An award-winning novelist who teaches at Michigan State University has told his students that Republicans have "raped this country."
The comments were made last week by William Penn during a creative writing class and recorded by a student. Michigan State spokesman Kent Cassella says officials are reviewing the remarks. He says the classroom must be a place for the respectful exchange of ideas.
Penn told his writing students that Republicans are cheap. He says they don't want to pay taxes "because they have already raped this country and gotten everything out of it they possibly could."
Penn says "dead skin cells" were washing off "old Republicans" at the party's convention in Florida.
Penn also says, " I am a college professor. If I find out you are a closet racist I am coming after you. Okay. This country is full of closet racists. What do you think is going on in South Carolina and North Carolina? Voter suppression. It is about getting black people not to vote. Why? Because black people tend to vote Democratic. So, why would Republicans want to do it? Because Republicans are not a majority of this country anymore. They are a bunch of dead white people. Or dying white people."
Penn also takes jabs at Mitt and Ann Romney saying, "Anybody want to be Mitt Romney? Him? I mean....(sigh) Married to her?"
The video was posted online by Campus Reform, a Virginia-based conservative group.
Penn is no longer teaching the writing class. Students were sent home Thursday morning. He will be teaching a different class and has not been let go by the university.
Students returned to Penn’s classroom Thursday, but a substitute quickly dismissed the class, informing them of Penn’s suspension. Several students said they were disappointed he won’t be teaching.
"He's trying to teach us to be our own individuals, and express our views and stop following the crowd," said Hunter Walton.
But MSU student Amanda Bonner said Penn’s comments were “unnecessary and completely over the top.”
Greg Scholtz, of the American Association of University Professors, says academic freedom is important to educational quality.
"Academic freedom isn’t well protected if a dean or provost can pull a professor from the classroom when students complain," he said.
The union does not represent MSU professors.
The university says Penn met with the dean of the College of Arts and Letters, and a representative from the Office of the Provost. He has taught at MSU for 26 years, earning several awards for his writing and teaching.
"I love this university and always have liked my students," Penn told Local 4.
Asked if he liked them regardless of their political views, he answered, "Absolutely."
Statement from Michigan State University:
"Michigan State University is committed to creating a learning environment that is characterized by mutual respect and civility where diverse ideas can be explored.
On Sept. 3, university leaders were made aware of several statements made by Professor William Penn in a classroom. Once MSU was made aware of the situation the Office of the Provost immediately began a review.
The dean of the College of Arts and Letters and a representative from the provost’s office met with Penn, who acknowledged that some of his comments were inappropriate, disrespectful and offensive and may have negatively affected the learning environment.
Penn’s teaching duties have been reassigned to others. Students’ education will continue as scheduled with alternate instructors.”