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Drexel Lets Controversial Professor Teach Online

October 23, 2017

George Ciccariello-MaherDrexel University, which this month placed a controversial professor on leave and barred him from teaching his courses, now says he can teach them online. George Ciccariello-Maher (right), an associate professor of politics and global studies, has been the focus of attention throughout the year over a series of tweets he has posted. He was placed on leave after reaction to the latest one resulted, the university said, in threats against him. Faculty groups have criticized the decision to place him on leave, saying that the university is caving to pressure rather than protecting a professor. The university released a statement Friday that said, "In order to ensure academic continuity while preserving safety on campus, the terms of Professor George Ciccariello-Maher’s administrative leave have been modified to allow him to teach remotely for the duration of the term. He will resume teaching his two scheduled courses online."

Via email Ciccariello-Maher confirmed that he has resumed teaching his courses, but online. But he said that the university should permit him to return to campus. "My students didn't sign up and pay for online classes, and are continuing to demand my return to the classroom," he said.

In an unusual development in the case, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education on Friday released a report claiming that the tweet by Ciccariello-Maher that went viral on Christmas Eve didn't attract attention (and soon, a university investigation) because of natural outrage, but because a Twitter account linked to Russia spread the story.

Drexel declined to comment on the FIRE report. Ciccariello-Maher said, "If true, this confirms what we have been saying since the beginning: that the outrage directed at myself and others this year has been largely manufactured. University administrators who fall for the hype are bound to look foolish when they undermine academic freedom at the behest of Russian bots."

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Scott Jaschik

Scott Jaschik, Editor, is one of the three founders of Inside Higher Ed. With Doug Lederman, he leads the editorial operations of Inside Higher Ed, overseeing news content, opinion pieces, career advice, blogs and other features. Scott is a leading voice on higher education issues, quoted regularly in publications nationwide, and publishing articles on colleges in publications such as The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The Washington Post, Salon, and elsewhere. He has been a judge or screener for the National Magazine Awards, the Online Journalism Awards, the Folio Editorial Excellence Awards, and the Education Writers Association Awards. Scott served as a mentor in the community college fellowship program of the Hechinger Institute on Education and the Media, of Teachers College, Columbia University. He is a member of the board of the Education Writers Association. From 1999-2003, Scott was editor of The Chronicle of Higher Education. Scott grew up in Rochester, N.Y., and graduated from Cornell University in 1985. He lives in Washington.

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