'Popehat' Slams East Georgia College for Mistreatment of Professor
October 9, 2009
Popehat.com has a blog post up today discussing FIRE's ongoing case at East Georgia College. As Torch readers will remember, Professor Thibeault was fired two days after criticizing the school's sexual harassment policy during a workshop and has still--after two months--received no notification of the allegations against him. Succinctly summarizing the case, Popehat blogger Patrick writes:
Like Patrick, we are waiting for East Georgia College to provide any sort of explanation for its actions. East Georgia College does have an awful lot of explaining to do.
Professor Thomas Thibeault is a prophet. On August 5, 2009, Thibeault attended a training workshop on the school’s sexual harassment policy, given by the school’s vice president for legal affairs. In the course of the workshop, Thibeault asked an uncomfortable question about whether the policy distinguished between subjective harassment (in which some nervous nelly takes offense at innocent or reasonable behavior), and objective harassment (the sort of behavior, like for instance yelling about imaginary pubic hairs on cans of Coke, which any reasonable outsider would consider inappropriate). He was told it did not. Then Thibeault asked whether the policy included provisions to protect against obviously false or malicious accusations. He was told it did not. All accusations of harassment, no matter how facially implausible, would be treated alike. Thibeault replied that “the policy is invalid.”
Two days later, Thibeault’s prophecy came to pass. He alleges he was called into the office of East Georgia College President John Bryant Black, told he was a divisive force in the college, and ordered to resign at the end of the meeting. If he resigned, he’d be given a good recommendation for his next job. If Thibeault chose not to resign, he would be fired and his “long history of sexual harassment” would be made public. Thibeault chose not to resign, was fired and escorted by police from the campus, and told he’d be arrested for trespassing if he ever returned.
According to Thibeault, it was news that he had a “long history of sexual harassment,” but that’s what they all say. What inclines one to give Thibeault the benefit of the doubt is the timing of the action (what a coincidence that Thibeault was fired two days after asking probing and pertinent questions at a sexual harassment workshop!), and the college’s own suspicious actions afterward.
For instance, despite three months of requests, by Thibeault, Thibeault’s lawyer, and the FIRE, the college has yet to identify an accuser. East Georgia College is a state school, so Thibeault has a due proces right to this information, unlike what he’d have in a private school star chamber. The school has yet to inform Thibeault of what he supposedly did, with or without a witness.