Student involved in hallway confrontation with faculty member to face conduct court hearing

Kent State Police responded to Franklin Hall Tuesday morning after a student, Joe Swaney, verbally threatened Tim Roberts, the undergraduate studies coordinator for the School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

Shortly before that, Gretchen Dworznik, an assistant professor of journalism, asked Swaney to leave her classroom after he raised his voice during a class discussion.

Student involved in on-campus disturbance speaks out from on Vimeo.

Roberts and Dworznik declined to comment.

Swaney said he shouldn’t have been kicked out of the class for expressing his opinion.

“They told me about my speaking tone, which is a little more elevated than most,” Swaney said. “I still think that is was a very acceptable level, and I just thought my question wasn’t given its fair due. I pursued the answer and tried to just, you know, contemplate thoughts. That’s what you go to school to do.”

Swaney said once he left the classroom, he went to go talk to Roberts to file a complaint.

“Finally, I lost it. I started spouting off everything that came to my mind and … in a fervent tirade, I cursed at him, threatened him in ways … nothing meaningful,” Swaney said. “I might take back a couple of those statements deemed threatening because that’s causing me a lot of trouble right now. Other than that, no. I don’t regret anything. I don’t think I was in the wrong.”

Savanna McCarthy, a senior journalism major, said the class was in a discussion about an article, debating whether or not it was journalistic, when Swaney began to cause a disruption.

“Swaney was just shouting over everyone and disagreeing with everyone,” McCarthy said. “He said what he had to say, but then he continued debating with (Dworznik) after she asked him to please calm down or he would have to leave.” 

While McCarthy said she didn’t think the situation was scary, she did find it frustrating “because he was disrupting the class after (Dworznik) repeatedly asked him to calm down or leave.”

Kevin Dilley, director of Student Media in the School of JMC, said he heard Swaney shouting at Roberts on the second floor hallway outside the Student Media Business Office in Franklin Hall.

“I know that at about 10:30 a.m. someone came into my office and told me there was a lot of arguing going on,” Dilley said. “I stepped out of my office and into the hallway, and a student was coming out of the JMC office. There were raised voices and a lot of arguing going on.”

Dilley said he stepped in between Roberts and Swaney, and walked Swaney outside of the building to give him time to cool off.

Thor Wasbotten, director of the School of JMC, said the situation is no longer in the hands of the school, but instead is being taken care of by the Kent State Police Department.

“We always want to ensure that (with) any situation that happens … our students and faculty are safe and everything is worked out the way that it should be,” Wasbotten said.

Swaney’s administrative conduct hearing is set for Monday, but he said he is not planning to go because of prior experiences with another hearing.

“I went to the last hearing … Felt like it was set up like a witch trial. It’s an in-house procedure. Those people were hired by the university,” Swaney said. “They’re not going to side against the university. It’s a cut-and-dry deal. You know the score when you walk in there.”

Lydia Taylor is an assigning editor, contact her at [email protected].

Anna Huntsman is a TV2 reporter, contact her at [email protected].

Henry Palattella is an administration reporter, contact him at [email protected].