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Babson College falsely claims faculty member fired over Iran Facebook post was not a faculty member

Babson College Asheen Phansey

Olin Hall at Babson College.

Yesterday, a number of civil liberties organizations, joined by a diverse range of artists and academics, called on Babson College to rescind its termination of Asheen Phansey, an adjunct faculty member fired over a Facebook post lampooning President Trump’s threat to bomb Iranian cultural sites. 

The American Association of University Professors also wrote separately to Babson, warning that the “issues posed by this case are of a gravity sufficient” for the AAUP to potentially open an investigation into the college’s response, raising the possibility that Babson will continue to face the fallout from this decision for months or years to come.

Meanwhile, Babson’s administration isn’t doing itself any favors.

Babson has, until now, steadfastly stood by its public statement — which appears to have been misleading in its claim that the college was “cooperating” with law enforcement. But yesterday, responding to The New York Times, the college departed from that statement to make a new claim:

A representative for Babson College declined to comment, except to say that Mr. Phansey was not a professor at the institution, but a staff member.

That, too, turns out to be misleading at best. 

As Phansey notes to The New York Times, he taught at Babson from 2009 to 2012. More importantly, if Babson had not terminated him, Phansey would have been teaching a class on Sustainable Marketing during the spring semester, which began on Tuesday. In fact, he would have been teaching yesterday, the same day Babson was telling The New York Times he was not a faculty member. 

Here’s the now-deleted entry from Babson’s course catalogue:

Click to enlarge in new tab.

Babson itself described Phansey as a faculty member — until it began scrubbing its website to delete mentions of his name. Unfortunately for Babson, Google’s cache kept copies of the pages it was deleting.

For example, here’s an April 19 profile on Babson’s site, now memory-holed

Adjunct professor and corporate sustainability professional Asheen Phansey MBA’08 plans to bridge numerous Babson College initiatives into a systematic strategy and vision in his new role as Babson’s director of sustainability. . . . He also created and has taught two courses in entrepreneurship (Sustainable Entrepreneurship) and marketing (Intro to Green Marketing).

Even in describing his role as a staff member, Babson’s staff profile of Phansey (also now deleted) made sure to reference that he “frequently lectures at Babson and other universities.”

To recap, Babson College has, so far, issued misleading public statements implying that there was an active law enforcement investigation and falsely claimed a faculty member was not a faculty member — all while refusing to stick by its public commitment to freedom of expression.

What are students at Babson — primarily a business school — to learn from watching this hands-on example? Is the credibility and integrity of an institution important? And what lessons should students at Babson take in crisis management as they watch their institution’s leadership respond to a minor social media controversy by stumbling into the pages of The New York Times?

If Babson is so opposed to jokes, perhaps it should stop acting like one.

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