Fine Teaching Gig You’ve Got Here. Be a Shame If Anything Were To Happen to You.

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010

From Mercer Community College in New Jersey, a political science science lecture turns into a lesson on free speech and abuse of power.

The incident occurred on February 1, as Michael Glass, an assistant professor of political science, was lecturing students in a course on state and local politics about New Jersey’s budget gap, according to an account offered by the institution’s student newspaper, The College Voice, and described by Ms. Donohue’s office as confirmed by the college’s own investigation.

Sheriff Larkin came up in the class as an example of public employees who engaged in “double dipping,” by collecting a pension at the same time he received a salary. When a student remarked that he would not know how to spend the more than $200,000 Mr. Larkin was earning annually through salary and pension payments, Mr. Glass allegedly said Mr. Larkin needed much of the money to cover alimony and child support.

A student who is employed at the county clerk’s office promptly sent the sheriff a text message about the comment, and Mr. Larkin soon came to the classroom himself and summoned Mr. Glass out into the hallway for a few minutes. Mr. Glass then returned to the room, introduced the sheriff, and apologized for making disparaging remarks about him.

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33 Responses to “Fine Teaching Gig You’ve Got Here. Be a Shame If Anything Were To Happen to You.”

  1. #1 |  Brooks | 

    The proverbial gun to the head……

  2. #2 |  Nando | 

    So, are you implying that the Sheriff is a bully? ‘Cause we all know that would be unheard of.

  3. #3 |  Boyd Durkin | 

    True, but disparaging remarks.

    $200K for an assclown with a gun seems a bit high.

  4. #4 |  ZappaCrappa | 

    I would guess that the conversation included such terms as, “shoot your “f”ing dog,no peace ever, imagine your life as a living hell, and not a damn thing you can do about it” and several other not so hidden threats….but that’s just a guess based on history and experience on my part. I could be wrong.

  5. #5 |  steve | 

    Sheriff’s really do not have powers in the constitution other than to run jails and serve the courts. They were granted law enforcement powers through legislation. I’ve found this confusing since I first heard it.

  6. #6 |  bbartlog | 

    ‘shoot your “f”ing dog,no peace ever, imagine your life as a living hell, and not a damn thing you can do about it’

    I would expect any conversation to be much more along the lines of Radley’s headline. No need for explicit threats if people will fold to the veiled ones. Hell, just him showing up is already a little scary.

  7. #7 |  Marty | 

    with any luck at all, the sheriffbabies will grow up to be smart enough to make it into college and Glass will have enough rank to return the favor.

    too bad he didn’t have enough balls to stand up to the sheriff and give his students a real lesson in asserting your rights…

  8. #8 |  Mario | 

    I think the lesson was obvious to the students, and not the lesson the sheriff thought he was delivering.

  9. #9 |  Michael Chaney | 

    Sheriff’s really do not have powers in the constitution other than to run jails and serve the courts. They were granted law enforcement powers through legislation. I’ve found this confusing since I first heard it.

    In most areas, if it weren’t for the sheriff and his deputies there would be no law enforcement officials with jurisdiction except for the state police. The county where I grew up, for example, is a couple hundred square miles, two of which have a police force.

  10. #10 |  Michael Chaney | 

    By the way, this incident makes the sheriff look like a complete ass clown. Hopefully this will be widely known when the next election comes around.

  11. #11 |  Gonzo | 

    “summoned Mr. Glass out into the hallway…”

    I said goddamn.

    That shit would never, ever go down in my classroom, and I say that as the biggest noodle-man you’ll ever meet. But my classroom is MY CLASSROOM. Academic freedom is a serious goddamn thing. Hell, regular freedom is a…well, preach, choir.

  12. #12 |  Brian V. | 

    This thread quickly jumped the shark; the sheriff isn’t the bad guy in this story.

    More power to anyone that can play their hand well enough to collect a pension and a salary; it occurs in many arenas besides LE or county government. As was pointed out in the comments on the original article, the sheriff was likely elected to his current position, and therefore there is no room for impropriety.

    The professor’s comments on how the sheriff spends his money were inappropriate. When the teacher was called out on it, he seemed to realize that he was wrong.

  13. #13 |  Xenocles | 

    Brian V’s not 100% wrong. The prof was out of line delving into the Sheriff’s personal life like that. That said, the Sheriff exhausted any goodwill he may have deserved by showing up and – intentionally or not – using his authority to cow the professor.

  14. #14 |  MacGregory | 

    Maybe the professor was wrong. But who else other than a LEO or an elected official can force an apology?

  15. #15 |  akromper | 

    What’s with the “they were both wrong” attitudes? A professor makes a flippant comment and somehow that equals abuse of legal authority? I’ll remember that next time a kid pushes me. Under that reasoning I’ll be free to knock him out and just shrug “we were both out of line”. Think that’ll happen?

