Michigan State removes prof who went on anti-Republican tirade, continues to pay him $146k salary

Josiah Ryan
Editor-in-Chief Emeritus
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  • The text of the letter.

Michigan State University (MSU) administrators have suspended Prof. William Penn from teaching for the remainder of the semester, after he was caught on video going on an anti-Republican tirade on the very first day of his literature class.

Although Penn will not teach again this year, the school will continue to pay his salary, which is $146,510 according to MSU's official website,  a spokesman for the university told Campus Reform on Thursday evening.  

In an email to students Thursday morning, Dean Karen Wurst of the College of Arts & Letters, cited his "inappropriate, disrespectful and offensive" comments. 

"On Aug. 29, during your Literatures, Cultures, Identities course, Professor William Penn made comments he has acknowledged were inappropriate, disrespectful and offensive and may have negatively affected the learning environment," she wrote. "Once MSU was made aware of the situation the Office of the Provost immediately began a review." 

"As a result, Penn's duties have been reassigned, and he will not be teaching this semester," she added. "A new instructor is being assigned to your course."

WATCH: MSU Prof. benched after going on an-anti Republican tirade in class

"As a result, Penn's duties have been reassigned, and he will not be teaching this semester," she wrote. "A new instructor is being assigned to your course."

Administrators took the action in the face of mounting pressure.

By Thursday morning the video had surpassed 70k views on YouTube and received coverage from major national news outlets. For example, the video was briefly played on the O'Reilly Factor on Wednesday evening. 

On Wednesday, a member of the MSU Board of Trustees, also told Campus Reform he found the lecture to be "disturbing" and "offensive" and suggested he planned to take it up in a meeting of the trustees scheduled for next month. On Thursday another trustee also condemned the professor's speech. 

The eight minute video, released by Campus Reform early this week, showed Penn expressing his political views in the literature class.  In the video he claimed Republicans were “cheap” and “raped” the country.

Campus Reform obtained the video from a student of Penn's who asked to remain anonymous because she/he feared retribution.  

The video also appeared to show Penn attacking a student who disagreed with him and alleging the GOP actively works to suppress the votes of African Americans.

In the letter to students, the dean went on to offer an apology for herself, and Penn, who is an award winning faculty member at the East Lansing-based public university. 

"I first want to personally apologize, as does Professor Penn, to any student who was offended or made to feel uncomfortable during the class," she wrote. "At MSU… it is our commitment to create a learning environment that is characterized by mutual respect and civility where diverse ideas can be explored."

School spokesperson Jason Cody explained in an email to Campus Reform late Thursday afternoon that the professor's employment status, and salary will remain untouched. 

"He has not been suspended," wrote Jason. "His employment status has not changed; his teaching duties have been reassigned."

MSU Dean Wurst sent this announcement to students Thursday morning: 

Editor's note: This story was updated at 6 p.m. EDT to reflect the fact that Penn will keep his salary. 

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @JosiahRyan and @CalebBonham 

 





Josiah Ryan

Josiah Ryan

Editor-in-Chief Emeritus
Josiah Ryan is a former editor-in-chief for Campus Reform, and former director of communications for LI's Campus Leadership Program. Previously Josiah reported on the U.S. Senate for The Hill newspaper in Washington D.C. and was the cofounder of The Floor Action blog, a live-stream on policy, politics, and procedure in the upper chamber.
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