POLITICS

Ontario college no longer employs professor after investigating online homophobic comment

07/21/2015 10:38 EDT | Updated 07/21/2016 05:59 EDT
TORONTO - An Ontario college says it no longer employs a professor following an investigation into a complaint about homophobic comments allegedly posted on social media.

A spokeswoman for St. Lawrence College says an investigation was launched after a student complained about comments professor Rick Coupland allegedly made on Facebook.

Kelly Wiley says the comments were a "breach" of the school's code of conduct.

Screenshots of a post circulating on social media allegedly show Coupland sharing a link to a story about a rainbow flag being raised in St. Petersburg, Fla., accompanied with the comment "It's the queers they should be hanging, not the flag."

The Facebook account appeared to have been deleted by Tuesday.

Coupland, who was a business professor with the college, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

"We were made aware by a former student who sent us the post and a complaint about the content of the post," Wiley told The Canadian Press. "The posts were deeply concerning to the college due to the nature of their content. It was clear to us that we needed to investigate them immediately."

Wiley said Coupland was put on leave with pay on Monday as the college began its investigation.

St. Lawrence College, which has campuses in Brockville, Cornwall and Kingston, said the comments are not a reflection of its values.

"We also believe this is an opportunity to get even better in that we are inclusive and we are supportive," Wiley said.

She said the college has strict policies that guide the conduct of its employees.

Jolisa Masucol, who graduated from the college in the spring, said she was disappointed that the school issued a statement on its social media channels about the incident on Monday, despite it first being reported by a local news outlet last week.

"It reflects poorly on the school's public relations strategy," she said. "I would have appreciated them to address the issue head on, but they didn't."

Masucol, who didn't take a class with Coupland but saw him in passing as he shared an office with one of her professors, noted that the college is nonetheless an inclusive community.

Earlier this month, the college's Brockville campus opened what it calls the "Rainbow Way" — a pathway painted in the colours of the rainbow to celebrate its LGBT staff and students.

The college said it plans to expand the pathway to its other campuses in the future.