It was a social media post that Asheen Phansey, an adjunct professor and administrator at Babson College, already regrets.
In a highly volatile week of increasing tension between the U.S. and Iran, Phansey went to his Facebook account and jokingly suggested that Iran’s supreme leader “should tweet a list of 52 sites of cultural American heritage that he would bomb. Um … Mall of America? … Kardashian residence?”
The remark, tossed off in the aftermath of Trump’s threat to bomb cultural sites in Iran, got the professor fired from his job teaching courses about marketing and sustainable entrepreneurship and leading the school’s sustainability initiatives.
BABSON CONDEMNS ‘ANY TYPE OF THREATENING WORDS’
“Babson College conducted a prompt and thorough investigation related to a post shared on a staff member’s personal Facebook page that does not represent the values and culture of the College. Based on the results of the investigation, the staff member is no longer a Babson College employee,” the college said in a statement released Thursday. “As we have previously stated, Babson College condemns any type of threatening words and/or actions condoning violence and/or hate.”
Even a public apology from Phansey, who received his MBA from Babson in 2008, could not change things.
Phansey has since described his post as “a bad attempt at humor.” He told the Boston Herald that he was only poking fun at the nation’s relative lack of ancient culture. He believes “people willfully misinterpreted a joke I made to my friends on Facebook.”
SECOND B-SCHOOL PROF TO GET INTO HOT WATER OVER SOCIAL MEDIA COMMENTS IN AS MANY MONTHS
He’s the second business school professor in as many months to get into trouble for comments made on social media. In November, a professor at Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business was publicly criticized by both IU’s provost and Kelley’s dean for his comments on Twitter. Eric Rasmusen, 60, a tenured professor of business economics and public policy at the Kelley School, ignited a firestorm of criticism from students, school officials, and others when he tweeted an article titled “Are Women Destroying Academia? Probably.” Rasmusen highlighted a line from the article positing that “geniuses are overwhelmingly male because they combine outlier high IQ with moderately low Agreeableness and moderately low Conscientiousness.”
The tweet was only the latest in a long line of statements by Rasmusen that go beyond controversial and enter the realm of repugnant, according to a statement issued to the Kelley School of Business community on Nov. 20 by Lauren Robel, IU executive vice president and provost, and a statement from Kelley Dean Idie Kesner.
Unlike Phansey, however, Rasmussen was able to keep his job because he is a tenured professor at a public university.
First Amendment case law prevents officials at public universities from restricting what their employees can say, or punishing them for expressing their views. As a private school, however, Babson has much greater leeway to discipline its employees.
‘I AM SORRY THAT MY SLOPPY HUMOR WAS READ AS A THREAT’
IU’s Robel says the univeristy could not fire Rasmusen for the statements he makes as a private citizen, “as vile and stupid as they are…The First Amendment is strong medicine, and works both ways. All of us are free to condemn views that we find reprehensible, and to do so as vehemently and publicly as Professor Rasmusen expresses his views. We are free to avoid his classes, and demand that the university ensure that he does not, or has not, acted on those views in ways that violate either the federal and state civil rights laws or IU’s nondiscrimination policies. I condemn, in the strongest terms, Professor Rasmusen’s views on race, gender, and sexuality, and I think others should condemn them. But my strong disagreement with his views—indeed, the fact that I find them loathsome—is not a reason for Indiana University to violate the Constitution of the United States.”
IU, however, took steps to ensure that students “not add the baggage of bigotry to their learning experience” — among them that no student will be forced to take one of Rasmusen’s classes, with the Kelley School offering alternatives, and students who do take his classes will have their assignments graded in a double-blind procedure to ensure fairness. “If there are components of grading that cannot be subject to a double-blind procedure, the Kelley School will have another faculty member ensure that the grades are not subject to Professor Rasmusen’s prejudices,” Robel writes.
Meantime, Phansey has turned to a public relations firm to help him deal with the public uproar over his Facebook post. “I am completely opposed to violence and would never advocate it by anyone,” he wrote in a statement published through the PR outfit. “I am sorry that my sloppy humor was read as a threat. I condemn all acts of violence. I am particularly sorry to cause any harm or alarm for my colleagues at Babson, my beloved alma mater. “Beyond my own situation, I am really concerned about what this portends for our ability as Americans to engage in political discourse without presuming the worst about each other.”