BLACKSBURG — A university investigation into an alleged threatening post on the Facebook page of a Virginia Tech graduate teaching assistant found the comments weren’t made by him, according to documents he provided to The Roanoke Times.
The Oct. 2 post — which also triggered a police investigation — was published on Mark Neuhoff’s account and referenced Tori Coan, a Tech student who filed a harassment and discrimination complaint against him. The post listed Coan’s personal phone number with the caption “f--- her up, destroy her.”
The name of the person school officials believe made the post is redacted from the university report Neuhoff provided. That document says the person responsible for the post has been banned from campus. Neuhoff has said a family member made the post.
University officials would not acknowledge the report.
Tech spokesman Mark Owczarski separately said the university banned Neuhoff’s wife, Thaomy, from the school’s Blacksburg campus in October. He declined to say why she was banned, citing federal student privacy laws. Neuhoff’s wife is not a Tech student.
She hung up the phone after a reporter called and identified himself Thursday.
In the Nov. 8 university Office of Student Conduct report, Neuhoff was advised that the university had found him “not responsible” on four allegations that Coan brought against him: abusive conduct assault verbal/nonverbal, abusive conduct harassment, disorderly or disruptive conduct and involvement in a university violation.
“The evidence gathered suggests that the Oct. 2 Facebook post on Neuhoff’s Facebook page was not actually made by Neuhoff,” according to the report.
The report says the person the university believes made the post is not subject to school policy because that person is not affiliated with Tech.
Coan, a senior, filed her complaint Sept. 13 against Neuhoff with the university’s Office of Equity and Accessibility, claiming he violated university policy 1025.
That policy states the school does not tolerate harassment based on gender or political party affiliation and that such behavior “is inconsistent with the university’s commitment to excellence and to a community in which mutual respect is a core value as articulated in the Virginia Tech Principles of Community.”
Writings on Neuhoff’s Facebook page have stirred friction on campus. A student and part-time English composition instructor, Neuhoff said in early October that those writings described what he called “basic conservative principles.” Those Facebook posts covered white dominance, shared articles on the Holocaust and facilitated other racial and political debate.
Neuhoff said his detractors took out of context his posts, which were intended for a private audience that “gets” him.
In her complaint, Coan said Neuhoff “targeted [her] personally” and was “threatening violence toward those who speak out against [him].”
Fearing her complaint would go unaddressed by school officials, Coan and other students staged a protest interrupting Tech President Timothy Sands’ Sept. 29 State of the University Address.
Coan has said she did not attend classes for at least a week after the Oct. 2 post, fearing for her safety. She could not be reached for comment about the university report.
“If I wanted to ‘retaliate against Tori,’ why would I not simply go to her home address in the middle of the night?” Neuhoff wrote Wednesday evening in an e-mail to The Roanoke Times. “Knowing that I have her home address, isn’t it overwhelmingly more likely that if I wanted to ‘violently retaliate’ I would do it in the privacy of her home rather than a massively public place like the campus?”
Blacksburg police filed a search warrant Oct. 18 seeking Facebook posts, comments, photographs and messenger conversations from Neuhoff’s page from Aug. 20 to Oct. 13.
In the warrant, police said the information was sought in an investigation that could result in a charge of threatening death or bodily injury, a felony with a maximum penalty of five years in prison.
No one has been charged. Town police Lt. John Goad said Wednesday police still are investigating the Oct. 2 Facebook post.
“No information will be released at this time,” Goad said.
Neuhoff said he has decided not to teach next semester, hoping to “calm some of the hysterical people down.”
Early last week, about 100 students gathered on the steps of Burruss Hall, the school’s administration building, protesting Tech’s continued employment of Neuhoff.
He said none of the protests this fall affected his decision not to teach next semester, but, he explained, he wants to “prevent the university from facing anymore scrutiny.”
Neuhoff said he had been offered a different research opportunity for next semester by English Department Chairwoman Bernice Hausman — studying banned books and free speech as it relates to English literature.
He said he would be paid for the work and report directly to Hausman.
Hausman did not return a phone message, instead directing questions to Owczarski, who offered a statement from the English Department that did not mention Neuhoff.
“The right to speak freely is ensconced in the Constitution of the United States,” it read. “We honor its central role in our nation’s culture — to promote public debate and to safeguard individual freedoms.”