Students of a Kent State University professor who’s under FBI investigation made no mention of his alleged ties to the Islamic State in end-of-the-semester reviews — but some did complain about inappropriate classroom conduct.
The FBI is looking into accusations that history professor Julio Pino — an outspoken Muslim with a controversial history of anti-Israel and pro-Palestinian rhetoric — was using his classroom to recruit students to ISIS.
Pino has repeatedly denied the allegations, and none of the student reviews support the accusations.
The vast majority of performance reviews obtained by the Beacon Journal were positive. According to reviews by students in four of his classes in the 2015 spring and summer semesters, Pino is an intelligent and gifted teacher of history.
“The course information was very interesting. The professor was amazingly prepared and knowledgeable,” wrote a student in his spring 2015 class on the history of Afro-Latin America. “Instructor was excellent!”
Other reviews — all of which were filed anonymously — were not as positive.
“Professor Pino was a knowledgeable professor, but his sexual ‘jokes’ were not appreciated and offensive,” wrote a student in his spring 2015 class on the history of the modern world.
Of the 58 students in that class, 26 wrote reviews. Of those, six complained of inappropriate or unprofessional behavior during class. All of the complaints came from the same class.
“No respect shown when he talks about being high and drunk and raping little girls,” one student wrote.
Another student made almost identical complaints.
“No professionalism at all considering every class he mentioned how he was going to get high and drunk and find 18-year-old girls to have sexual relations with,” the student said.
Others warned the “jokes” were not amusing.
“Be careful what you say. A lot of people become offended by your ‘jokes,’ especially with sexual jokes,” the student wrote. “They aren’t funny.”
Two other students called Pino “obnoxious” or “rude,” but did not elaborate.
In an email, Pino denied the students’ accusations.
“The accusations you refer to, very few in number, are fabrications and falsifications,” he said. “At no time did I ever make such statements, inside or outside of class. I respect the integrity of the entire student body, and treat all my pupils with respect and courtesy.”
If the classroom comments attributed to Pino were jokes, it wouldn’t be the first time Pino’s sense of humor was lost on the public. Last week, he said posts on his social media profiles that were meant to be entertaining were misinterpreted. In a comment on one photo of what appears to be masked insurgents wielding assault rifles in a desert, Pino wrote: “Keep it a secret: that’s me on the left!”
Pino’s superiors are investigating the accusations by students.
“The university is currently looking into this matter, which is completely unrelated to the ongoing FBI investigation,” said Todd Diacon, Kent State’s provost and senior vice president for academic affairs. “As provost, I am working with the department chair and dean of the college to ensure these concerns are dealt with appropriately.”
It’s unclear what kind of discipline could result. Legal experts told the Beacon Journal last week that it’s difficult for universities to fire professors who are tenured like Pino.
In another statement issued earlier this week, Pino said teaching is his passion.
“Teaching is both my duty and delight,” he said. “Many former students and colleagues have honored me with their merciful words of support.”
He said he had not been interviewed by the FBI regarding the allegations; he knows he’s under investigation only because of national news coverage. An FBI spokesperson on Thursday again confirmed the investigation was ongoing and said a statement would follow should the investigation turn up any proof.
The FBI’s investigation follows a series of high-profile incidents involving Pino, who was hired to Kent State in 1992. He converted to Islam in 2000, and the controversies came soon after. Highlights include Pino eulogizing a Palestinian suicide bomber in 2002 and shouting “Death to Israel!” at a 2011 lecture by a former Israeli diplomat.
In interviews last week, Pino said he was merely expressing his right to free speech in those controversies. He said he does not advocate violence and does not support the Islamic State.
In his statement this week, he said he has nothing to hide.
“I am fully confident the end of the day will bring justice,” he said, “for as the great Dr. Martin Luther King said, ‘The arc of the universe points towards justice, but it moves slowly.’
“I try to live by the light of those words.”
Nick Glunt can be reached at 330-996-3565 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @NickGluntABJ.