Professor Guilty of Privacy Violation, Says Metro State · 25 August 2004
By Dave Curtin--Denver Post--08/26/04
A Metropolitan State College political-science professor has been disciplined in a highly publicized case in which a student accused her of political bias in the classroom.
Metro is punishing tenured professor Oneida J. Meranto for violating a federal student privacy law, not for political bias, a claim student George Culpepper lobbed against her.
The standoff came last winter while the contentious "academic bill of rights" was before the state legislature. The proposal, which was intended to protect students from political bias among professors, did not become law.
During a December hearing at the state Capitol, Culpepper said he was forced to drop Meranto's class because he didn't think he would get a fair grade as president of the Campus Republicans.
In a subsequent Denver Post article, Meranto was paraphrased as saying Culpepper hadn't done enough of the work and knew he couldn't pass.
The conflict took on a national flare when U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Colo., asked the U.S Department of Education to investigate.
Culpepper demanded Meranto's firing and asked for an apology. He got neither.
In a sharply worded six- page disciplinary notice, Metro State interim president Ray Kieft said a "warning" will be placed in Meranto's personnel file for violating the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, which requires that schools have permission from students before releasing academic information.
A warning is considered an aggravating factor if there is another incident, according to the personnel handbook.
Meranto didn't return a phone message Wednesday.
In his letter, Kieft defended Meranto's right to express her views in class. "I can not find that any action you took or statement you made was motivated by a desire to punish students for their views on any public or academic issue or for their political affiliations," he wrote.
"I have a problem with that part," Culpepper said. "As I see it, the college used the violation of my FERPA rights to overshadow the political discrimination against me."