After public reporting of an incident involving treatment of an intern, a Rowan University Political Science and Economics Department adjunct lecturer is no longer employed with the department, according to Department Head Lawrence Markowitz.
The conduct of the professor in question, Jack O’Byrne, came into question following accusations of attempting to withhold wages from an intern he supervised at the Camden County Historical Society (CCHS), of which he is executive director. Screenshots of alleged emails between himself and a CCHS web development intern, who is choosing to go by the pseudonym “Helen,” first surfaced on Facebook after being posted by a third party.
According to Helen, conflict between herself and O’Byrne occurred at the end of her tenure at CCHS. After months of doing a three-person job by herself with little support from the institution and with limited hours, she was unable to launch the final product without dedicating more hours.
In response, O’Byrne apparently threatened to withhold 95 hours worth of wages until the site was launched.
The back-and-forth email exchanges between herself and O’Byrne can be found below, as well as on the original Facebook post created by Helen’s friend, Nhu Tran, who is transferring to Rowan to study computer science.
“As a leader of a nonprofit CCHS, a professor at Rowan, and a caucasian man in a position of power, I thought you’d protect me,” reads one of Helen’s final responses to O’Byrne, “Instead you threatened my livelihood and career during a pandemic, knowing I’d be vulnerable. You knew what you were doing.”
Helen responded to the Whit for questions about the incident. Though she doesn’t herself attend Rowan University, instead studying computer science at a different post-secondary institution, she believes that sharing her story could empower Rowan students who may be experiencing similar power imbalances in the classroom or the workplace.
“During the COVID-19 time like this, Jack threatened to not pay me, as well as prevent me from having a career in the future,” she said.
Helen is also an Asian immigrant and a woman. She believes that these factors may have contributed to the behaviors she says she experienced with O’Byrne.
A Jan. 4 NextShark article published a statement from O’Byrne which describes Helen as an “independent contractor” who “had one duty which was to download a software program and transfer it to our computers” and who “downloaded the program to their personal computer, refused to transfer the work product, and demanded payment.”
However, he also noted that he and CCHS were “unaware of any stress” caused by the project, and that the CCHS team did not have the computer science background to offer assistance.
Though O’Byrne’s university email address still accepted incoming messages as of Jan. 27, it was not accessible through the university’s staff and faculty directory. An email requesting comment, which was sent to the address on that date, has thus received no reply. It is unclear whether the inbox would still be operational. The Whit also reached out to his email at the Camden County Historical Society, with no response for comment.
“Professor O’Byrne is not currently employed in the Department of Political Science & Economics,” Markowitz said, responding via email to questions from The Whit.
There was no response given as to whether the allegations detailed in this article are indicative of relationships between O’Byrne and students he taught at Rowan University.
Editor’s Note: The Whit staff has been able to independently confirm the identity of “Helen,” who still wishes to remain anonymous.
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