National Publications Report on East Georgia College’s Violations of a Professor’s Rights

By on November 4, 2009

InsideHigherEd.com and The Chronicle of Higher Education have reported on FIRE’s case at East Georgia College, where the president dismissed Professor Thomas Thibeault for “sexual harassment” despite not giving the professor the due process of a hearing, evidence, witnesses, or even an accuser. Under pressure from FIRE, President John Black withdrew the charges a couple of months later, but insisted on issuing Thibeault a reprimand (without any notice or hearing) despite presenting neither a shred of evidence nor a single witness. Black has gotten it all wrong from beginning to end.

David Moltz for InsideHigherEd.com relates the most recent part of the story this way:

Black’s reinstatement of Thibeault two weeks ago is the first development in the case since August. Still, in the same letter in which he reinstated Thibeault, Black also openly and severely reprimanded him “for the use of offensive language and angry outbursts in your past interactions with your colleagues.”

Though no specific examples of such behavior were given, the letter warned Thibeault that he “may face further disciplinary action including termination” if Black receives “any complaints” about Thibeault’s behavior from colleagues.

“You must show better judgment and discretion in the future when engaging in discussions in the public work setting,” Black wrote. “The use of offensive language in public work spaces, including the public areas of your office suite, is not appropriate and will not be tolerated in the future. Furthermore, you must refrain from angry outbursts when interacting with your colleagues. You must conduct yourself in a professional and respectful manner toward all of your colleagues in the future.”

Thibeault said Black’s letter came out of the blue, noting that the charges against him were never enumerated and he was never given a hearing before the administration …

Moltz also relates how the violations of Thibeault’s expressive and due process rights keep piling up:

After being reinstated and reprimanded, Thibeault was asked to sign a summary of a meeting he had with Tim Goodman, vice president for academic affairs at East Georgia, as a condition of his return to the college. Among other statements, the summary implies, as the president’s reprimand does, that Thibeault has engaged in improper behavior which he needs to acknowledge.
“Dr. Goodman pointed out to Mr. Thibeault that some of what he has said in the past has bothered some people,” Goodman writes. “Mr. Thibeault is intimidating to some and some are fearful that he will lose his temper and do something rash. The College has assured them that this will not happen.”

Thibeault has yet to sign the summary of the meeting — noting that he was presented with the document at his meeting with Goodman, not after it – but he did say he will sign a separate document addressing his disagreements with the seven statements made in the summary and give it to the college this week.

Thibeault told Moltz (as well as FIRE) that these charges are “equally as untrue as the sexual harassment charge.” As we said yesterday, this case is far from over.

Thanks also to the National Association of Scholars for blogging about this outrageous case.

Schools: East Georgia College Cases: East Georgia College: Professor Fired Without a Hearing over Mysterious ‘Sexual Harassment’ Charge