News Story

MSU English Professor Threatens Students in Anti-Republican Rant

Video shows professor berating Republicans; calls them 'dying white people'

UPDATE: Prof. William Penn has been suspended, with pay, of his teaching duties at Michigan State University this semester, according to a statement from MSU. Penn "acknowledged that some of his comments were inappropriate, disrespectful and offensive and may have negatively affected the learning environment," according to the statement. This action comes less than a day after Campus Reform and Michigan Capitol Confidential reported on the video of Penn intimidating students and berating Republicans during a class lecture. Alternate instructors will take over the course he was scheduled to teach. Our original story first posted yesterday afternoon is below.

A Michigan State University Creative Writing professor was caught on video saying Republicans are old people with "dead skin cells washing off them" who raped the United States to get "everything out of it they possibly could."

He also threatened any student who he said might be "closet" racists. 

Professor William Penn made the comments in one of his classes, which was videotaped by a student and posted online by Campus Reform. In the video, Penn berates Republicans and says he doesn't care if students are Republicans or if their parents are Republicans and that it didn't really matter because they won't forgive him anyway.

At one point in the video when talking about race, he issues a blanket threat to his students.

"I am a college professor. If I find out you are a closet racist, I am coming after you," Penn said.

In the video, Penn said Republicans are a "bunch of dead white people, or dying white people." 

He later asked the class: "Anybody here want to be Mitt Romney? Him? I mean (lets out a sigh) married to her (Ann Romney)?"

Penn, who earned $146,510 in 2012-13 according to MSU records, also talked disparagingly about Mitt Romney being "rich."

A Michigan State official said the university is looking into the incident.

"MSU has been made aware of the situation, and we will be looking into it," MSU Spokesman Kent Cassella said in an email. "At MSU, it is important the classroom environment is conducive to a free exchange of ideas and is respectful of the opinions of others."

Penn didn't respond to a request for comment.

Randall Jensen, an MSU student and member of the MSU College Republicans, said he didn't approve of Penn's comments made in the classroom.

"What bothers me is that he is using his position of authority and respect in a classroom to persuade political opinions," Jensen said. "I don't think that is acceptable for somebody in his position."

Campus Reform, which posted the video, is part of the Leadership Institute, a conservative organization based in Arlington, Va.

(Editor's note: This story has been updated with new and additional information since its original posting.)


Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.