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Banned graduate student claims UM out to ruin him

A graduate student at University of Maryland College Park who led protests against sexual harassment has been barred from the campus by university police, who say he threatened to kill professors and administrators.

Sociology doctoral student Scott J. McKearney, who can be arrested for trespass if he is found on campus, vehemently denied the allegation. He argued that it represents the university's latest blow in a series of unfair sanctions taken against him since last fall.

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Mr. McKearney said he believed his troubles began with a protest against date rape that attracted media attention in late October.

University officials would not comment yesterday, but in a Dec. 21 letter to Mr. McKearney's attorney, senior university counsel Jack T. Roach wrote, "We do not intend to address his many assertions of fact and motivation. Quite frankly, they strike us as fantasy."

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UM senior Joshua Solomon told campus police Saturday Mr. McKearney had said that "maybe I should bring an AK-47 to campus" to resolve his problems. But Mr. Solomon said yesterday the university had overreacted to what he believes was a flippant remark.

"You have acted in a manner that disrupts and disturbs the normal educational functions of the University," UM Chief of Police Kenneth W. Krouse wrote Saturday in a letter to Mr. McKearney, which the doctoral student provided to The Sun. "In particular, on January 27, 1995, you expressed a desire to kill University faculty and staff, and discussed bringing a weapon to campus for that purpose."

In December, university officials told Mr. McKearney that they were investigating him for allegations of sexual harassment, insubordination and inappropriately mixing his political and instructional activities by asking students to write about traumatic experiences in their personal lives. Mr. McKearney, who until recently served as the adviser of a student coalition against sexual assault, taught two sociology courses a term at UM to help pay living expenses.

In response to the allegations, he has been stripped of his teaching job, denied the release of academic transcripts and recommendations as he applies for jobs, and told not to interact with undergraduates, according to correspondence provided to The Sun by Mr. McKearney.

He said he spoke publicly because he has no other way to clear his name, since the university has not formally charged him with any offenses, either criminally or through campus judicial proceedings.

In addition, Mr. McKearney said he was fired Tuesday from his position as a part-time instructor at Towson State University, where he had taught three courses. Officials at Towson said they could neither confirm nor deny whether Mr. McKearney has been fired.

"To say yes or no would give you indication of a personnel matter that has been taken," Towson State lawyer Michael Anselmi said. "We are making decisions in light of what happened in North Carolina. The university has obligations to exercise reasonable care. Where there are reports that a faculty member has threatened the lives of other faculty members, we have to take that information into account."

The UM police's action came two days after a law student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill was arrested in the fatal shooting of two people.

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Mr. Solomon said he first mentioned Mr. McKearney's remark to an administrator friend, who in light of the events at Chapel Hill, encouraged him to tell campus police.

Mr. Solomon said he told UM police that the remark was made off-handedly, and reflected Mr. McKearney's frustration with his seemingly ruined professional prospects, not any violence or hostility.

"Scott's paranoid, maybe beyond reasonable standards," said Mr. Solomon, a 21-year-old student from Silver Spring. "But the more I look at it, the more reason I think he has to be scared. He's up against a wall."

For his part, Mr. McKearney said he does not remember making the remark, and said he is not prone to any kind of violence. "I'm a Christian, I'm nonviolent, I'm a recovering alcoholic," Mr. McKearney said. "That is extremely out of character for me."

University officials will neither confirm nor deny whether any formal action has been taken against him. "Privacy issues

prevent any comment at all about his allegations," said UM spokesman Roland King. "There are allegations against the university; there are allegations against the student. The university has systems in place to deal with this, but they must operate under a cloak of privacy." Several senior officials did not return telephone calls seeking comment.

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Mr. McKearney asserted that university officials have conspired to break him professionally because his activism against date rape and sexual assault cast the university in an unfavorable light.

Mr. McKearney, who has to complete his dissertation and one course credit before receiving his doctorate, said he has been blocked from enrolling as a student this term and told to withdraw or face expulsion. According to Mr. McKearney, his attorney, Baltimore lawyer Lloyd Lurie, was told by Mr. Roach that Mr. McKearney would be allowed to re-apply next year if he were willing to leave the campus and stop talking about the issue publicly.

Mr. McKearney said he has received 309 letters of support from students and their families; and members of Students Against Sexual Coercion, which he formerly advised, have publicly protested his situation.


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