Sociability shortage in sociology
Students are left uneasy after a series of events with a faculty member
Published: Wednesday, November 3, 2010
Updated: Friday, November 5, 2010 22:11
It all started with a simple maroon and gray T-shirt promoting access to non-genetically modified food at N.C. Central University.
Now one student, Dontravis Swain, has been suspended from NCCU, and a number of other students say they are afraid to be around one professor in the sociology department.
The commotion centers on an assistant professor of sociology, Dana Greene, who arrived at NCCU from Appalachian State University in 2007.
Why Greene left ASU is unknown.
Something happened there, but what it was is a mystery. Greene left after receiving a financial settlement, but the records are sealed and no one is talking.
No one Echo staffers contacted at ASU would answer questions about Greene and her time at ASU.
According to some of Greene's students at NCCU, she tells several versions of what transpired at ASU.
In one version she sued ASU because an ASU football player threw a desk at her.
In another version Greene sued the university because of racial discrimination. Greene is Jewish.
An ASU faculty member, who would not provide details of what happened there, said that the incident "had nothing to do with a desk being been thrown at Greene."
*Several of the people interviewed for this story asked to remain anonymous, due to the sensitive nature of the case.
According to a member of the NCCU sociology department "it has been strange [with Greene] since day one."
But the T-shirt incident that led to the expulsion of Swain began on Sept. 29.
According to several students and two members of the sociology department, Greene made several claims that a white student of hers, Robert Mihaly, was a racist.
Greene told her 1 p.m. social psychology class that a T-shirt worn by Mihaly demonstrated that he was racist.
This characterization puzzled Mihaly because Greene had previously agreed that he could wear his T-shirts to earn community service hours required for his class with her in Sociology of the Environment, Economy, Society.
The front of Mihaly's T-shirt pictures an Eagle vomiting, and lists several toxins including fluoride, arsenic and lead.
It reads "NCCU Students Poisoned Daily." The back pictures Martin Luther King, Jr. and asks, "UNC System Racist?" In a quotation bubble, King says, "At least give us the UNC Chapel Hill dietary options."
"The shirt is meant to draw attention to toxic additives to the food and water and racial disparity of what's offered at UNC and NCCU," said Mihaly. "At UNC they're offered organic non-genetically modified foods.
"Several students in the class told me that Greene said that there is this white guy on campus wearing these racist T-shirts and you should confront him," said Mihaly.
"They said that she said, ‘if I were a student I would confront him.'"
Some students have claimed that Greene made this statement. Others say she didn't.
"I never remember her saying the shirt was racist," said Kendra McNair-Worley, mass communication senior.
"The classroom said it was racist but she did question why he used Martin Luther King Jr. on the shirt."
Two members of the sociology department who asked to remain unnamed also say that Greene informed other professors in the department that Mihaly was a racist and that something should be done about it.
"A few weeks after Dr. Greene approved my shirts and after I'd been wearing them, Dr. Greene wrote me [a] letter in which she attempts to sneakily document she allegedly never approved them," wrote Mihaly in an e-mail to the Echo.
"She was trying to intimidate me from expressing my Constitutionally-protected speech," Mihaly wrote.
"She implies I have a problem with conforming to the class/university's community service requirements."
Some students said they do not understand all the controversy.
"I was confused," said political science sophomore Lorenzo Glenn.
"I can see how it could have been mistaken for a racist shirt, but the part that bothered me was when Robert told me that he had spoken to Dr. Greene prior to it [and approved of the subject]."
"She already knew about it before she told us it was racist," he said.
The Campus Echo asked Greene for an interview numerous times, but she declined.
"I was happy that she [Greene] said we can confront him and she insisted on it," said Glenn. "It was OK to confront him because she is a teacher."
Several students say that after class on Sept. 29, sociology sophomore Dontravis Swain – the student who would eventually be suspended from NCCU -- approached Mihaly.
Five minutes later Greene called campus police to report an altercation.
But according to several eye witnesses there was no altercation between Mihaly and Swain.
Mihaly's statement to the campus police (provided to the Echo by Mihaly) says this: "Dr. Dana Greene filed a malicious and absolutely false narrative to the NCCU Police Department … Ms. Greene has expressed disapproval of a design of shirt I wear most days which expresses a political viewpoint with which Ms. Greene disagrees."
Mihaly's police statement continues: "The other student named Dontravis Swain communicated 2-3 sentences to me in a calm, personable voice and I responded in kind. Ms. Greene's deception is to create miscontent and to lay a false paper trail."
A TURN FOR THE WORSE
Days later, on Oct. 4, in the same social psychology class things came to a breaking point between Swain and Greene, according to several students.
The students said an argument broke out between Swain and another student in the class and became intense after the student shouted out Swain's GPA.