EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP/WOOD) - An award-winning novelist at Michigan State University has been yanked from the classroom after telling his students that Republicans have "raped this country."
Michigan State says William Penn acknowledged that some comments were "inappropriate, disrespectful and offensive." In a statement Thursday, the school says Penn's writing classes have been assigned to other instructors.
Penn's remarks last week were captured on video by a student and posted online by Campus Reform, a Virginia-based conservative group.
Penn told students that Republicans are cheap. He says they don't want to pay taxes "because they have already raped this country and gotten everything out of it they possibly could."
"When you get older, you get cheaper," the professor can be heard saying on video of the incident posted online by a Virginia-based conservative group. "That's what old people do. If you go to the Republican convention in Florida, you will see all those old people with all the dead skin cells wafting off them. They're cheap. They don't want to pay taxes because they have already raped this country and gotten everything out of it they possibly could. They don't want to pay for your tuition because who are you? Well, to me, you are somebody."
MSU President Lou Anna Simon said the class explored a wide range of topics, including politics, but that even the professor admits his comments crossed the line.
But it was more than the comments that got him taken out of the classroom.
"I think you all will focus on content, but the interaction between a faculty member and the students in a class is a very special piece of teaching and learning. And we looked at those kinds of issues, not simply whether a piece of something he said might have been offensive," Simon said. "The judgment was that it affected significantly the learning environment."
The Associated Press left a message seeking comment from Penn.
"I love this university and I always have liked my students," Penn told 24 Hour News 8's Detroit affiliate WDIV, despite their political views.
Kent Cassella, an MSU spokesman, posted the following statement on MSU's media and communications website regarding Penn on Sept. 5:
"Michigan State University is committed to creating a learning environment that is characterized by mutual respect and civility where diverse ideas can be explored.
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.”
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