EAST LANSING (WWJ/AP) - An award-winning novelist who teaches at Michigan State University began the new school year with an attack on Republicans, telling students they've "raped this country" and are cheap.
And then Professor William Penn was relieved of duty and his classes assigned to others, the university announced Thursday.
"The dean of the College of Arts and Letters and a representative from the provost's office met with Penn, who acknowledged that some of his comments were inappropriate, disrespectful and offensive and may have negatively affected the learning environment," the university said in a release.
The Michigan Republican Party called the remarks political intimidation against students.
"This is exactly why we are engaging students on college campuses across the state; young conservatives should not feel isolated or outcast simply because they are Republicans," Michigan Republican Party Chairman Bobby Schostak said about the incident. "This is a public institution, funded by taxpayers, and this type of bullying is inexcusable.
" ... By bringing his personal views into the classroom, Penn has directly isolated and threatened young Republicans into silence. His use of political intimidation is shameful and should not be tolerated."
Penn's remarks were captured on video by a student and posted online by Campus Reform, which is affiliated with the Leadership Institute, a conservative group based in Arlington, Va.
"If you go to the Republican convention in Florida, you see all of the old Republicans with the dead skin cells washing off them," Penn told students last week. "They are cheap. They don't want to pay taxes because they have already raped this country and gotten everything out of it they possibly could."
In the video Penn, who teaches in Michigan State's creative writing program, also appears to harass a student who had disagreed with his views.
"You can frown if you want. You look like you are frowning. Are you frowning?" Penn asked before moving on.
Penn also told the students that the U.S. "still is full of closet racists" who try to keep blacks from voting.
"What do you think is going on in South Carolina and North Carolina. Voter suppression. It's about getting black people not to vote. Why? Because black people tend to vote Democratic," he said.
WWJ Newsradio 950's Marie Osborne spoke with Mitch Lyons — one of two Republicans on the MSU board.
Does he think Penn should be fired?
"I'm certainly not opposed to second chances," Lyons said. "But I think there needs to be an apology, you know. I think that there needs to be some monitoring going forward."
A message seeking comment was left for Penn on Thursday.
"If you're a Republican, forgive me," Penn said. "If your parents are Republicans, forgive me. They won't and I don't care."
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