Update: Chally doesn’t buy Professor Thornton’s end-of-the-year “Aloha Party” story

Heydi Ortiz and Courtney Green

Spinnaker has learned new information about a professor in trouble for an end of the year classroom booze party. We’ve now confirmed that Dr. Brian Thornton of the School of Communication has been suspended for Fall 2019.

Spinnaker obtained a Notice of Suspension letter detailing the exact nature of a Spring 2019 incident in which Dr. Thornton allegedly allowed students to drink alcohol in his classroom during an end-of-year “Aloha Party.” 

In the Notice of Suspension letter, written by former Provost, Pam Chally, the University alleged that the issue wasn’t just with the one class. 

“It has been reported that students in your earlier class that day reportedly were drinking,” the notice read.

The letter also shed light on exactly how UPD became aware of the incident.

 “This matter came to the University’s attention when a student posted pictures regarding the Aloha Party on social media. This post was observed by a staff member who contacted UPD. Two UPD officers, wearing body cameras, responded to your classroom where they observed students in your class consuming alcohol.”

The notice also alleged that Dr. Thornton claimed he didn’t know students were drinking in his class. 

“It is unreasonable for you to claim you lacked knowledge of consumption of alcohol was occurring. Further, some of the students consuming alcohol were under the legal drinking age of twenty-one years of age.”

According to the notice, two of the fourteen students present were underage.

In a statement to the University arguing against his suspension, Dr. Thornton explained that he was under the influence himself at the time of the party. “I took some regular cold medicine to dry my sinuses,” he wrote. According to the Notice of Suspension, the cold medicine contained codeine, which Dr. Thornton said made him “groggy.”

Despite Dr. Thornton’s claim that he was groggy and therefore unaware of the students’ action, a Notice of Intent to Suspend dated May 10 stated that this was also unreasonable. 

“Your statement to UPD, and later to administrators, Dr. Dan Moon and me, that you were unaware that the students were consuming alcohol during your class are not supported by Student Conduct’s investigation,” the notice said.

“Allowing students, especially those that are underage, to consume alcohol is a very serious breach of your fiduciary duty to both our students and their loved ones. This breach of duty accompanied by you not being honest with me when I questioned you about your knowledge of students drinking in your class when contemplating what action was appropriate to address your behavior…must be appropriately addressed,” said Pam Chally in the Notice of Suspension.

Previously, Spinnaker obtained UPD body-cam footage showing officers response to the tip that students were drinking in Dr. Thornton’s class. The full video showed officers enter the classroom, collect alcohol from students, and lecture Dr. Thornton before taking him to pour the alcohol out in a nearby bathroom. To protect the identities of the students involved, Spinnaker chose to cut the moments where officers were in the classroom.

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