"Michigan State University is committed to creating a learning environment that is characterized by mutual respect and civility where diverse ideas can be explored,” MSU spokesman Kent Casella said in a statement. “On Sept. 3, university leaders were made aware of several statements made by Professor William Penn in a classroom. Once MSU was made aware of the situation, the Office of the Provost immediately began a review.
“The dean of the College of Arts and Letters and a representative from the provost’s office met with Penn, who acknowledged that some of his comments were inappropriate, disrespectful and offensive and may have negatively affected the learning environment. Penn’s teaching duties have been reassigned to others. Students’ education will continue as scheduled with alternate instructors.”
Penn was unable to be immediately reached for comment.
The move drew immediate praise from MSU Board of Trustees member Mitch Lyons, a Republican.
"This was the appropriate immediate response needed," he said. "We need to ensure that our classrooms have a free exchange of ideas and opinions. This immediate action allows the students to have that freedom while Professor Penn's status is further evaluated."
On Wednesday, Lyons tweeted a link to the video and said, "Check out this rant by a MSU professor. Do u think this has a place in our public university? #Ithinknot."
Campus Reform, a conservative group that monitors what it sees as liberal bias at universities, released the video Tuesday that it says shows Penn on the first day of a creative writing class last Thursday attacking Republicans for having “raped” the country.
“If you go to the Republican convention in Florida, you see all of the old Republicans with the dead skin cells washing off them,” the professor is heard saying in the video. “They are cheap. They don’t want to pay taxes because they have already raped this country and gotten everything out of it they possibly could.”
The anonymous student who made the recording appears to be sitting in the class at Michigan State.
“This country still is full of closet racists,” Penn tells his class during the video. “What do you think is going on in South Carolina and North Carolina? Voter suppression. It’s about getting black people not to vote. Why? Because black people tend to vote Democratic.”
Penn is a noted American Indian writer and scholar who authored several books that often deal with issues of identity and stereotypes. He has won several grants and awards over the years, including an American Book Award in 2001 and Native American Writer of the Year in nonfiction from the Wordcraft Circle of Native Writers and Storytellers in 1997.
— By David Jesse, Detroit Free Press (MCT)