Robert Winner


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Professor Sharon Sweet

"Professor" Sharon Sweet of Brevard Community College, Cocoa, Fl USA has been put on leave for: "She required her students to sign a pledge promising to vote for President Barack Obama and Democrats up and down the ticket. "

After reading the article I have concerns:

1. "Professor" Sweets' professional background. I searched her credentials ... she has a 2 year degree in math and art from Bard College and a 2 year degree in advertising design also from Bard. There is no evidence that I can find that she even has a BA in anything. The school Brevard Community College does list her as "Professor".

2. The obvious question of professional conduct when "requiring" students to sign the pledge is this also a threat of academic grading if you do not sign.

3. violation of a Florida law, which prohibits an employee of the state from using his or her authority for the purpose of influencing another person’s vote.

4. Since the election was in November 2012 and this took place prior to the election and was reported ... why is this just making backdoor news and not reported by main stream news?

To be honest I was not shocked at the classroom support as I am about her being declared a "Professor" by the school. One site posts her ratings and she never exceeded a 3 in the ratings. We have problems in education and schools like this contribute to the problem.

If you google Sharon Sweet you will find many articles.

The debate should center on if any violations occured ... and her title Professor.

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    Feb 21 2013: 1) The school can call her whatever they wish except "Doctor". That takes a PhD.
    2) Was her requirement that refusal to pledge would get you dropped?
    3) Florida politics is not easy to predict. Good luck getting resolution on this one.
    4) By association it sheds an unflattering light on the administration. There are very few (read "no") stories in the NY Times, Washington Post, or Huffington Post, etc. that do that. It's an editorial policy issue.
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    Gail .

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    Feb 20 2013: The college board determined that Sweet’s actions, which “constitute harassment, incompetence, misconduct and unprofessional behavior in the workplace,” should result in her termination.

    I agree with the decision. Her "pledge" was the antithesis of what college is about.

    I don't have a problem with the title "Professor". That's the employer's choice - not government's.
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    Feb 20 2013: Community colleges (two year colleges) seem to use that label for their teaching staff, I have noticed, regardless of specific credentials.

    At a four year college or university it is uncommon to see the formal title of professor without a PhD, though in some fields it can happen. More often, the person's formal title is actually "lecturer" but people call the person professor.
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      Feb 20 2013: Fritzie, I think you are right ... I would much prefer that the title Associate or Assistant Professor be used which is correct and not a indicator of academic standing or credential.

      Any thought on the integrity of the act? In the teaching profession would this be ethical? Is it illegal to influence a vote if a state employee in most states?

      Thanks for the reply.
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        Feb 20 2013: It is not ethical for a teacher in her capacity as a teacher to influence people's votes. I think many jurisdictions prohibit government employees from participating in or promoting electoral campaigns on the job or in a way that uses their status as government employees.

        This does not mean people in these positions cannot attend political rallies or urge their friends to do whatever they like.

        What you described for this instructor is far outside the bounds of what is acceptable for a teacher or public employee in my opinion or in what the ethics codes for such organizations typically allow.

        I have worked for public schools as well as for federal, state, and local government. There is no way in any of these roles I would have been permitted to promote candidates.
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    Feb 20 2013: Here's the thing Bob. The term professor is a job title just like police officer. The level of training required to get the job is entirely up to the employer. It's one of those terms that holds much less reverence for people in the business than it does for the general population. A bit like Ph.D which in reality just means you wrote a thesis on something, it's more a matter of putting in the time than any academic requirement.
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      Feb 20 2013: Peter, The term Professor in most countries (including the US) is awarded to those holding a PHd and are a reflection of vast subject knowledge. However, you are correct if the term Associate, or Assistant are placed in front of Professor.

      Any thoughts on the ethics or integrity of the act. What would happen if you required your students to sign such a pledge for PM of your choice?

      Thanks for the reply.
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        Feb 20 2013: Apparently the Ph.D thing is perculiar to North America. But as usual you Americans assume that whatever you do is adopted worldwide ;-)
        As for the ethics it is unethical to try to influence the vote of your students but as voting is anon. she couldn't have checked anyway, so much ado about nothing methinks.
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          Feb 20 2013: Peter, I just went to wikipedia and the term professor in Australia is just like ours and Britians ... did I miss a joke here?????

          Thanks for the reply.
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          Feb 20 2013: The term professor is an academic rank at least in the US. In my neck of the woods (midwest) professor is connected to tenure and rank and promotion. You have to achieve a certain amount of scholarship to achieve that rank. To achieve that level of scholarship, you need a PhD to have enough training to achieve that level.

          Assistant and associate professor are levels of achievement (rank) that you usually need to get to before you get a full professorship. It has meaning to be a full professor.

          I have never heard of it used in the technical or 2 year colleges at all. I am not from Florida but I would be surprised if it was very much different there. Shame people don't know the difference.
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        Feb 20 2013: " In much of the world, including most Commonwealth nations (such as the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand) and northern Europe professor is reserved only for the most senior academics at a university, typically a department chair, or an awarded chair specifically bestowed recognizing an individual at a university or similar institution. A professor is a highly accomplished and recognized academic, and the title is in most cases awarded only after decades of scholarly work to senior academics"
        No mention of a Ph.D Bob or any specific qualification just that you need to be "highly accomplished".
        eg Professor Ross Garnaut (very big in the climate change debate) he has a B.A.With a major in economics