Professor Suspended After Joke About Killing Students on Facebook

More workers getting fired over social media rants.

ByABC News
March 2, 2010, 10:24 AM

March 3, 2010 — -- The list of Facebook faux-pas just grew longer.

Gloria Gadsden, a sociology professor at East Stroudsburg University in Pennsylvania, says she was suspended last week after updating her Facebook status with complaints about work that alluded to violence.

In January, she wrote: "Does anyone know where I can find a very discrete hitman? Yes, it's been that kind of day…" Then in February: "had a good day today. DIDN'T want to kill even one student. :-). Now Friday was a different story."

Gadsden says she posted the comments in jest, on a profile she thought could only be seen by friends and family. She says officials were notified of the posts by a student -- even though she says she had no students in her "friend" list.

Just a Bad Day

"I was just having a bad day, and I was venting to family and friends," says Gadsden, who says she didn't realize her comments could be read by the public after Facebook relaxed its privacy standards in December. "My friends and family knew I was being facetious. They knew I wasn't targeting anyone."

Nevertheless, university officials were unhappy about the allusions to violence in the posts, she says, and in a meeting with her even mentioned the recent shooting spree by a disgruntled biologist at the University Alabama-Huntsville.

"Given the climate of security concerns in academia, the university has an obligation to take all threats seriously and act accordingly," Marilyn Wells, ESU's interim provost and vice president for academic affairs told The Chronicle of Education last week. Wells and other university officials did not return calls from ABC News seeking comment.

Boss' Hurt Pride

Workers have been getting in trouble often over their online vents. Not only do employers want to control their online image as closely as they can, but they are also vulnerable, like anybody else, to hurt pride.

"When you badmouth your boss and the boss is hearing, whether you're doing it online or at the coffee maker, the boss isn't going to be happy," says Jonathan Ezor, assistant professor of Law and Technology at Touro Law Center in Huntington, N.Y. "The fact that it's online makes it more easily findable and have a broader potential impact."