A mathematics professor at St. Joseph’s University is suing the school after it canceled him for an anonymous tweet mocking a controversial policy proposal that would have the government pay monetary reparations to the descendants of slaves.
Professor Gregory V. Manco, who was subsequently demoted, claims that he was accosted by an online mob for engaging in legally protected speech that expressed his personal opinions, and that the school made things worse.
Manco might be called a libertarian. According to Legal Insurrection, he “has written op-eds on political topics expressing such views,” including one stating that people should combat racism with “individualism, capitalism [and] limited government” and arguing against “white fragility” training.
Slavery itself was abolished in the United States by the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution, which was ratified in 1865, months after the end of the Civil War, in which slavery was a major issue. The amendment states: “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”
Limited to the political fringe for years, the reparations issue has become increasingly popular in left-wing circles and in Democratic Party politics.
The legal complaint (pdf) in the case, Manco v. St. Joseph’s University, was filed Jan. 21 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. The complaint names as defendants the private Jesuit university in Philadelphia, as well as several administrators.
Manco, a Caucasian man who identifies himself in the complaint as a “former Visiting Assistant Professor of Mathematics at St. Joseph’s,” is seeking damages from the school because “it is responsible for the actions of a small group of administrators [who] … [gave] credence to completely false, unsupported, undocumented, and implausible allegations of racial bias, and then used those allegations to justify an investigation, suspension and non-renewal of his contract … despite his dedication and excellent performance.”
In doing so, the school “violated its legal duty by discriminating against him, on the basis of his race, and breached its contractual and other legal obligations to him,” the complaint reads.
What the defendants did constituted “the social phenomenon of ‘cancel culture,’ which is widespread, has ruined lives, damaged reputations, and jeopardized the futures of individuals.”
Manco earned a doctorate in statistics from Rutgers University in 1997. He first joined St. Joseph’s in 2005 as an adjunct professor and was hired in 2007 as a visiting assistant professor of mathematics. He taught about eight courses and 230 students each year, and got favorable reviews from students and the school.
The legal complaint states that a low-performing former student of Manco saw his anonymous statements on Twitter opposing a recurring left-wing proposal to provide the descendants of slaves with reparations, and complained he was “racist and transphobic,” according to the complaint. A social media user connected the tweets to the professor and exposed him. Then, a graduate of St. Joseph’s urged people to “flood” the school with complaints.
One of the tweets stated: “Suppose your great-great-grandfather murdered someone. The victim’s great-great-grandson knocks on your door, shows you the newspaper clipping from 1905, and demands compensation from you. Your response?”
A space was left blank in the tweet, under which it concluded with the sentence: “Now get this racist reparations [expletive] out of your head for good.”
Another tweet said: “So if these numbers are true about peoples’ perceptions of racism, what does it say about all of the race/bias ‘training’ that has been going on for some years now?
“Could it be that such training actually divides us and *worsens* race relations?”
Soon after the tweets were publicized on social media, the school summoned Manco to an online meeting and informed him that “he was being placed on administrative leave immediately, without any due process, and that the complaints against him would be investigated by an external reviewer.”
Minutes later, the school emailed him to advise that his tweets had been declared to be “of a biased or discriminatory nature.” On Feb. 22, 2021, one school day after he was placed on leave, Manco’s students were told by the school that he would not be returning for the remainder of the semester, the legal complaint states.
An investigation cleared Manco on May 12, 2021. An outside investigator hired by the school wrote a 10-page report “finding that Dr. Manco’s tweets were not in violation of [school] policy and that ‘there [was] no evidence’ of racial bias in his classroom.”
Despite that, “St. Joseph’s decided to tell the public a different story, releasing a statement that stated, ‘[i]n this case, a definitive determination could not be made due to insufficient evidence.”
This public statement was “malicious, defamatory, and false.”
“I was confident all along that a fair investigation would clear me,” Manco told Legal Insurrection. “Yet I find myself not happy, but rather upset that I was suspended and investigated in the first place. This never should have happened, and I hope that it doesn’t happen to anyone else.”
Leslie Miller Greenspan of the Philadelphia law firm Tucker Law Group was identified in the online docket as attorney for the school when she accepted service of the legal complaint on Jan. 27.
The Epoch Times reached out to Greenspan for comment by telephone and email, but had not received a response as of press time.
The court has ordered St. Joseph’s University to file a response to the complaint by March 25.