Nebraska professor under fire for dressing up like Cheney, mock shooting at students

By Deena Winter | Nebraska Watchdog

LINCOLN, Neb. – A University of Nebraska professor is coming under fire for dressing up as former Vice President Dick Cheney on Halloween, and pretending to shoot at students with his hands.

John Gruhl, a UNL political science professor, walked into his classroom on Halloween wearing an orange hunting vest and said, “Well, it’s Halloween.” He took the face mask off, but a student asked him to put it back on so he could take a picture.

UNL political science professor John Gruhl

So Gruhl put the mask back on and then pretended to hold a rifle and aim it at students, according to a video of the incident posted in a story by Campus Reform, which bills itself as a higher ed watchdog that exposes bias and abuse on campuses.

Gruhl was apparently making light of Cheney’s infamous 2006 hunting accident, in which he almost killed his fellow hunter by accidentally shooting him in the face and chest.

In the video, Gruhl’s students seemed to take their professor’s stunt in stride, laughing and commenting on the mask’s detail. But at least one student was not amused: Matt Server, a freshman political science major, told Campus Reform he respects his professor, but was disappointed by his lack of respect for a man he also admires, Cheney.

“When Professor Gruhl walked in to the class on Halloween dressed as Dick Cheney, I felt as though he had overstepped his boundaries as an educator,” Server told Campus Reform. “By dressing up, and in my eyes, mocking the former vice president, I felt that Professor Gruhl had gone to another level in his attacks on Vice President Cheney. His costume, and subsequent remarks, were inappropriate for an institute of higher education.”

Gruhl’s class called The Presidency is about U.S. presidents.

When contacted by Nebraska Watchdog for comment, Gruhl contacted UNL’s spokesman Steven Smith, who released a statement from UNL Chancellor Harvey Perlman, who said he was aware of the story about Gruhl.

“The video in question was taken on Halloween during a course on the American presidency. The class was finishing a section on the vice presidency, in which former Vice President Cheney was studied as an historically strong vice president,” Perlman said in the statement. “The University of Nebraska-Lincoln respects academic freedom and allows its faculty a broad range of instructional discretion. We are confident Professor Gruhl had no intent to threaten any student. However, his actions lacked good judgment and were in poor taste.”

Server told the news outlet that Gruhl has consistently portrayed conservatives in a negative light in the class.

Campus Reform also obtained an audio recording of Gruhl saying Cheney’s policies “gave us a black eye around the world” and accusing him of being the driving force behind “some of the biggest mistakes in the Bush administration” – including wiretapping Americans and the Bush tax cuts “which proved to be the single biggest factor in the governments deficit and to this day a huge factor.”

But Perlman called Gruhl “a veteran instructor who is popular among students of varying political viewpoints” who has “acknowledged that his students have a wide range of political beliefs, and that part of his role as a teacher is to be sensitive to those with varying viewpoints.”

Campus Reform is a project of the Leadership Institute, which says it has trained conservative activists, students and leaders since 1979.

Follow Deena on Twitter at @DeenaNEWatchdog

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Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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