Johns Hopkins Fired Researcher for Using Bolt Cutters to Check on Computer Servers

, Spencer Irvine, Leave a comment

Daniel Povey, a speech recognition researcher, was an employee of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland until this past May. During a student protest about the university’s ties to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, the students occupied Garland Hall, an administrative building on-campus.

The protesters chained themselves inside the building and prevented freedom of movement by university officials and administrators. Povey’s research was housed in Garland Hall, and concerned about his research, he used bolt cutters to enter the building.

He claimed that after several server failures, he was concerned that his research was in jeopardy and went to check on the servers. But he was thrown out of the building and the university did not agree with his actions, later firing him. The university sent him a termination letter, which, in part read, “The safety, security, and protection of our students and others are of paramount importance to the University.”

Povey claimed he was “being fire[d] for what might have happened, while students are getting off scot-free for things that actually did happen.” Povey did not, in his own words, create a potentially-violent situation and instead, said that the student protesters scratched him and threw punches at him when he entered the building.

After his firing, Povey published a letter on his website that included the line, “White males in this environment seem to be expected to constantly atone for their existence by telegraphing their exclusive concern for every demographic group but their own, like a neutered puppy-dog or some Justin Trudeau man-child.”

He worked as a Facebook contractor previously, and after his firing, he was offered a full-time position at the company. But the company said he would only become a full-time employee after the conclusion of an investigation into his firing at Johns Hopkins. He could continue work as a contractor for six weeks until the investigation concluded, but he could not set foot on company grounds until after the investigation was over.

Povey declined the full-time offer due to the contingency of an investigation of his firing and said he will pursue work at either a start-up or a foreign company.