About midnight on May 7, a Johns Hopkins University associate research professor burst into a campus building with bolt cutters hoping to break up a student sit-in and access computer servers there.
But his attempt failed, a fight ensued, and he was thrown out, according to the professor, Daniel Povey.
Now Povey, who was initially placed on administrative leave, has been fired by Hopkins for jeopardizing student safety, according to an Aug. 8 letter written by Andrew S. Douglas, the university’s vice dean for faculty. Povey posted the termination letter online. It takes effect Aug. 31.
Povey, 43, also wrote a 1,600-word essay about what happened, along with a treatise about how he believes white men are discriminated against in “this environment” and how he is expected to act like a “neutered puppy-dog.”
Hopkins spokeswoman Karen Lancaster said the university could not comment on personnel matters but wrote in a statement that “the safety, security, and protection of our students and others are of paramount importance to the University.”
She confirmed that a “troubling incident” in early May prompted an investigation and that in response to that incident, based on the “undisputed facts of the case, the University took interim and now permanent action to ensure the safety and well-being of the community.”
The incident took place during a month-long sit-in by students who were protesting a bill that would allow Hopkins to create an armed campus police force, as well as the university’s contracts with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Povey said that he was frustrated by the protesters because they had taken over Garland Hall, the main administrative building on campus, which housed servers hosting his and several others’ research. The sit-in escalated on May 1, when students locked down the building, chained the doors shut, covered the windows and forced the administration building to close during the final week of the university’s spring semester.
The lockdown prompted the university to suspend or relocate services such as financial aid, academic advising and student visas.
Povey, a speech recognition researcher, said he was responsible for maintaining the servers for Hopkins’s Center for Language and Speech Processing, which were located inside Garland.
After protesters locked down the building, Povey learned that it could take weeks before he could access the servers, according to a statement shared with the Sun. Meanwhile, two of the servers had failed, he wrote, and he was growing increasingly anxious about losing his and others’ research, which would affect the careers of both students and faculty.
But he also didn’t like the protesters’ politics.
Hours before Povey showed up with bolt cutters to break into Garland, he stood outside with signs that read, “Enough With The Progressive [expletive],” “Don’t Make Me Tell Your Mom” and “Let us get back to work.”
“It was clear to me they weren’t going to get what they wanted and they were wasting our time,” he told the Sun.
The Students Against Private Police group was not available for comment Friday. The lockdown was ended by police the same day as Povey’s break-in; seven students were arrested.
Povey’s termination letter states that he “flagrantly and unapologetically violated JHU directives” to stay away from the building and that he “created a dangerous situation that could have ended in serious harm to our students, yourself, and others in the community.”
Povey wrote that he was the one who was hurt, suffering a scratch on his back during a skirmish with protesters.
“I may not have my job,” Povey concluded, “but at least I still have my dignity and my independence of thought.”
The sit-in group met with university administrators on July 24 to discuss the police force and the school’s ICE contracts. University Vice Provost Kevin G. Shollenberger said it was not a negotiation. The next discussion is set for Thursday.