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East Stroudsburg U. Suspends Professor for Facebook Posts

Gloria Y. Gadsden, an associate professor of sociology at East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvania, was escorted off the campus on Wednesday because of jokes she had made on her Facebook page about wanting to kill students.

On Monday the professor posted this update: “Had a good day today, didn’t want to kill even one student.:-) Now Friday was a different story …” In another comment, on January 21, she wrote: “Does anyone know where I can find a very discrete hitman, it’s been that kind of day.”

A student notified university administrators of the professor’s Facebook comments, and officials decided to place the professor on administrative leave while they investigated. “Given the climate of security concerns in academia, the university has an obligation to take all threats seriously and act accordingly,” said Marilyn Wells, interim provost and vice president for academic affairs, in a written statement.

However, Ms. Gadsden said she believes her suspension stems from a racial-harassment complaint she filed with the university last month and from an op-ed article she wrote for The Chronicle in 2008 about the challenges of being a black faculty member. Ms. Gadsden said the university and certain colleagues felt attacked by the op-ed, even though she used no names in the article and did not say which institutions she was writing about.

Ms. Gadsden said the Facebook comments were a way of venting to family members and friends, who she mistakenly believed were the only ones who could view the postings.

After her opinion piece was published in The Chronicle, she said she faced disapproval of it on the campus. She said her life was made difficult by administrators, and she encountered so much hostility from one colleague that she filed a racial-harassment complaint with the university last month.

Ms. Gadsden said she had no history of violence, and she thinks that if anyone else had written the same comments, the penalty would have been less severe.

“If it had been one of the more pleasing faculty members, I don’t think they would have been suspended,” Ms. Gadsden said. “I just find it strange that it happened to me around the same time that I filed this racial-harassment complaint.”

The provost at East Stroudsburg declined to comment but referred The Chronicle to the director of university relations, who was out of the office and did not respond to an e-mail message seeking comment.

Ms. Gadsden said she was now waiting for an investigation to determine her fate at the university.

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