attack there with guns and explosives.
The university's administration has barred Mr. Jung from coming to the campus or having any contact with students, and it has asked another faculty member to administer Mr. Jung's final examinations, according to Chad Binette, a university spokesman.
"The student who reported the comment to us interpreted it as a threat to her class, and we will always take any reported threat very seriously," the university said a statement issued on Thursday by Mr. Binette. "This is not an acceptable topic to joke about, particularly in light of recent events around the country and on our campus."
Mr. Jung made the remark in question on Tuesday, during a review session with about 25 students in his class on accounting in the hospitality industry. He told The Orlando Sentinel that he had intended his statement "purely as a joke," in reaction to students who appeared to be struggling with the material.
The Sentinel reported that Mr. Jung had told the newspaper, "What I said was: 'This question is very difficult. It looks like you guys are being slowly suffocated by these questions. Am I on a killing spree or what?'" The newspaper quoted him as saying, "I thought all of the students laughed together with me."
In an interview on Thursday with The Chronicle, he expressed confidence that he would be exonerated. "I am fairly certain that the people who will handle this will be reasonable and intelligent enough," he said.
Mr. Jung is the latest of several college instructors to face severe consequences for remarks perceived as threatening, as institutions crack down on such speech in response to actual campus violence.
Among the other colleges that have recently disciplined faculty members accused of threatening comments are the University of Oregon, the University of Wisconsin at Whitewater, and Widener University.