University of Rochester professor talks about controversial Facebook post

November 14, 2016 06:27 PM

A University of Rochester professor stepped down from his director position after posting a controversial statement on Facebook regarding the Presidential election.

Ted Pawlicki resigned as the undergraduate Program Director for the Department of Computer Science on Friday. The story was first reported by student paper the Campus Times.

The comment, which has since been deleted, read: "A bus ticket from Rochester to Canada is $16. If this is not your America, then I will pay for your ticket if you promise never to come back."

Students posted screenshots of the post as well as comments. Pawlicki wrote in a department-wide email that "These remarks were ill-considered, and I deeply regret any and all hurt they occasioned."

On Monday, News10NBC Investigative Reporter, Jennifer Lewke sat down with Pawlicki to discuss his comments and why he chose to step down.

Pawliki says he didn’t like that students were planning a “Not My America” protest on a day that is reserved for honoring those who defend America, “to say "not my America" on veterans day was very offensive,” he says and that’s why he decided to comment on the Facebook page.

"The 'move to Canada' joke has been around since the Reagan administration; celebrities always threaten to move to Canada if their candidate doesn't win. It was in the context of what I consider legitimate political humor," he adds.

Pawliki tells News10NBC he didn't think much of the comments initially. "I went to teach and I got back about an hour and a half later and I think there were 120 posts, at that point, I realized perhaps I touched a nerve, I should explain. I believe entirely in the complete equality of all people," and he says, he tried to say so but was shocked when students didn't seem to want to listen.

"I believe its part of my job to teach students to engage in robust discussion and to challenge them on their positions and to have my positions challenged by them and to train them to question authority and stand up to authority in a forthright and respectable manor," he says.

But instead, at least one complaint was filed against him with the university and he agreed to step down from his leadership role. He just hopes this incident doesn't scare off other students and faculty from sharing opinions.

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Pawliki: "The discussion of safe spaces and coddling and students being fearful of challenge is a debate that is being discussed across all campuses."
Jennifer Lewke: "Because you spoke your mind, you've lost this program coordinator position and that's got to be tough to deal with knowing that you've had this position for 18 years and this one comment seems to have taken that away."

Pawliki: "It's a little tough, but as I said, it happened on Veterans Day and a minor disturbance in my life is nothing compared to the sacrifice our service people have provided."

While Pawlicki will no longer be director, he is still teaching.

In a statement, the University of Rochester says, "The decision to step down from his position as undergraduate program director in computer science was Ted Pawlicki's, based on his own determination of whether he could continue to be effective in that role after his public comments, which he acknowledged were ill-considered and for which he apologized. He remains a member of the University of Rochester computer science teaching faculty."


Jennifer Lewke

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