News Story

Anti-GOP MSU Professor Will Be Back in the Classroom Next Semester

Despite threatening students, Professor Penn kept collecting his $146,510 a year salary

The Michigan State University professor whose anti-Republican classroom rant was captured on tape in September and forced his suspension — with pay — will be back teaching next semester, an MSU official said.

MSU's spring semester begins Jan. 6.

Professor William Penn, who earned $146,510 to teach creative writing classes, said 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." During the class in which Penn was videotaped by a student, he threatened any student who he said might be a closet racist. Penn told the class, "I am a college professor. If I found out you are a closet racist, I am coming after you."

MSU issued a statement Sept. 5, a day after media reported on the anti-GOP rant, saying that Penn's teaching duties were reassigned to others and that Penn acknowledged that some of his comments were inappropriate, disrespectful and offensive.

Penn hasn't returned requests for comment.

MSU Spokesman Kent Cassella said in an email this week that, "Professor William Penn will be assigned to teach two small courses next semester in creative writing. In the meantime, as part of MSU's commitment to create a learning environment characterized by mutual respect and civility, a faculty committee created by Academic Governance continues to review the responsibilities of faculty members and the impact of social media on teaching and learning. Their report is due in early 2014."

A state GOP spokesman said a one-semester, paid suspension wasn't enough and Penn should have been dismissed.

"As we have said from the beginning, Michigan State University’s decision to put Mr. Penn on suspension — with pay, for only one semester — does not go far enough," said Michigan GOP Spokesman Darren Littell. "His choice to bring his personal views about politics into the classroom to bully young Republicans into silence certainly warrants his release from the university. Without any consequences, there's no stopping him from doing this to our children again."

Penn's $146,510 a year salary puts him ahead of some of the state's top officials for pay. Penn earns more per year than does Lt. Gov. Brian Calley, Attorney General Bill Schuette, and Secretary of State Ruth Johnson. 

(Editor's note: This story has been slightly edited since its original posting.)


See also:

MSU English Professor Threatens Students In Anti-Republican Rant

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.