Former St. Joseph’s University Professor Sues Over Termination After Twitter Controversy

We previously discussed the case of Greg Manco, a former St. Joseph’s University professor who was effectively terminated by the university after a controversy over his criticism of reparations demands. He has now filed a federal lawsuit alleging defamation, and other claims against the university and a variety of individuals, including five alumni and one current faculty member.

THE CONTROVERSY

The controversy began over three tweets from Manco’s anonymous Twitter account, “South Jersey Giants.” Manco compared slavery reparations to the great-great-grandchild of a murder victim asking the perpetrator’s great-great-grandchild for compensation.  He also observed that racial training “divides us and *worsens* race relations.” Finally, when a woman said that black people and Native Americans “have been hurt horribly” in the United States, Manco responded “yet here you still are.”

Manco received a written notice from the school’s human resources department that he was responsible for tweets “biased or discriminatory,” and he has since been placed on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of an investigation.

It is easy to see why many would be offended by how he expressed his views, including the statement “Now get this racist reparation bulls**t out of your head for good.” However, other academics espousing anti-police or anti-Republican views have used similar language without triggering a campaign for termination.

After he was cleared in the investigation, the university refused to renew his contract. At the time, I wrote how the message seemed abundantly clear: even if a professor survives an attack on free speech or academic freedom, they may still be terminated.

THE LAWSUIT

The 67-page suit alleges a coordinated and determined effort to build a case against him due to his unpopular viewpoints. The defendants include St. Joseph’s University, Hadassah Colbert, Kieran Loue, Lynly Carman, Erin Fahey, Dr. Susan Liebell, and Karleigh Lopez.

The complaint focuses on the role of Colbert, a former student:

40. Colbert was a student of Dr. Manco, in the Spring of 2017, receiving a final grade of F.

41. Colbert never complained about any type of bias or discrimination by Dr. Manco while a student of his, or at any time during her enrollment at St. Joseph’s. Additionally, no students ever accused Dr. Manco of bias or discrimination in their end-of-semester student evaluations.

42. On January 22, 2021, Colbert submitted an email to Nicole Stokes, Ph.D., St. Joseph’s Associate Provost for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, Shaily Menon, Ph.D., the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, and Dr. Tapp, accusing Dr. Manco of being racist and transphobic.

43. Colbert included selected screenshots of tweets of Dr. Manco as supposed evidence to support her claims, adding that Dr. Manco discriminated against her in class and fostered a hostile learning environment four (4) years earlier, in Spring of 2017. Colbert stated that Dr. Manco should not be allowed to coach or teach students.

Manco alleges that Colbert met with Title IX Coordinator Lexi Morrison, who “broke with procedure and conspired with Colbert by advising her to find others to support her experience with Dr. Manco, and to get them to reach out to her.” He further alleges that “Colbert followed Ms. Morrison’s advice by using her Instagram account to spread ‘selected’ screenshots of selected tweets of Dr. Manco with her added defamatory comments, while encouraging others to report him to the University so that he would lose his job.”

That effort brought the involvement of students like Karleigh Lopez, who never took a class with Dr. Manco and a campaign to “flood” the school with complaints.

The lawsuit states that, on February 19, 2021, a few hours after Lopez’s public tweet to St. Joseph’s, and after the school received three anonymous bias reports, Dr. Kristopher Tapp, Ph.D., Professor and Chair of Mathematics, asked Dr. Manco to join a Zoom meeting. Dr. Tapp, Dr. Shaily Menon (the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences), and Zenobia Hargust (St. Joseph’s Chief Human Resources Officer) attended the meeting and Manco was informed that he was being placed on administrative leave immediately.

Ultimately, Dr. Manco was cleared of the allegations. St. Joseph’s outside investigator wrote a ten page summary, finding that Dr. Manco’s tweets were not in violation of St. Joseph’s policy and that “there [was] no evidence” of racial bias in his classroom towards Colbert nor towards any other students.

The complaint, however, states that “Inexplicably St. Joseph’s decided to tell the public a different story, releasing a statement that stated, ‘[i]n this case, a definitive determination could not be made due to insufficient evidence.'” The school then proceeded to limit Manco’s role at the university and eventually refused to renew his contract.

