Former SMU Prof Alleges She Was Fired After Reporting Boss’ Misconduct, Nazi Obsession

As our sister publication mentioned this morning, a former SMU professor has filed suit against the school, claiming she was wrongfully terminated after she reported that her superior was engaging in inappropriate conduct with students.

The most bizarre part of the 21-page lawsuit, filed by Patricia Davis, however, are allegations that her boss, Rick Halperin, “appeared obsessed with the Nazis.”

Halperin is the founding director of the school’s Embrey Human Rights Program, which make the allegations even more surprising (if not unlikely).

The lawsuit claims that Halperin gave private Nazi salutes, used Nazi commands on the telephone, displayed large posters of Nazi symbols and events in his office, and watched “hours and hours of pictures of bodies and Holocaust death camps on his office television.”

The lawsuit also alleges that Davis caught Halperin in compromising positions with students on more than one occasion, and says that after confronting him about what she witnessed, he “called her crazy and deeply troubled, and said that if Davis told anyone, she ‘should begin looking for another job.’”

I spoke with one of Halperin’s former students who said that these allegations are nothing short of shocking. A Facebook page entitled “We love Rick Halperin” was created earlier this afternoon, and it already has more than 250 members.

Look for the full story in this week’s paper.

15 thoughts on “Former SMU Prof Alleges She Was Fired After Reporting Boss’ Misconduct, Nazi Obsession

  • April 11, 2013 at 4:26 pm
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    A Nazi obsession or fetish is not necessarily the same as Nazi sympathies. I don’t think she says he is a sympathizer. The Nazi allegations seem to be the weakest part of her lawsuit, but perhaps they help support one of her causes of action.

    She alleges that he got her fired and maligned because she reported his violations of school policy and that SMU decided to shoot the messenger–her–rather than deal with the violations of school policy by their superstar professor.

    He could be the best teacher in the world and the most effective advocate ever against capital punishment, but still carry on with some of his female students and then retaliate against someone who feels obligated to speak up. Losing her job with her long-time employer is serious business. We’ll see if the evidence backs her up.

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    • April 11, 2013 at 6:16 pm
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      @DemBones – Good point. I’ve updated my headline to reflect your point – thanks!

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  • April 11, 2013 at 5:49 pm
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    Outrageous. Rick Halperin was one of the best professors I had at SMU. He was also my advisor. Sounds like sour grapes, and I hope that Prof. Halperin’s reputation is restored quickly.

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  • April 11, 2013 at 7:17 pm
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    @SMU alum. He could be the best professor and advisor ever and still be violating SMU professor/student policy when you weren’t around. It’s commendable he has so many supporters but that doesn’t disprove any of her allegations. In fact, she suggests his acclaim and popularity was what allowed him to flaunt policy and then get her fired. I don’t know either of them. I just hope the Human Rights program stays strong.

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  • April 12, 2013 at 10:53 am
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    If we’ve learned anything in recent history, it’s that we shouldn’t rush to judgement on people, good or bad. And that getting to the truth trumps standing by people based on what you assume you know. Truth, not perception, is all that matters.

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  • April 12, 2013 at 10:45 pm
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    Further to XT’s point: One thing for certain is that we ought not judge anyone or anything based on a plaintiff’s pleadings alone. They’re a slanted, self-interested, one-sided presentation of a given situation, almost by requirement. Have patience to let some truth come out. (Also, it would be “flout policy,” not “flaunt policy.”)

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  • April 12, 2013 at 10:45 pm
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    @SMU alum–when I was at SMU I caught a very highly regarded professor cavorting with my roommate. A google search shows he is still teaching at a different university far, far away. According to ratemyprofessor.com he is still very highly regarded by his students. DemBones is right–his ability to teach has nothing to do with his ability to conform to school policies.

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  • April 13, 2013 at 5:45 pm
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    @Z. Merriam Webster Online says my using flaunt instead of flout is not wrong, although “many people will consider it a mistake.” To clarify: She alleges that in their office he flaunted the behavior that flouted SMU policy.

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  • April 15, 2013 at 10:16 pm
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    @Dem: I don’t doubt it. Merriam Webster is a notoriously lax reference, not taken too seriously by grammarians or those interested in usage. It’s well known that you can find permission for virtually anything in its pages—including the use of a completely incorrect word. Dictionaries come in all flavors, and it’s true that language is ever evolving. Also, I may be guilty of being old-school in my thinking—but on the usage spectrum between mandatory and hortatory, I believe dictionaries should lean toward the task of prescribing usage. Whereas MW clearly (to my mind, and that of many others) errs grossly on the side of merely reflecting (i.e., reporting) current usage. In other words, once enough people get the usage wrong, MW deems it “right” per vox populi, and that usage gets printed in MW. Surely it’s appropriate to broaden usage when a term gains a legitimate new meaning, and/or after a generation or two employs that meaning, etc.—but it doesn’t seem at all appropriate to alter a dictionary entry simply based on the mere confusion of two similar-sounding words. Thus the MW’s poor reputation. (I recommend a mammoth Webster’s 2d Unabridged. Now that’s a dictionary.)

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  • April 15, 2013 at 10:38 pm
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    Sorry to write further (and to advertise yet again how much of a geek I truly am), but MW’s defense of its position on flaunt v. flout is pretty darn entertaining, and serves as a clearer admonition not to depend on MW as a usage reference than I could ever hope to compose:

    “Although transitive sense 2 of flaunt undoubtedly arose from confusion with flout, the contexts in which it appears cannot be called substandard . If you use it, however, you should be aware that many people will consider it a mistake.”

    In short, MW admits right off the bat the misuse clearly arose from confusion—yet then they assert that it nevertheless ought not be considered substandard usage, because, heck, the mistake has been made by noteworthy, quotable people who really should have known better. Then they close by saying, “By the way, you should be aware that other people will definitely still notice the mistake.” MW at its finest.

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  • April 16, 2013 at 11:25 am
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    Dang Z.Grammar smackdown.

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  • April 17, 2013 at 2:52 pm
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    I much prefer Z’s thoughtful O/T discourse to the many irrelevant comments on the intertubes saying the Prof didn’t do anything illegal, it was all consensual, I didn’t see it so it can’t be true, he never hit on me so she must be lying, he is a great teacher, advisor, mentor, friend, and human rights advocate so he couldn’t have been hitting on his students, she was just jealous because he didn’t hit on her, blah, blah, blah.

    He agreed to abide by SMU policy in order to receive a salary and benefits. She alleges that he didn’t abide by it and that she lost her salary and benefits because she told on him. We’re not talking criminal behavior, or misbehavior with every female student he knew.

    BTW, Avid, a bit harsh to give me no points. I said Merriam Webster agreed with me; Z’s answer was that MW sucks.

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  • April 17, 2013 at 4:25 pm
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    @DemBones
    Touche.

    Z-2
    DemBones-1

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