Penn State Won’t Fire Professor Involved in Vaccine Tussle

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Pennsylvania State University will not fire a professor who scuffled with a student counterprotester at a COVID-19 vaccine rally on campus last year, the Centre Daily Times reported. Oliver Baker, an assistant professor of English and African American studies, was originally charged with simple assault, disorderly conduct and harassment following the August incident. The first two charges were dropped due to lack of evidence, and Baker was acquitted of harassment. But Baker and his supporters said that even though he was legally vindicated, Penn State was seeking to terminate him for misconduct if he didn’t resign. Penn State said little publicly about the case throughout the academic year, beyond confirming that Baker was on administrative leave.

According to an internal memo obtained by the Centre Daily Times, President Neeli Bendapudi said that while Baker’s actions at the rally were “clearly misconduct,” there “is not clear and compelling evidence that this behavior rises to the level of grave misconduct required to terminate employment and revoke tenure. The consequences are a confidential personnel matter.” Baker declined comment through his lawyer.

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