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Academy: Kings Point professor keeps job

Seven people have been appointed to an advisory

Seven people have been appointed to an advisory board that will be examining instruction and management at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point. (Feb. 22, 2012) Credit: Newsday/John Paraskevas

The Merchant Marine Academy's decision to let a professor keep his job after making an off-color joke about the July Colorado movie shootings was the right one, said the mother of a cadet who attended the class and lost his father in the massacre.

Greg F. Sullivan was suspended for 45 days without pay Tuesday, weeks after the cadet, Weston Cowden and his mother, Melisa Cowden, had pleaded with academy officials not to fire Sullivan.

"We're just appreciative that he didn't lose his job," Cowden said Thursday. "It was a mistake and he apologized for it. We all do dumb things sometimes."

Less than two weeks after 12 people were killed in Colorado, allegedly by a gunman with dyed orange hair, Sullivan was about to show a documentary when he jokingly told students, "If someone with orange hair appears in the corner of the room, run for the exit."

The academy said in a statement that the decision not to fire Sullivan came Tuesday "after careful review of all information collected as part of the process required under the federal policy governing academy faculty and staff."

"The academy's first priority is the well-being of its students, and it will continue to work with the entire campus community to ensure its ability to train and educate the nation's future merchant mariners," the statement said.

Sullivan did not return calls seeking comment. He has apologized to Weston Cowden.

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