University to dismiss professor following three convictions

Qingnong Xiao, a College of Marine Sciences associate professor at the USF St. Petersburg campus, has been given 10 days to respond to an intent of dismissal letter sent to him Thursday – three days after he was convicted of burglary, battery, and false imprisonment, according to a University statement.

University spokesman Michael Hoad said via email that the University plans to fire Xiao, but is giving him the opportunity to respond to the charges. Until then, he has been barred from all USF campuses.

Xiao, 48, was arrested in May 2010 after a Tampa woman called 911 saying Xiao had followed her to her apartment near International Plaza, according to the St. Petersburg Times.

The 26-year-old woman was walking her dogs near her apartment when she noticed that Xiao was behind her, she said to the Times. He then followed her into her complex, and grabbed her by the shoulder before she managed to run into her apartment.

After his arrest, he was released from jail on $5,000 bond and notified the University of the charges, Hoad said. The University allowed him to remain employed pending the outcome of the case, conducting research in the graduate school under the supervision of the dean’s office for the College of Marine Sciences.

Xiao said in an email to The Oracle that he did not accept the charges brought against him.

“I regret the jury had such a verdict,” he said. “However, I did not do what the charges said. I did not do burglary and battery, no touch or grab. The only evidence is what she said. It is not the truth. It is unfair.”

Xiao, who has worked as a USF faculty member without tenure since August 2009, said he regrets the unwanted attention his case has garnered in the media, including a June 23 TBT cover featuring an enlarged photo of his face with a caption reading “Perve-fessor.”

“I worked at USF for almost two years, and love (it) here,” he wrote. “I am sorry for the damage (that) has been caused to USF and (the College of Marine Sciences). I will try my best to prove my innocence.”

Hoad said he did not think Xiao’s tenure status affected the University’s decision to dismiss him.

Jacqueline Dixon, dean of the College of Marine Sciences, said she had mixed feelings about the professor’s dismissal.

“The University’s primary responsibility is to ensure that our students, staff and faculty are working in a safe and secure environment,” she said. “While I support the decision, it doesn’t lessen my sadness at seeing the tragic consequences to the career of a promising young scientist.”

Dixon said the college would ensure that Xiao’s students continue their studies under different “mentorship.”

According to the arrest inquiry, Xiao will be sentenced Aug. 8.