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Penn State Professor Won’t Be Fired Over Altercation With Student At Pro-Vaccine Rally

Ten months after getting into a physical altercation with a student at a pro-vaccine rally, English and African American studies professor Oliver Baker learned he will not face termination, according to a three-page memo released by President Neeli Bendapudi.

Baker was involved in a scuffle with a student counterprotestor at a pro-vaccine rally organized by Penn State faculty in August, which ended with the student getting a bloody nose. He was charged with misdemeanor counts of simple assault and disorderly conduct.

After being cleared of all charges by the court in November 2021, Penn State initiated the AC70 firing process, which is used to dismiss tenured and tenure-eligible faculty members.

Now, Bendapudi said that she believes Baker’s actions do not warrant termination, even though his actions were “clearly misconduct.”

“I have determined this is clearly misconduct by the faculty member,” she said. “I have also determined that 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.”

Bendapudi also mentioned that she has “concerns” over the AC70 firing process and hopes to share them at a later date. For now, she mentioned that she wants to use this situation as an opportunity for Penn State to reflect on its policies on Faculty Accountability.

“For now, I write this note to the University Faculty Senate leadership to begin a dialogue about how we work together to create an additional policy on Faculty Accountability (similar to policies which exist at our peer and aspirational institutions) that reinforces our standards of conduct in a fair, transparent and responsible manner,” she wrote.

As of now, it is unclear if Baker will in fact return for the fall 2022 semester. A Penn State spokesperson declined to comment further on the topic.

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About the Author

Frankie Marzano

Frankie is a senior accounting and economics major from Long Island, NY. You can probably recognize him as the typical Italian-American with slicked back black hair. He is an avid fan of the New York Rangers and Mets, along with every Penn State Athletics team. Follow him on Twitter @frankiemarzano for obnoxious amounts of Rangers and Penn State content or email him at [email protected].

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