BCC Teacher Takes Leave After Alleged Inappropriate Political Activism

By  //  September 18, 2012

Politics & Education

BREVARD COUNTY, FLORIDA — A circumstance involving alleged political coercion and intimidation of students at Brevard Community College came to light late last week through email communication between concerned parents and college officials.

When a student, who is a registered Republican, reported to his parents that Sharon Sweet, an assistant professor in the department of mathematics for the past five years at the community college, requested that all of her algebra students sign the pledge below and include their party affiliation, a firestorm ensued, with this story ultimately going “viral” nationally.

This book mark/pledge was printed off of GottaVote.org, a site targeted at young voters, paid for by the Obama-Biden campaign to urge Floridians to register and vote, and in this case given to the class by Associate Professor Sharon Sweet immediately after they’d taken a test.

The book mark/pledge was printed off of GottaVote.org, a site targeted at young voters, paid for by the Obama-Biden campaign to urge Floridians to register and vote, and in this case given to the class immediately after they’d taken a test.   The student who reported the incident said that Sweet has frequently voiced her support for Obama in class, and when asked why he didn’t just give the pledge back to her – he plans to vote for Romney in November – he said he hadn’t done well on the test and was afraid not to take the pledge.

University administrators said they learned about the incident late Thursday afternoon and launched an investigation after they received multiple calls and email communications from angry parents and other concerned Brevard County citizens, who are troubled over a political activist faculty member of Brevard Community College inappropriately and possibly illegally pushing a political agenda on her students.

John J. Glisch, Associate Vice President of Communications at Brevard Community College issued the following statement regarding their investigation:

John Glisch, Associate Vice President of Communications at Brevard Community College.

“Brevard Community College has received complaints alleging politically-based inappropriate behavior on the part of Associate Professor Sharon Sweet, an instructor of mathematics. The allegations center on her soliciting support in her classes for President Obama in the upcoming election. College officials learned of the allegations Thursday afternoon, Sept. 13, following a call from a concerned parent and immediately began an investigation.

The college has specific policies that address the political activities of faculty and staff, which state that no college employee shall solicit support for a political candidate during regular college work hours or on college property.

Based on the allegations, Associate Professor Sweet has requested, and been granted, a leave of absence without pay effective immediately.

The college will continue its investigation into the matter, which will include interviews with all students in her classes.

Additionally, the college is taking steps to reiterate its policy on political activity to all faculty and staff.”

Brevard Community College’s policy on harrasment states:

Harassment is any repeated or unwelcome verbal or physical abuse which intimidates or causes the recipient discomfort or humiliation or which interferes with the recipient’s educational or job performance. Any form of harassment related to an employee’s, applicant’s, student’s, or student applicant’s race, ethnicity, color, genetics, religion, national origin, age, gender, gender preference, physical or mental disability, marital status, veteran status, ancestry or political affiliation is a violation of this policy. 

More than 100 students that Sweet taught will be interviewed as part of the ongoing Brevard Community College investigation into the allegations.