College: Professor urged students to vote for Obama, should be fired

Sharon Sweet, currently on paid leave, is accused of encouraging students in her math class to sign cards pledging to vote for Democratic candidates in the November election.

A community college in Florida is recommending that a professor be fired for urging — and in some cases, possibly ordering — her students to vote for President Barack Obama.

An investigation by Brevard Community College officials concluded that associate professor Sharon Sweet violated school policy by soliciting political support for a political candidate during regular work hours or on college property.

The investigation was launched after a student's parent complained in September that Sweet was forcing students in her math class to sign a pledge card to vote for Obama and other Democratic candidates in the November general election. 

In a statement Friday, the college said, "The investigation found that professor Sweet strongly encouraged or mandated that students from several classes sign a pledge card that stated, 'I pledge to vote for President Obama and Democrats up and down the ticket.'"

"She also misrepresented her intentions to multiple students, indicating at various times that she was conducting voter registration for the college, that the pledge cards were non-partisan voter registration forms and that the pledge was a 'statistical analysis,'" the college said.

Sweet, a tenured professor, has been on suspension with pay since September pending final disposition of the case, college spokesman John J. Glisch said.

Sweet could not be reached for comment Monday. A call to her campus phone was not immediately returned.

The investigation by school officials concluded Sweet's voicing of her political views in class and distribution of political pledge cards "created a hostile academic environment."

"The investigation found that professor Sweet's actions caused students to feel considerable discomfort, to believe their privacy was being invaded, to fear their grade could be negatively impacted if they refused to sign the pledge cards and to feel intimidated," the school said.

Sweet has 10 days to respond to the investigation's findings and recommendations.

The college's board of trustees will review the recommendations and decide whether to go forward with the firing. No date has been set for the hearing, which Sweet can attend to argue her case, Glisch told MSN News.

Sweet makes $40,000 a year and has taught at the college for five years, the school said.

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