St. Joseph’s University declined to renew the contract of Greg Manco, a full-time visiting math professor with the university for 17 years, who was suspended by the university administration earlier this year due to a controversy over Tweets.
A small number of students and former students reported Manco’s anonymous Twitter account to the university, claiming it to be racially hostile. The university essentially reinstated Manco in May after a months-long suspension and external investigation by the university concluded that,”a definitive determination could not be made due to insufficient evidence,” a university official said at the time.
Ever since the controversy broke in mid-February, Manco has asserted he did nothing wrong, saying that his tweets, were made from an anonymous account, had nothing to do with the university, and were not racially disparaging.
Manco will appeal the university’s decision to drop his contract, but he’s not hopeful that will change anything.
“There’s an appeal process for contract non-renewals when there have been violations of university policy or violations of academic freedom that influenced the decision,” Manco told Broad + Liberty. “Well, the past spring for me was nothing but such violations. The bigger issue, not for the appeal, is the damage this has done to my professional reputation and my ability to work anywhere in academia.”
Manco had anonymously created and maintained the Twitter account @SouthJerzGiants.
“Suppose your great-great-grandfather murdered someone,” he tweeted 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 bigger issue, not for the appeal, is the damage this has done to my professional reputation and my ability to work anywhere in academia.’
Using both Twitter and Instagram, a small number of people flagged that tweet to St. Joes, naming Manco as the account owner of @SouthJerzGiants. The university subsequently removed him from the classroom on Feb. 19.
A Change.org petition was also started, urging the university to fire him without due process.
“This man should not be given an investigation, he should be fired for his remarks and actions,” the Change.org petition reads.
Manco says the university violated its own policies during the investigation, due to fear of appearing politically incorrect.
“So, for the moment, there’s a winning strategy for anyone who wants to take down a professor with non-conforming views,” Manco said. “That can’t stand. At some point a bright light needs to be shined on this whole sordid ordeal — how and why it originated, and by whom — so that this doesn’t happen to any of my colleagues or anyone else. People must be held accountable.”
“I’ll be able to show that this was an orchestrated campaign,” he continued. “I was doxed and libeled across three different social media platforms, two of which I don’t even utilize. And it was led not by current students but by two alums — one of whom with a clear ulterior motive — who literally pleaded with others to report me to the university.”
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When contacted for comment, the university gave no specifics about Manco’s situation, or the circumstances that necessitated his non-renewal.
“The University evaluates academic staffing needs each year and awards or renews contracts to visiting professors on an as-needed basis,” said Gail Benner, the university’s director of public relations and media. “A non-renewal does not affect an individual’s eligibility for future employment opportunities with the University.”
In a previous statement to Broad + Liberty, the university acknowledged that former students were among the group who complained but did not say how many. Broad + Liberty is also unable to verify Manco’s claims that one of the former students may have had an ulterior motive in complaining to the university.
The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, an early supporter of Manco, said even if he was let go for budgetary reasons, damage has been done.
“We are glad that Saint Josephs’ investigation came to the right outcome — that Gregory Manco’s tweets are protected expression and do not violate university policy,” said Sabrina Conza, a program analyst with FIRE. “But it never should have started. Investigations followed by a nonrenewal will undoubtedly have a lasting chilling effect, as others may rationally question whether the nonrenewal is a pretext to punish him for his speech — even if the nonrenewal would have happened without the tweets. This is why institutions should not investigate protected speech in the first place.”
Investigations followed by a non-renewal will undoubtedly have a lasting chilling effect … this is why institutions should not investigate protected speech in the first place.”
Another supporter of Manco is the American Association of University Professors, which pressed the university in March about how they were handling the investigation, especially the decision to remove him from class while the investigation was ongoing.
“The AAUP has long considered the suspension of a faculty member from his or her primary responsibilities as a severe sanction, regardless of its purported basis,” a letter from the AAUP to St. Joseph’s administrators in March, read.
“It seems clear that Professor Manco has thus not been afforded the safeguards of academic due process called for under these generally accepted standards,” the letter later concluded.
Manco said he will meet with his attorney to evaluate if appealing the termination of his contract is worthwhile If so, he’ll file it in the early part of August.
Todd Shepherd is Broad + Liberty’s chief investigative reporter. Send him tips at firstname.lastname@example.org, or use his encrypted email at email@example.com.