A three-month investigation by St. Joseph’s university into an assistant professor’s tweets that a group of anonymous people alleged were racist has cleared the way for him to return to the classroom next fall, but the university stopped short of saying the professor was cleared.
Greg Manco, an assistant professor at St. Joe’s for the last 17 years, was thrown into a roiling free speech controversy when an unknown group of people flagged some of Manco’s tweets to the university.
“On Feb. 19th, it was brought to my attention anonymously from someone who apparently was a former student of mine, that there were some people circulating screenshots of tweets of mine that they claimed were racist. And these were tweets in which I was commenting on public policy, namely my opposition to race-based reparations,” Manco told Broad + Liberty.
“Another person, he turned out to be a former student of the university, took up the cause, and literally campaigned to get me fired by circulating the tweets along with a direct link to the university’s bias reporting form. Neither of these individuals who were after my job were current students at the university.”
After the bias report was filed, Manco was immediately removed from the classroom as well as his volunteer coaching duties with the school baseball team. Days later he learned that he was suspended with pay for the duration of the semester regardless of how quickly the investigation might conclude or what its findings might be.
“Paid leave is better than unpaid leave,” Manco said. “That’s all I’ll say about paid leave. It’s better than not being paid, but to be honest with you in the grand scheme, it’s a small consolation because being pulled from the classroom in the middle of the semester, with all that it falsely implies, for an investigation that never should have occurred — this has done permanent damage to my reputation. A few months salary doesn’t fix that.”
The tweet that appears to have been most objectionable from the protesters point of view dealt with reparations.
“Suppose your great-great-grandfather murdered someone,” he tweeted from his anonymous account, @SouthJerzGiants, on Feb. 17. “The victim’s great-great-grandson knocks on your door, shows you the newspaper clipping from 1905, and demands compensation from you. Your response?”
“Now get this racist reparation bulls*** out of your head for good,” he concluded. The tweet linked to an Associated Press story reporting that the Biden administration was “giving its support to studying reparations for Black Americans for slavery and discrimination.”
A petition to have Manco fired on Change.org argued that the issue was not even debatable.
“Making transphobic and racist comments is not an excusable act in 2021. It is not a difference of opinions, it is disrespectful, unkind, and unacceptable,” the petition read. “This man has no place on a campus that is supposed to be driven by Jesuit Ideals of education and social justice. Blatant and public (sic) disrespect for people experiencing poverty, racism, sexism, and so much more is unacceptable.”
Being pulled from the classroom in the middle of the semester, with all that it falsely implies, for an investigation that never should have occurred — this has done permanent damage to my reputation.
– Greg Manco
As of the time of writing this story, the petition had 98 signers.
Because many of the social media accounts that flagged Manco’s tweets have been locked or shut down, Broad + Liberty has not been able to contact any person who brought the matter to the university’s attention.
“I love St Joe’s, it’s a special place. My colleagues and our students are great. But there were some significant procedural errors here that really need to be addressed,” Manco said. “None of this should ever have happened.”
In particular, he points to university manuals that say interim measures, such as a suspension, may only be imposed if the “safety and security” of students is threatened, which he disputes was the case.
When interim measures are imposed, a “University official shall offer to meet with the parties” within three business days, and again, Manco says he was denied that process.
“The purpose of the meeting is not to determine responsibility of the parties, but to determine whether interim measures should be imposed based on the nature of the allegations and other pertinent information,” the guide says.
The university would not definitively say Manco was cleared, adding that they received “more than a dozen” complaints of bias or discriminatory conduct.
“The potential outcomes of an investigation include a finding of more likely than not that a violation of policy occurred, a finding of more likely than not that a violation of policy did not occur, or no determination could be made. In this case, a definitive determination could not be made due to insufficient evidence,” said Gail Benner, a communications officer with the university.
“As an institution of higher education, Saint Joseph’s will continue to prioritize fostering a safe learning environment and the exchange of ideas is integral to this effort,” Benner continued.
“We support the rights of our campus community to express their opinions in a respectful and responsible manner that furthers our commitment to a diverse and inclusive community, strengthened intellectually and socially by the range of knowledge, opinions, beliefs, perspectives, identities, and backgrounds of its members. Furthermore, we encourage our community to report concerns of bias, discrimination and harassment so that the University can address the issues promptly and according to existing policies.”
Although he felt isolated by being out of the classroom, Manco said he received support from numerous entities and individuals. He specifically praised his attorney, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, as well as the American Association of University Professors, each of which lobbied St. Joe’s with letters.
“I’ve also had three colleagues provide support — one in my department and two who I didn’t even know from other departments I had never met and don’t even entirely agree with my views — but they knew that something wasn’t right about this, and they had my back. They helped me get through this otherwise extremely difficult time.”
Relieved the matter is behind him, Manco still worries that his future has been clipped.
“I kept my politics out of the classroom. I had a quasi-anonymous Twitter account where only a few people even knew that it was me — my name wasn’t in the handle or bio. But then one day I got doxxed across three different social media platforms. I was outed as someone with what would be considered unpopular or controversial policy opinions in left-leaning academia, not to mention someone who was suddenly removed from teaching and coaching mid-semester, as if I was a threat to my students’ safety. How likely is it that another university would want to consider me for a job?”
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.