Advocates for suspended St. Joseph’s University Assistant Professor Greg Manco argue that the university is ignoring its own harassment policy, which appears to give wide latitude for the freedom of speech to university employees.
Manco is the author of an anonymous Twitter account called @SouthJerzGiants. Earlier this year, some Twitter users highlighted tweets of his that touched on racial issues like reparations to the university.
Initially, Manco was suspended for the duration of a harassment investigation launched by the university. But as Broad + Liberty previously reported, the suspension was later lengthened to include the entire semester.
University policy defines harassment as “Verbal, written, visual, or physical conduct directed toward an individual due to that individual’s Protected Category status that has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with the individual’s work or academic performance, or otherwise creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working or learning environment.”
A footnote to that definition also provides limitations.
“This Policy shall not be construed or applied to restrict academic freedom at the University, nor shall it be construed to restrict constitutionally protected expression, even though such expression may be offensive, unpleasant, or even hateful,” the footnote explains.
Supporters of Manco say the policy undermines the university’s rationale for an investigation.
“This is yet another promise broken by St. Joseph’s University,” said Adam Steinbaugh, an attorney with the Philadelphia-based Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.
“SJU promises that its harassment policy won’t ‘be construed or applied’ to limit academic freedom or otherwise ‘restrict constitutionally protected expression’ even if others find it ‘offensive’ or ‘even hateful’” Steinbaugh continued. “Gregory Manco’s tweets fall squarely within this commitment, yet the university has suspended him and pulled him from classes for over a month. What’s the point of having a policy you ignore?”
FIRE is acting as an “outside advocate” to Manco, lobbying the university on his behalf.
When contacted by Broad + Liberty for comment, the university would only point to a statement it had previously issued.
“Saint Joseph’s University received reports of alleged bias, harassment and/or discrimination and is following its policies and procedures for responding to such complaints,” that statement said. “Consistent with its Jesuit, Catholic mission and identity, the University strives to be an inclusive and diverse community of individuals, beliefs, and perspectives. The process for reviewing and investigating complaints does not imply or presume any particular outcome or conclusion.”
After the issue initially flared, Manco refused to delete his Twitter profile or the tweets flagged by others. Instead he published a lengthy thread in his own defense.
That thread included screenshots of some of the Twitter accounts that had flagged Manco’s content to the university.
The student newspaper, The Hawk, later reported that the people behind those accounts were subject to online harassment and death threats, although the paper did not source that claim. Some of the Twitter profiles other than Manco’s involved in the incident are difficult to trace, either because screenshots do not contain the precise account name, or because some accounts have either been disabled or turned private.
Since the investigation into Manco began in mid-February, neither the university nor Manco have given any idea of when the investigation might conclude.
In addition to teaching math, Manco is a volunteer coach with the St. Joe’s baseball team and has been with the university for 17 years.
Todd Shepherd is Broad + Liberty’s chief investigative reporter. Send him tips at tshepherd at broadandliberty.com, or use his encrypted email at shepherdreports at protonmail.com