  16. #16 |  Juice | 

    The teacher should have brought the Sheriff into the class and then said, “Sheriff, can you tell the students what you just told me?”

  17. #17 |  ShelbyC | 

    The professor is entitled to be wrong about double dipping. The sherriff is not entitled to come into his classroom under color of authority and make him appoligize. There is exactly one bad guy in this story, and it ain’t the prof

  18. #18 |  Mike T | 

    Double-dipping is a serious issue. There are some women in my grandmother’s church who make nearly six figure incomes because their husbands worked for the military and state and got social security on top of it. 2 pensions + social security is ridiculous. The tax payers should not have that burden.

  19. #19 |  Xenocles | 

    Lest anyone misunderstand what I was saying:
    Professor’s wrong: |-|
    Sheriff’s wrong: |—————————–|

  20. #20 |  Radley Balko | 

    When the teacher was called out on it, he seemed to realize that he was wrong.

    No, he didn’t. He told the newspaper he felt intimidated, and that he had no choice but to apologize.

    You have every right to criticize a public official, particularly one serving in an elected office. The sheriff abused his authority, trespassed onto private property, and used intimidation to silence a critic. Frankly, he ought to lose his job.

  21. #21 |  InMD | 

    Very disturbing indeed. I do wish the professor had shown a bit more balls but its hardly his fault and far be it from me to criticize someone who is faced with such a sudden bizarre and threatening situation from law enforcement. I hope he uses the incident as a means of bringing more attention to the problem.

    Also just to correct Mr. Balko above, the school is actually public according to the school’s wikipedia entry so there wasn’t a trespass on private property (unless NJ’s laws are very different from MD’s, here any state citizen can freely enter public university property; you can even sit in for classes though they won’t give you credits unless you pay).

    Not that I disagree about anything else. A public official who can’t take criticism without making threats shouldn’t be a public official any longer.

  22. #22 |  the innominate one | 

    Don’t forget, the student who texted the sheriff is quite the little weasel.

  23. #23 |  scottp | 

    Mr. Glass then returned to the room, introduced the sheriff, and apologized for making disparaging remarks about him.

    Not trying to be an ITG, but it would be a cold day in hell when I introduced the sheriff to the class and apologized.
    Besides, what’s so disparaging about saying a person needs money for alimony and child support?

  24. #24 |  z | 

    Don’t know how to spend $200k? First, send $90k to the governments….

  25. #25 |  someguy | 

    Mercer County Community College is a great community college. In general Community College’s are a fanatastic public good.

  26. #26 |  cyto | 

    Z’s comments are right on target. Although you’ll be flipping that 110/90 split the other way pretty soon. Heck, with all of the bills coming due on entitlements and with the service on the debt growing voraciously, you’d be lucky to keep more than 50 of that 200k in another 15 years.

  27. #27 |  Mike T | 

    ShelbyC,

    According to the article, he didn’t come under the color of authority, but rather paid a personal visit. Still unethical to do, but calling it “under the color of authority” when it wasn’t presented as official police business, but a social call, is an abuse of language.

  28. #28 |  Dennis Quaranta | 

    Perhaps the sheriff makes “social calls” on legislators who might close the gap that allows him to collect a salary AND a pension. Just a friendly handshake, y’see. In case the lawmakers want to meet their constituents.

  29. #29 |  ShelbyC | 

    Mike T,

    can you point me to where it says it was a social call? Most folks don’t interupt class for a social call, I’d assume if a proffessor gets pulled out of class by the sherriff he’s going to assume it’s official police business, no?

  30. #30 |  celticdragonchick | 

    You’ve got a mighty purty mouth, Professor Glass…

    *cue banjo music*

  31. #31 |  Angry Voter | 

    What he should have said is the sheriff probably needed the money for gay prostitutes.

  32. #32 |  Frank | 

    #27 Mike T, except for special and specific circumstances, if some assclown with a badge, uniform and gun shows up in my personal space wanting to talk to me, it’s not a social call. End of line.

  33. #33 |  Fascist Nation | 

    Nothing like calling your buddies at campus security to gt the professor’s location…but the Sheriff did apologize.

    http://www.trentonian.com/articles/2010/02/25/news/doc4b85ed2e38d5c793032313.txt

    I am of two minds on this. First there is nothing wrong with double dipping. The Sheriff earned his retirement as a credentialed officer at the Sheriff’s dept. Then he became the elected Sheriff.

    Secondly, the professor unwisely brought the man’s wife (wives) and kids into it.

    But as a public oaficial, and the county’s highest law enforcement official, he should know better. The prof has a right to his opinions particularly with respect to a fellow public oaficial. And the only proper threat from the Sheriff should have been slander in a civil court if there were no public apology forthcoming — which was made.

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