Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Unchecked Power Tipped Campus

During a POL 102, "State and Local Politics" class session, understandable, when a student asked the professor, Michael Glass of Mercer Community College, to raise an example of "double dip" government employees, Professor Glass gave him several names, one of which happened to be the County Sheriff Kevin Larkin, who collected roughly $130K salary as the sheriff, on top of the $85K pension based on his retirement from the very job. The discussion in the context of an in class exercise to make a state proposal to handle the $2 billion budget deficit happened around 7:30 pm on February 1, 2010. To set the record straight, the Sheriff's "double dip" salary had been a heat topic recently on the local newspaper.

Another student sitting in the classroom, Brooke Seidl, a County Clerk dutifully notified the Sheriff by text message.

The Sheriff promptly summoned the Professor through campus security at 8:18 according to security logs, which the Professor ignored as he thought it must be a prank.

Thirty minutes before the class would be adjoined at 9:50 pm, the Sheriff, uniformed and accompanied by armed aide, showed up at the door of the MS-205 where the class was being held, and ordered the Professor out.

Three minutes later, the two entered the room again, when the Professor apologized for "making disparaging comments" about the Sheriff, while the Sheriff standing "less than six inches" from him, according the students in the classroom. Sheriff Larkin stormed out of the room after leaving a threat, "This isn't over". The deputy added, "You're a terrible teacher, you should get your facts from a book."

In the following day, both the President of the College, Dr. Patricia Donohue, and the HR Director, Jose Fernandez were called. The President promised the Sheriff a thorough investigation into Professor Glass, and Fernandez ordered immediately to launch the investigation on Professor Glass.

Professor recalled he was feeling intimidated, and "did what he did (making the apology)" in class.

Students in that class, though, showed strong reaction against the Sheriff's behavior. According to the student newspaper:

"I was shocked more than anything. I was laughing because I was so surprised," said Buckley, adding "that's exactly what you don't want from a publically-elected official."

Walker said, "[Larkin and his aide] were very classless, and they called [Glass] by his first name no less."

Sudent Vanessa Holguin, 25, said she felt that the event "jeopardizes the extent of [her] education," adding that she felt Glass would "walk on egg shells," following the incident.

Grindlinger echoed Holguin's statement, saying "I feel like [Glass] will be more careful with the things he tries to teach about state and local government so it would not come back to him in such a rash way."

Grindlinger also said, "Does [Larkin] not have anything better to do with his time as an elected official?...It's an overall waste of time, I think, for someone in that stature to really complain.."

To set the record straight, Mercer is a county in the State of New Jersey.

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