Here are the counts:

COUNT I Violation of Section 1981 (Against St. Joseph’s)

COUNT II Breach of Contract (Against St. Joseph’s)

COUNT III Negligence (Against St. Joseph’s)

COUNT IV Defamation (Against All Defendants)

COUNT V False Light (Against All Defendants)

COUNT VI Civil Conspiracy (Against All Defendants)

COUNT VII Tortious Interference with Contract (Against All Individual Defendants (except Dr. Liebell)

THE MERITS

This will be no easy challenge. The claim under Counts I, II, VI, and VII are particularly difficult to maintain. The University will argue that it has a process to follow when presented by such claims. He was cleared in that process but the university will still argue that it remained concerned over aspects of Dr. Manco’s conduct. Moreover, it will claim that this is not a tenured position and it has the right to make a decision on the contract renewal based on the totality of the circumstances facing the department. I am not giving credence to such arguments but courts are often reluctant to delve into decisions on hiring or retention of academics. The university will argue that such decisions can be based on a myriad of different considerations.

In a statement to The College Fix,  spokesperson Gail Benner stated that this was nothing more than a decision based on an evaluation of need. Moreover, she insisted “a non-renewal does not affect an individual’s eligibility for future employment opportunities with the University.” That latter statement seems overtly disingenuous. After suspending Manco for possible bias and discrimination, the university is now terminating him. He will be viewed as damaged goods or a prohibitively high risk by any other school.

The stronger claims may be Counts IV and V where he has alleged factually untrue statements or false depictions by these students and the university. Some of these statements may be treated as opinion but others make concrete factual claims about his past conduct. It may be enough to get through the expected motion to dismiss.

Discovery could lay bare the internal process of the university and whether these officials decided that it did not matter if Dr. Manco was cleared by the investigation.

Here is the complaint:

 

 

35 thoughts on “Former St. Joseph’s University Professor Sues Over Termination After Twitter Controversy”

  1. @Mespo,

    And that is possibly at the heart of the matter.
    I suspect that the 10 page report will be entered as evidence by the plaintiff.

    It will be an issue raised during depositions.

    The fact that the allegations of harassment of a student who was never a student in his class…

    Too many things taken as a whole condemn the University.

    I suspect that they will settle w him. He will still no longer teach at the University, but he may find a job somewhere else along w a hefty settlement and potentially a forced recommendation from the University.

      1. @Mespo…
        This started as a hack over 30 yrs ago.
        Instead of paying for an unlisted number… I just gave this as my name to be printed in the phone book and for directory service.
        When Caller ID hit… it was funny to friends.
        (im_gumby)

  2. Turley states many of the obvious.
    Wrongful termination lawsuits are difficult to prove.

    At issue here… why was his contract not renewed?
    Was this the first period of renewal?
    How was he rated as a teacher prior to this incident?

    The point is that while Turley is correct in raising the issue that its going to be a tough case for the plaintiff to win…
    there may be ample evidence that supports his position. Regardless of the defenses arguments.
    The key will be what happens during depositions and discovery.

    -Gumby

  3. William_JD says:

    “Trumpism is a synonym for democracy.”

    Many were those who thought at the time that McCarthyism was a good thing. Now, those who still think it is are few and far between. In the fullness of time, history will judge whether Trumpism was a good ideology. My hunch is that it will be thrown on the scrap heap of history just like McCarthyism. I would not bet against it!

    I don’t think Turley would take that bet given that he thinks Trump is a “carnival snake charmer.”

    1. I’m not talking about an ideology. I’m talking about an event.

      Trump’s election and Brexit were the biggest triumphs of democracy since Huey Long was shot.

  4. St. Joseph must be rolling in his grave. What I’d like to see is the primary accuser, Hadassah Colbert, personally held accountable and investigated thoroughly to find out what precipitated this initial accusation, years after the fact. And just how come is it that they were given a grade of ‘F’ in the first place.

  5. A peculiar form of censorship or an evasion of it:

    Steve Kirsch takes a close look at the JAMA article that concluded Ivermectin doesn’t work with Covid.

