East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvania: Professor Suspended after Joking about Students on Facebook


East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvania

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Case Overview

FIRE Victory closed

On January 21, 2010, East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvania professor Gloria Gadsden posted a message on her personal Facebook page saying, “Does anyone know where I can find a very discrete [sic] hitman? Yes, it’s been that kind of day…” One month later, on February 22, Gadsden posted another message on Facebook that reportedly stated: “Had a good day today. Didn’t want to kill even one student 🙂 … Now Friday … that was a different story.” On February 24, Gadsden attended a meeting with College of Arts & Sciences Dean Peter Hawkes to discuss Gadsden’s “postings on Facebook.” Invoking an unrelated shooting at another college campus earlier in the month, Hawkes suggested that the comments were threatening. Ten minutes after the meeting, Hawkes placed Gadsden on paid administrative leave pending a mandatory psychological evaluation to determine her fitness for continued duty and if she needed treatment. FIRE wrote to ESU, explaining that the university’s retaliation against Gadsden for her speech violated the First Amendment. FIRE urged ESU to reverse Gadsden’s punishment and make clear that such innocent expression will not lead to mandatory psychological evaluations or other punitive actions in the future. ESU’s counsel sent a cursory response. Gadsden underwent the psychological evaluation, was found fit for duty, and reinstated effective March 31 without stipulation.