Sacked professor reinstated – then reprimanded

November 8, 2009

A professor who pointed out that his college’s sexual harassment policy contained no protection for someone who was falsely accused – and was later fired for sexual harassment himself – has been reinstated but then reprimanded for unspecified "offensive" speech.

As University World News reported here in September, Professor Thomas Thibeault was teaching at East Georgia College and noted the omission in the policy during a sexual harassment training seminar.

A report prepared by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education said that two days later, in a Kafkaesque irony, Thibeault himself was fired by college President John B Black for sexual harassment without notice and was escorted from campus by police – without knowing his accuser or the charges against him, and without a hearing.

Thibeault turned to FIRE for help and last week the foundation reported the college had withdrawn the unfounded charge of ‘sexual harassment’ against him. Thibeault was then notified on 20 October that he had been reinstated due to lack of evidence.

But a foundation press release last week said Black had then violated Thibeault’s free speech and due process rights again by issuing him a "reprimand" for unspecified "offensive" speech – again without presenting any notice, hearing, evidence or witnesses.

"This case is far from over," FIRE President Greg Lukianoff said. "President Black has added to his blatant abuses of power by reprimanding Professor Thibeault for his speech, but never bothering to mention precisely what his offence was. Black has already retaliated against Thibeault by informing him that his contract would not be renewed after the spring semester. The bullying tactics at this college are breathtaking."

Adam Kissel, Director of FIRE’s Individual Rights Defense Program, said the college and Black had failed to meet their constitutional and moral obligation to respect freedom of speech, academic freedom and due process.

"Black has punished protected speech without any due process whatsoever, and he has threatened further disciplinary action if someone else merely sends in a complaint. Meanwhile, he has not lifted his retaliatory decision not to rehire Thibeault for the next academic year."

University World News sought a comment from President Black on the case but did not receive a response before publication.

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