Rowan College at Gloucester County: Professor Fired After Student Complaints Over Classroom Language and Course Content


Rowan College at Gloucester County

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Case Overview


Sociology professor Dawn Tawwater assumed a new position as a tenure-track professor at Rowan College at Gloucester County in September 2014, teaching five course sections. Within weeks of beginning her teaching, however, Tawwater was the subject of four student complaints regarding, among other matters, her occasional use of profanity in the classroom and her screening of a racy feminist parody of the music video for the Robin Thicke song “Blurred Lines.” At an October 6 hearing Rowan attempted to force Tawwater to sign a “Last Chance Agreement” requiring that she “refrain from using indecent language in the classroom” and apologize to any offended students. Rowan terminated Tawwater after she refused to sign the agreement. FIRE criticized Rowan’s actions against Tawwater in a letter sent October 29, 2014, and called for her immediate reinstatement. In January 2015 Tawwater, represented by FIRE Legal Network attorneys Donald F. Burke and Donald F. Burke, Jr., filed suit against Rowan, alleging violations of Tawwater’s First Amendment and due process rights. Tawwater’s case is ongoing.