Wed Feb 20, 2013, 06:02 PM
alp227 (28,579 posts)
Teacher faces dismissal for urging Obama vote
A Florida college algebra teacher faces termination for urging students -- and in some cases forcing them -- to sign pledge cards promising to vote for President Obama last November.
Officials at Brevard Community College recommended the dismissal of Sharon Sweet after a three-month investigation prompted by complaints.
"Sweet's actions caused students to feel considerable discomfort, to believe their privacy was being invaded, to fear their grade could be negatively impacted if they refused to sign the pledge cards, and to feel intimidated," said a statement from the college.
The investigation found that Sweet, a registered Democrat, distributed partisan campaign materials and promoted presidential politics.
According to Inside Higher Ed, "...while surveys regularly find that faculty members are, on average, to the left of the general public, specific findings that professors have crossed a line between expressing political views and pressuring students to share them are rare." IHE also quotes students who wrote in a survey cited in the investigation, like:
"Professor Sweet strongly encouraged or mandated that students from several classes sign a card that stated, 'I pledge to vote for President Obama and Democrats up and down the ticket."
The "in-class voicing of her political views and actions regarding the distribution of political pledge cards created a hostile academic environment that violated college policy which governs workplace behavior."
The Young Turks also covered this story when it first came out in the fall:
I'm providing these sources if you've seen this story from The Blaze, Daily Caller, etc. sites on your conservative friends' facebook pages.
My take: Taking the investigation at face value, this teacher deserves to be fired, regardless if she allegedly pushed students to vote for Obama or Romney.
10 replies, 1158 views
Teacher faces dismissal for urging Obama vote (Original post)
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Response to alp227 (Original post)
Wed Feb 20, 2013, 06:12 PM
PennsylvaniaMatt (940 posts)
1. I agree with you...
When you are in a position like that, it is one thing to give YOUR opinion or tell others who YOU are going to vote for, but you shouldn't force students to sign pledges to vote for someone.
Response to alp227 (Original post)
Wed Feb 20, 2013, 06:15 PM
el_bryanto (9,579 posts)
2. I went there for a year
Really enjoyed my theatre class. On the face of it this seems pretty awful, but I would like to see her side of the story as well.
Response to alp227 (Original post)
Sat Feb 23, 2013, 05:39 AM
dballance (5,603 posts)
6. I Find These Reports Suspicious - They're Unsourced.
Last edited Sat Feb 23, 2013, 04:29 PM - Edit history (1)
I find it curious the news outlets don't name any of the "officials" at BCC as their primary sources nor are there any attributions to a real live individual for the information/quotes presented as fact. These stories are completely unsourced material. The news outlets don't even provide information or a link to BCC's VP of Communications so people could actually try to get a quote from a live person at BCC. The USA Today story is pretty much a summary and then partial cut-and-paste of the Florida Today story - nothing new or original there. I doubt the USA Today reporter bothered to even attempt an e-mail or phone call to BCC given how the story appears to be just a re-hash and extraction from Florida Today's story http://www.floridatoday.com/article/20130216/NEWS01/302160016/Fire-professor-BCC-officials-urge . That story, in turn, seems to be just a re-write of the 13 News story (linked below in the next paragraph).
The Orlando TV station, 13 News, that appears to have originated this story in Sept. 2012 doesn't seem to be an affiliate of any major cable or broadcast network. In its most recent story (link to follow) it prints this on its website: "The college’s president recommended Associate Professor Sharon Sweet be fired due to findings released Friday that she violated school policy by asking students to sign voter pledge cards in support of Obama." It seems a little unusual to me that statement didn't read something more like: "The college’s president, INSERT PRESIDENT'S NAME HERE, recommended..." That would be fairly typical of most news stories where the audience might not know who the college president is. 13 News serves at least 9 central Florida counties so it would be reasonable to assume not everyone knows who BCC's president is. Could they be trying to avoid possible future legal action by not naming names? It makes one wonder.
link to story: http://www.cfnews13.com/content/news/cfnews13/news/article.html/content/news/articles/cfn/2013/2/15/bcc_president_says_o.html
Interestingly enough I finally found a link to a PDF of the BCC statement here: http://www.cfnews13.com/content/dam/news/static/cfnews13/documents/2013/02/BCCSweet-Investigation-Results-0215.pdf But not on the BCC site anywhere. That's right, the only source I can find for BCC's alleged statement released on Feb. 15, 2013 is 13 News. That would be the same 13 News that appears to have been the organization that broke the story. It seems a bit odd to me that the PDF document has the BCC logo at the top but no address, phone or other contact information in it as you would expect in any document released by professionals to the press. I'd expect there to be, at a minimum, the contact information for the BCC VP of Communications in the document just as it is on their press releases pages on their site.
Some other things to consider about this story
1) None of the news outlets USA Today, Florida Today nor 13 News have any quotes from the professor's students. They relate that the initial source of the complaint was a parent. Obviously a person not in class with the professor and who must have heard something second-hand. We aren't even provided information about whether said parent was even a parent of one of the professor's students.
2) There is no presentation of the professor's side at all in any of the stories. This is very curious. In a 3-month investigation the college officials surely had to interview the professor and students and record their statements. They must have recorded the professor's side of the story. All this information would be available to the press under Florida's sunshine/open records laws. So why do we not see any of it in the news stories? Given the explicit quotes attributed to BCC officials that were already printed BCC can't possibly hide behind the usual "we don't discuss personnel matters" excuse to withhold information.
3) Take a look at press releases on the BCC site at: http://www.brevardcc.edu/news-events/news-releases/2013/ There is no press release for this investigation there. Odd for a story that has gained national attention.
4) No news organization appears to have contacted John J. Glisch, Associate Vice President, Communications at BCC for a statement. His phone and e-mail are easily found on the BCC site.