    0https://stevekirsch.substack.com/p/new-jama-paper-show-ivermectin-blows

    We have discussed the paper on another thread. Kirsch shows that the title and abstract are completely refuted by the actual data which, among other things, shows that Ivermectin is not only better than standard treatment but is superior to vaccination.

    It is likely the paper would not have been published if it had not denounced Ivermectin.

    It is also unlikely [impossible actually] that the authors didn’t know their data showed the exact opposite of the title and abstract.

    I wonder if it was presented this way to get it past the prevailing censorship?

    That is a stretch but I think there have been similar evasions on other papers. Maybe we can’t trust abstracts and titles on these issues. Look at the data.

    1. Nice quote from Kirsch’s comment:

      “Whoops! How embarrassing! The CDC gave you bad advice. If you want to survive COVID, you should use the drug they said to avoid, and avoid the drug they said to use.”

    2. We have discussed the paper on another thread. Kirsch shows that the title and abstract are completely refuted by the actual data which, among other things, shows that Ivermectin is not only better than standard treatment but is superior to vaccination.

      It is likely the paper would not have been published if it had not denounced Ivermectin.

      What paper?

      Andrew Hill’s?

  6. Did not the ACLU, at one time, litigate these sorts of issues for people of both sides? Where are they? Oh, that’s right, they have abandoned the field and migrated to the Oh So Righteous Left.

  7. Ultimately, Dr. Manco was cleared of the allegations. St. Joseph’s outside investigator wrote a ten page summary, finding that Dr. Manco’s tweets were not in violation of Joseph’s policy and that “there [was] no evidence” of racial bias in his classroom towards Colbert nor towards any other students.

    The complaint, however, states that “Inexplicably St. Joseph’s decided to tell the public a different story, releasing a statement that stated, ‘[i]n this case, a definitive determination could not be made due to insufficient evidence.’”
    ************************

    You gotta love this hoary canard. He’s innocent but let’s just call it “undetermined” since we have no evidence against him. Innocence = We didn’t investigate hard enough. There are lots of dumb leftists out there who think this type of passive-aggressive behavior is perfectly fine.

  8. Universities, with all of the Phd’s on staff and in post grad work, are scared to death of a simple diversity of ideas. Scared to death they would have to debate the side of reparations. They are so well educated, they know they have no facts to support the position they espouse.

    Diversity of opinion must be curbed stomped, to keep Universities pure of thought.

    1. iowan2:
      “Universities, with all of the Phd’s on staff and in post grad work, are scared to death of a simple diversity of ideas”
      *******************************
      Well they know one man telling the truth can bring down an entire tyranny. Who could blame these mortar board tyrants?

  9. If you counter the lies of the left they separate you from the pack and then ridicule, Alinsky 101. Here’s something that all state funded universities should adopt, end life time tenure. Evaluate each teacher annually on performance and terminate anyone teaching CRT and anti White indoctrination.

    1. Margot says:

      “Evaluate each teacher annually on performance and terminate anyone teaching CRT and anti White indoctrination.”

      Turley will write an article opposing a teacher being sanctioned or losing their employment for teaching CRT. He has said in the past that he has taught or discussed CRT in his class and finds it “valuable” I think was the word he used.

  10. Greg is a good man. I hope he cleans the floor with St. Joes. If it gets to a jury, they’ll settle. Nobody likes this mealy mouth “exoneration” the college staged.Christian charity and justice? Yeah, right? de Medici charity and justice, more like it.

    1. @Mespo

      Of the wrongful termination or discrimination cases that I’ve seen, they tend to settle before going to court… or if they have a good defense, they’ll make it painful for the plaintiff who most of those cases end up dropping their lawsuit. (IANAL, just have been around for long enough to have seen these things play out.)

      IMHO he’s got a strong case.
      Turley is correct in his assessment on several of the counts but I believe if this went to trial, the plaintiff could still prevail if there is more evidence that we haven’t seen.

      For example… if he was a professor who had good ratings from students in the past, and had his contract previously renewed. That their decision not to renew was due to this blip.

