A professor at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy will not be fired for making a joke about the Aurora, Colorado movie massacre—with a student whose father was killed in the shootings present—in a class. Instead, Professor Gregory Sullivan is being suspended for 45 days and will undergo sensitivity training. The USMMA said that the decision was reached "after careful review of all information collected as part of the process required under the federal policy governing academy faculty and staff."
The school sent an email to faculty alerting them to the fact that Wesley Cowden's father Gordon was killed but Sullivan said, before dimming the lights for an in-class film, "If someone with orange hair appears in the corner of the room, run for the exit." Cowden apparently left the class upset.
A dean found that Sullivan acted inappropriately and suggested that he be fired, but the school said, "The academy's first priority is the well-being of its students, and it will continue to work with the entire campus community to ensure its ability to train and educate the nation's future merchant mariners."
The Cowden family did not support Sullivan's dismissal—"We are sad to see the public humiliation by the media and public reprimanding the professor...is receiving for his distasteful joke"—and said today about the school's decision, "We're just appreciative that he didn't lose his job. It was a mistake and he apologized for it. We all do dumb things sometimes."