A mass media professor is facing battery charges in connection with an incident that occurred in his 10 a.m. law class Friday, March 25.
Assistant Professor, Dr. Frank J. Rybicki, was arrested Wednesday around 10:30 a.m., according to the Valdosta State University Police Department.
Dr. Rybicki is free on bail as of Wednesday afternoon, according to the Lowndes County Sheriff Department.
According to the original incident report, a 22-year-old female student went to the VSUPD to report an assault involving a faculty member in the mass media building.
The altercation occurred when Dr. Rybicki allegedly closed a laptop computer on the hands of the student, said Dorsena Drakeford, another student in the class and Spectator sports editor.
Dr. Rybicki closed the laptop because he thought the student was on non-class related websites. The student began to argue with Dr. Rybicki about closing the laptop and about the websites she visited while in class. Class was dismissed early because Dr. Rybicki seemed upset by the incident, Drakeford said.
When students returned to the same class on Monday, they were greeted, not by their teacher, but instead two VSUPD officers.
The students who had not witnessed the incident were asked to leave. The remaining students were advised by the officers not to talk to anybody about the incident and that police could find out if information about this incident was put on Facebook or Twitter, Drakeford said.
VSUPD Major Ann Farmer told The Spectator it is standard procedure to advise witnesses not to talk about the incident.
Other students refused to comment, saying that they feared what other professors in the department might do if they talked about the incident.
“We cannot release any information other than the incident report,” Farmer said.
The Spectator attempted to contact Dr. Carl Cates, head of Communication Arts, and Dr. Larry Etling, head of the Mass Media area, for comments Wednesday afternoon, but both were unavailable.
Dr. Cates and Dr. Frank Barnas were in Dr. Rybicki’s classes Wednesday. They told students to keep up with readings, but wouldn’t give them any information about who would be teaching the classes from now on, Drakeford said.
When asking for a comment from the department, The Spectator was sent to Thressea Boyd, assistant to the president for communications.
“The university is investigating an incident involving a faculty member and this matter will be processed through the appropriate legal channels,” according to an official statement from the university sent from Boyd.
“In terms of class instruction, modifications have been made,” according to the statement.
The Spectator also asked Boyd about the existence of a faculty code of conduct. The university statement included this response.
“All employees are expected to perform their obligations and responsibilities in a professional manner,” the statement expressed. “Additionally, employees are governed by the policies and procedures of the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia and Valdosta State University.”
Many students are concerned about the future of Rybicki’s classes and losing the professor. Some, like Josias Valdez, mass media major, feel he was simply enforcing a school rule about using social media in class, and that he shouldn’t be blamed for that.
“[Dr. Rybicki] is one of the best teachers in the mass media system,” Valdez said. “The school should stand behind him. It’s a disgrace that we’ll lose a great teacher that I don’t think we should lose.”
Samuel Logan, junior mass media major, agreed with Valdez.
“I don’t think that the mass media department should lose a great teacher for something so trivial,” Logan said. “If he does get fired, VSU has lost a great professor.”