Brevard Community College professor investigated over pro-Barack Obama stance

Sharon Sweet on unpaid leave after distributing campaign material

COCOA, Fla. - A Brevard Community College math instructor is being investigated by the college for allegedly using class time to urge students to vote for President Barack Obama and for distributing campaign material that says "I pledge to vote for President Obama and Democrats up and down the ticket."

Associate Professor Sharon Sweet, 58, requested and was granted an unpaid leave of absence Monday morning as senior college officials look into the matter, Local 6 News partner Florida Today reported.  Sweet did not return phone messages or an email seeking comment Monday, the newspaper said.

A parent complaint Thursday initiated the investigation, and college officials have since received dozens of emails and phone calls expressing concern, BCC spokesman John Glisch said. The incident sparked outrage online, where it was mentioned by conservative bloggers and posted to various websites.

"The college takes this policy extremely seriously," said Glisch, referring to a policy that prohibits employees from soliciting support for a political candidate during working hours or on college property.

"We are a nonpartisan, public institution," he said. "It is very important that all of our faculty and staff act in that manner at work and while they're on campus."

Glisch said senior college officials investigating the complaints will interview the roughly 100 students in Sweet's classes. In addition, college provosts are reiterating the college's policy to employees.

Sweet teaches college algebra and math for liberal arts on the Melbourne campus and receives a salary of about $40,000 a year. She's been employed by BCC for five years.

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