A student at Brevard Community College in Melbourne, Florida said last week that a math professor distributed bookmarks in class asking students to “pledge that I will vote for President Obama and Democrats up and down the ticket.”
Assistant Professor Sharon Sweet allegedly handed out bookmarks advertising the website gottavote.org, an online product of Obama For America, the president’s re-election campaign organization.
The college has granted her a leave of absence while an investigation proceeds.
The conservative Franklin Center for Government & Public Integrity surfaced the claim on its blog Sunday, along with the suggestion that Sweet violated the community college’s policy on harassment.
That policy protects students, employees and job applicants from undue pressure related to a long list of personal traits including race, religion, age, gender, marital status and political affiliation.
In a statement left as a comment on the Franklin Center’s blog, Brevard Community College vice president for academic affairs Linda Miedema wrote that the college has “specific procedures related to the political activity of faculty and staff. The expectation is that no employee of the College shall solicit support of any political candidate during regular work hours or on College property.”
“The college is taking appropriate actions,” Miedema added. “We do not want any student to feel coerced.”
In a statement Monday, college spokesman John Glisch said there had been more than one complaint about Sweet. “The allegations center on her soliciting support in her classes for President Obama in the upcoming election,” he said. “College officials learned of the allegations Thursday afternoon, Sept. 13, following a call from a concerned parent and immediately began an investigation.”
“Based on the allegations, Associate Professor Sweet has requested, and been granted, a leave of absence without pay effective immediately.”
This story was updated after publication to include a statement from John Glisch.