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University suspends professor for tweets criticizing slavery reparations, racial bias training

‘I will not back down. We can’t live scared anymore for being who we are,’ professor says

Gregory Manco, a math professor at St. Joseph’s University, has been suspended by administrators for tweets in which he argued against slavery reparations and racial bias training.

A written notice from the school’s human resources department to Manco called the tweets “biased or discriminatory,” and he has since been placed on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of an investigation.

At issue are three tweets from his anonymous account, “South Jersey Giants.”

In one, Manco compared slavery reparations to the great-great-grandchild of a murder victim asking the perpetrator’s great-great-grandchild for compensation.

“Now get this racist reparation bullshit out of your head for good,” he added in his tweet.

In the second, he argued racial bias training “divides us and *worsens* race relations.”

In the third, he responded, “Yet here you still are” to a woman who said that black people and Native Americans “have been hurt horribly” in America.

For that, campus leaders have removed Manco from the classroom.

“We thank our students for bringing to our attention a possible violation of our values. The University launched an investigation into a report of bias. The faculty member will not be in the classroom or in a coaching role while the investigation is conducted,” Director of Public Relations and Media Gail Benner wrote in an email to The College Fix.

When The Fix asked Benner what, specifically, was objectionable about Manco’s tweets, she wrote back that “the statement is our full comment on the issue.”

Manco told The College Fix in a Tuesday morning email that “my students were told this morning that I would not be back for the rest of the semester.”

The school’s faculty handbook maintains that extramural comments by professors should be “free from institutional censorship.”

The notice Manco received made him unconfident that the investigation would be conducted fairly.

“It suggests that one must either approve of certain leftist policies or be biased,” he said.

“I have no idea how it will turn out,” he added in an email interview with The Fix. “A fair investigation clears me and I rejoin my students. I can only hope it will be fair. I love my university.”

Manco provided The Fix with copies of emails and notices he has received from the school.

“The University received several complaints regarding online postings that were allegedly made by you and are of a biased or discriminatory nature,” wrote Chief Human Resource Officer Zenobia Hargust.

Hargust also told Manco that “Based on the evolving nature of multiple student complaints, we are concerned about the impact on students in the classroom.”

On February 19, a Twitter user going by the name of “karl marx” had posted screenshots of Manco’s three tweets and asked the university’s twitter account: “this your mans?”

“Accountability is much different than cancel culture. I don’t believe in canceling people. But I do believe in adults who hold a position in the education system acknowledging that their public opinions are harmful to certain communities,” the marx account tweeted.

“Thank you for bringing this to our attention,” the university’s account responded. “We are looking into this immediately.”

Manco defended himself publicly in a Twitter thread.

“I also have a well-documented employment record, in [the] form of stellar performance reviews & student evals that show nothing but respect for all students and care for their well-being,” Manco wrote.

Manco told The Fix: “Right now it is an example of ATTEMPTED cancel culture. Whether the cancel occurs or not remains to be seen.”

“One thing is sure. I will not back down. The support I have gotten on Twitter is amazing. We can’t live scared anymore for being who we are.”

Kyle Ratliff, a friend of Manco’s, wrote an open letter to the university in support of the professor on his blog.

And one prominent academic also has written in support of Manco, Cornell Law Professor William Jacobson, who first reported on the story on his website Legal Insurrection. 

Jacobson told The Fix that many universities adhere to the standards of the American Association of University Professors regarding academic freedom. Those standards maintain that when professors “speak or write as citizens, they should be free from institutional censorship or discipline.”

The excerpt from the faculty handbook which Manco shared quotes that AAUP protection verbatim, most likely meaning the university does follow those guidelines.

In 2017, a communications professor at the same university — St. Joseph’s — came under fire for his comments in the aftermath of the 2016 election.

Professor David Parry spoke at a public forum called “Making Sense of the Presidential Election.” He said that “people are going to die” because of its results and derided “the white voters who make over $50,000 a year.” He encouraged attendees, especially women and people of color, not to “open your hearts” to Trump voters.

The incident prompted Fox News host Jesse Watters to show up on campus and ask students their opinions on the matter.

In a stark contrast to the treatment it is now giving Manco, the university affirmed Parry’s right to express his ideas, as The Hawk, the St. Joseph student newspaper, reported at the time.

“Saint Joseph’s University has always supported and continues to support an environment that encourages the free and candid exchange of ideas while assuring that the exchange is always conducted in a respectful manner,” university Provost Jeanne Brady had said.

MORE: College set to fire professor who tweeted ‘Black privilege is real’

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About the Author
Charles Hilu -- University of Michigan