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Professor resigns after his ‘move to Canada’ joke gets reported to bias response team

Not the first professor harassed by crusading students

When University of Rochester students held a “Not My America” protest on Veterans Day, it really ticked off Prof. Ted Pawlicki.

The computer science professor did what lots of people do when they’re ticked off, leaving a snarky comment on the Facebook page for the protest.

That lone comment in an 18-year career got him reported to the university’s Bias-Related Incident Executive Team, by an ex-student government leader known for his hair-trigger sensitivity.

Pawlicki evidently felt that his departmental leadership position was not secure anymore, and “following consultation” with his dean and department chair, he preemptively resigned as undergraduate program director Friday, though he’ll continue to teach.

All, he says, because his sense of humor is dated.

‘His Facebook posts about Trump have been really concerning’

Here’s what set off the snowflakes of Rochester:

A bus ticket from Rochester to Canada is $16. If this is not your America, then I will pay for your ticket if you promise never to come back.

Pawlicki told WHEC the joke flew over their heads:

The “move to Canada” joke has been around since the Reagan administration; celebrities always threaten to move to Canada if their candidate doesn’t win. It was in the context of what I consider legitimate political humor.

Though Pawlicki deleted his post after seeing it quickly blow up, some enterprising students archived the entire thread, apparently thinking it made him look worse than them.

He sent an email to computer science students to apologize for his “ill-considered” remarks, according to the student newspaper Campus Times.

Unfortunately for Pawlicki, student Caleb Krieg had immediately reported him for bias.

ted-pawlicki-rochester-facebook-screenshot

The University of Rochester has a terrifyingly large group of people who respond to bias reports, judging by its explanation of the system.

And this doesn’t sound like Krieg’s first bias report. He has a flair for the dramatic and petulant, having resigned his student government position last spring – while running for president – because a senator didn’t like his running mate’s comments at a candidate debate.

It’s really that stupid. Per the Times:

“I refuse to be a part of a system that lacks professionalism,” Krieg wrote in a statement to SA peers. “I refuse to partake in a system that makes jokes about issues currently at the table. […] I refuse to be a part of a system that is willing to attack my running for saying the honest truth.” …

“The reason why I resigned,” Krieg said in an interview that night, “[is that] if I do not feel safe in that system […] I will not participate in that system.”

Visibly upset during the interview, Krieg said that he has felt ostracized within SA for several weeks, and that the argument Wednesday “was just my breaking point, just knowing that we have senators who are willing to throw shots at our campaign.”

Yeah, he didn’t get elected.

According to the Times, students were already eyeing Pawlicki suspiciously:

“To be honest, his Facebook posts about Trump have been really concerning for a long time, but the moment he posted outside of his personal Facebook, he crossed a line,” [computer science major Charlie] Norvell said. “Especially when the CS department is trying hard to be more diverse and inclusive, it’s really disheartening to see one of the intro CS professors publicly and proudly display such exclusionary opinions.”

“His recent Facebook post was unprofessional and upset many students, but what it also did was prompt students to share similar instances in which Pawlicki has shown bias against women,” [Students’ Association Vice President Lance] Floto said. “Female students have told me they do not feel comfortable in his class or visiting his office hours.”

So he’s not just a misunderstood comedian (not the first), but he’s also sexist and harassing? Pawlicki could have been facing much worse charges from students who make such sweeping accusations, with little thought to their consequences.

The university claims Pawlicki stepped down from his post

based on his own determination of whether he could continue to be effective in that role after his public comments, which he acknowledged were ill-considered and for which he apologized.

Of course he determined that he was finished. He talked to his dean and computer science chair, and they certainly didn’t offer him any support, perhaps because they expect more bias reports to be filed against him for the crime of making some women and crusading drama queens like Caleb Krieg feel uncomfortable.

His chair threw him under the bus with an email to computer science students Friday that tacitly blamed Pawlicki for having the nerve to tell students to show some damn respect for people who fought for their freedom:

“We have worked hard to create a department that is welcoming and that fosters a respectful culture, which the recent social media exchanges have threatened to undermine. I hope all of us can come together to ensure that this is a department we all wish to be a part of.”

If you’re reading this, professor, and think your partial resignation won’t be the end of it, consider getting in touch with the good folks at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.

The University of Rochester earns a yellow-light rating from FIRE, and it has a history of letting crusading students harass faculty who say controversial things.

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IMAGE: Andresr/Shutterstock

About the Author
Associate Editor
Greg spent several years as a technology policy reporter and editor for Warren Communications News in Washington, D.C., and guest host on C-SPAN’s “The Communicators.” He co-founded the alternative newspaper PUNCH and served as a reporter, editor and columnist for The Falcon at Seattle Pacific University.

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