They were clad in cyan blue T-shirts that read “Keep calm and chem on,” and they gathered in front of a Manhattan College’s academic building.
Inside, chemical engineering professor Ann Marie Flynn met with the school’s Council for Faculty Affairs, and the topic wasn’t pleasant: The administration wants to fire her.
Alums, students and maybe even a professor or two stood outside shouting “Dr. Flynn. Keep her in,” which Flynn later told supporters she could hear from inside.
Why Flynn’s job is being threatened wasn’t clear — Peter McHugh, Manhattan College’s communications director said the school doesn’t discuss personnel matters, and couldn’t comment beyond a statement. But some of her supporters, including her niece Morgan Brady, claim Flynn has been a victim.
“She has been stalked,” Brady said. “Her office has been broken into, and someone defecated in her office.”
The proceedings are being held behind closed doors, but Brady wants them public because she believes her aunt has suffered from wrongful discrimination and harassment.
One alum who says she’s familiar with what’s happening to the professor, Anne Meier, said Flynn’s office was broken into and course notes were stolen.
Once upon a time, before Flynn was a professor, she was a Manhattan College student, and one of eight girls in the graduating class of 1981. Flynn has spent more than 20 years at Manhattan College as a professor, and there still aren’t a lot of women there, Meier said.
“There has been about 15 women who have recently left the college,” Meier said, holding a “Time’s Up” poster. “She’s a very strong female, and the vibe you get from the school is very corrupt. I flew up from Florida for this.”
Nicole May, another Manhattan College alum, said Flynn first started having trouble with the administration a few years before when she took medical leave to care for her sick husband.
“That’s when they started chipping at her and building their case,” May said.
“How can you pick at someone for being loud in a classroom? It was nitpicking. All she did was push her kids, and you’re going to try to terminate her for that?”
Chris Hall, who graduated two years ago, said Flynn was the only reason he even considered chemical engineering.
She had spent an hour of her time with him answering questions and telling him about the program.
“She wasn’t even trying to force my decision,” Hall said.
After the preliminary hearing ended, supporters greeted Flynn outside. Others who couldn’t make it Monday have put together a petition with more than 200 signatures addressed to president Brennan O’Donnell, provost William Clyde and engineering school dean Tim Ward.
Flynn’s efforts outside the classroom, outside of specific course work, is not being appreciated by the school administration, May said.
“She sacrificed a lot of her time,” said Bobby Smith, another alum. “It’s only fair that we return the favor and be there for her the way she was there for us.”
In a statement, McHugh said the chemical engineering program is committed to preparing students for successful careers, “in whatever direction they go.”
“We remain committed to an inclusive, excellent chemical engineering department, in which students thrive and graduates flourish.”