      The problem… they don’t have to renew his contract. They didn’t fire him, just didn’t renew the contract. Its within their right. That’s what makes this tougher.
      It depends on the contract and what is said in depositions. If he can get them to admit that this ‘scandal’ was a factor… I think it adds to his argument.

  11. St. Joseph’s is a private university and they are quite free to not renew the contract if they don’t want to. Political views are not a protected class. And as a religious school they have even more freedom to do what they want.

    1. Sammy:
      Thank you for your statement of the obvious – limited though it was. Read the Complaint and maybe you’ll find that being “private” is not license to treat people any way you damn well please.

    2. As a “religious” university, St. Joe’s should strive to be good and decent to all, including staff — not woke, lefty, progressive, etc., bending over backwards to appease the wokes, lefties, progressives.

  12. Professor…..please to remember the Left can say and do whatever they wish….with impunity.

    Only Non-Leftists are targets for such treatment as you describe.

    No matter how many examples you present….that presentation does nothing to affect the situation other than to serve as a reminder to your readers of what evil is being perpetrated upon this Nation.

    What skilled experienced Lawyers must do is to get involved and bring effective action to bear on the root cause of the problem and offer Pro Bono Legal Representation and upon winning Legal Actions in Courts….recoup your expenses and devote the proceeds to a Legal Defense Fund to enable yet more Legal Actions…..at least then the Abusers shall have to pay a price for their harm.

    Good Men standing by and doing nothing is how evil succeeds is it not?

    It takes both Legal Talent and money to combat this anti-free speech movement….as politicians do not have the backbone to do anything about the problem.

    1. Ralph notes:

      “Good Men standing by and doing nothing is how evil succeeds is it not?”

      How true. There are two few Liz Cheney’s and Adam Kinzinger’s. If only more republicans had listened to Turley and heeded his call to censure Trump for his 1/6 speech, we would not have this evil of Trumpism still plaguing this nation.

    1. He is listed as Visiting Asst Professor which possibly means he still works there, albeit in a diminished capacity

      https://www.sju.edu/faculty/greg-manco

      St Joseph’s University is a Jesuit school led by a layman with an EdD degree. The school likely has succumbed over the last few years to a drop in enrollment, loss of revenue and opted to compete in the market by going head to head against their secular competition. There exists too many universities that offer the same worthless, unmarketable degrees, that prey on immature, emotionally stunted students, so as to feed at the trough of the Federally backed student loan programs.

      This spectacle demonstrates SJU has lost their Jesuit charism. Fire the President and the leadership board, install a Jesuit, reduce the number of degree programs and return to the basics taught by St Ignatius of Loyola, SJ. Better to produce a small number of truly learned, brilliant graduates than the garbage we see coming from universities today everywhere.

      1. Jesuit now says it all! Francis I is a Jesuit – and you see what Jesuits are (shamefully) these days: This is not the St. Joe’s College I knew in the early 1960s as a college debater at another Catholic college in PA – whether students, then all men, or faculty.

        1. There are good Jesuits, and there are not so good Jesuits. There are good tenants and there are not so good tenants. Alas your name is “thetennants” which makes you a bad speller

          Today is the Memorial of St Polycarp. If you did not know this, or worse, do not know the significance of St Polycarp vis a vis our discussion, then that makes you a shameful Catholic.

          1. **
            Saint Ignatius of Loyola | Biography, Patron Saint Of …
            [Search domain britannica.com] https://www.britannica.com › biography › St-Ignatius-of-Loyola
            Ignatius was born in the ancestral castle of the Loyolas in the Basque province of Guipúzcoa, the youngest of 13 children of a noble and wealthy family; his mother died when he was seven years old. In 1506 Ignatius became a page in the service of a relative, Juan Velázquez de Cuéllar, treasurer of the kingdom of Castile. **

            I’ve no opinion of Loyola one way or the other. Glad I saved your post though til I could read.

            Interesting times back then. Likely a bit of SA gold laying around at the Treasurer of the kingdom of Castile. I didn’t go deep, to many other more recent rabbit holes to fall into.

  13. If you wondered where all of the Waco’s of the 60’s and 70″s went… they all became College Professors.

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