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MSU professor suspended for alleged comments

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Posted: Wednesday, February 16, 2011 5:00 pm

A Murray State University political science professor is reportedly on suspension after a black student’s claim that the professor allegedly made discriminating comments to her after a class last fall.

Arlene Johnson, a freshman from Sikeston, Mo., told the Ledger & Times in a telephone interview that one day in August, she came to class early to find that a film was already in progress. She said that after class, she and another student asked professor Mark Wattier why the film had started before the official start time of the class, and she said he told them that when screening films, he typically started them 10-15 minutes before class.

“We said, ‘Well, we didn’t know that. It wasn’t on the syllabus, so we were unaware,’” Johnson said. “And then he said, ‘Well, it’s OK, I expect it of you guys anyway.’ We asked him, ‘What did that mean?’ And he said the slaves never showed up on time, so their owners often lashed them for it. He just didn’t have the right.”

Johnson said that after Wattier made the comment, the other student stormed away using profanity, and she stayed and asked Wattier if that was what he thought of them.

Johnson said that she went to the Office of Equal Opportunity the same day to file a complaint. She said that the EOO later informed her of Wattier’s suspension.

Johnson said she had been told that a disciplinary hearing would take place in the future, but she did not, yet, know when that would be.

She said she had so far been satisfied with the university’s response.

Catherine Sivills, MSU’s assistant vice president for communications, e-mailed the following statement: “After the grievance process concluded, the final decision resulted in the suspension of Mark Wattier effective January 4 - May 15, 2011. He was suspended without pay and benefits. Mark Wattier has appealed the decision. The appeal is filed with the Office of Equal Opportunity. The appeal will be heard by a hearing body composed of three (3) members of the University community appointed by the President.”

Wattier could not be reached Wednesday morning and Sabrina Dial, director of the OEO, could also not be reached.

  • Discuss

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  • Alan Headbloom posted at 11:38 am on Fri, Mar 4, 2011.

    Alan Headbloom Posts: 0

    While it is not illegal to hold prejudiced feelings about other ethnic groups, it is certainly bad form to announce them in public. It's also counterproductive to the teaching process. And it makes the University look really bad. Hats off to the brave student who told her prof that his comments were inappropriate. Hats off to the university leadership for calling out such bigotry among their ranks. Looks like a campus-wide Institute for Healing Racism is in order.

  • Ellie2 posted at 4:29 pm on Sat, Feb 26, 2011.

    Ellie2 Posts: 4

    I can't imagine any Professor saying something like that to a student. In this day and age, it would mean immediate dismissal. What Professor in their right mind would want immediate dismissal? There have been instances where a student might make that kind of comment to get a Professor they didn't like into trouble.

  • averageone posted at 11:19 am on Fri, Feb 18, 2011.

    averageone Posts: 1

    I hope your comment was sarcastic SilentMajority. Do you truly believe what professor Wattier allegedly said was acceptable? What, specifically, in the Faculty Handbook are you referring to that would justify a lawsuit?

  • SilentMajority posted at 7:34 pm on Thu, Feb 17, 2011.

    SilentMajority Posts: 0

    Wow, the nerve of these kids today. They better get some backbone before they go out into the real world. I really believe MSU has violated someone's rights and it is not the student's rights. If I were the professor, I would sue the University for not following what the Faculty Handbook states.