A faculty member at the University of New Hampshire has resigned after being investigated for “serious allegations of misconduct” on social media.

While he was not named in recent releases and the circumstances have not been explained in detail, previous updates and extensive documentation on social media have led many to believe that it is related to a male assistant professor who was accused of posing as a woman of color under the Twitter handle @piney_the.

On February 10, UNH President James Dean Jr. and Associate Vice President for Community, Equity, and Diversity Nadine Petty explained that after four months of investigations, the faculty member “chose to resign when the university concluded that the conduct exhibited was not consistent with the university’s values and our expectation that every faculty member contribute to a professional academic environment free of intimidation and harassment.”

While the university has avoided identifying the professor “to protect the privacy of all involved,” details of the controversy have been widely documented and discussed across Twitter. 

Trolling With Fake Twitter Account

Twitter account @piney_the first joined Twitter in January 2019 and built a modest following during its time on the platform.

While both the fake Twitter account and the professor’s personal Twitter account have been deleted, web archives and internet sleuths have obtained an extensive record of the account’s posts as well as its similarities with the professor’s tweets on his personal account. 

In particular, Twitter account @drama_science made a thread that laid out the similarities between the two accounts.

The account was so controversial it prompted the start of a petition to have the male professor terminated. The petition has since garnered 1,050 signatures.

Chair of the Chemistry Department Glen Miller allegedly confirmed the identity of the professor. However, he was also widely criticized online for not taking a more definitive stance against him. Screenshots of his alleged email circulated around Twitter, and New Hampshire Public Radio also quoted a statement from the email.

“Everyone is entitled to their opinion, of course, but when those opinions are dismissive or hurtful or harmful to others, it is not okay with me. I reject those statements and their intent, wholeheartedly,” Miller stated.

“But even so, I do not reject [the professor]. I am not giving up on [the professor],” he added, going on to describe the person in question as “embarrassed and overwhelmed and shellshocked.”

Impersonating People of Color

This case of an academic impersonating a person of color is, unfortunately, not an isolated incident. Recently, three other academics were found to have faked their racial or ethnic identities throughout the year of racial justice protests. 

The list includes Jessica King from George Washington University, who resigned after it was found that she faked several Black and Hispanic identities to develop her career as an Africana studies academic; CV Vitolo-Haddad, a PhD student at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, who also resigned after falsely claiming to be black; and BethAnn McLaughlin, who was unmasked as the owner of a long-running Twitter account on which she claimed to be a Native American science professor at Arizona State University

This phenomenon, referred to as “identity tourism,” has occurred widely on the internet for years.

One of the earliest occurrences was in 2011, when 40-year-old, white American graduate student Tom McMaster deceived many into thinking he was a young Syrian lesbian. However, it appears that the #MeToo and #BlackLivesMatter movements have encouraged others to look into appropriating these identities for themselves.

White Teachers Claiming To Be Black: ‘Cultural Appropriators’ or Seriously Ill?