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Monday, May 27, 2024

The office of UF’s political science department was closed for about three hours Friday due to safety concerns after a political science professor was arrested on a domestic battery charge the day before.

“Because this individual has threatened violence in the past, it was decided that the best thing would be for the political science office to close early — which it did, shortly after 2 p.m.,” an e-mail from  department chairman Stephen Craig reads.

Richard Conley, 42, was arrested Thursday night after an argument with his wife, according to a police report.

Conley grabbed his wife’s wrist while trying to take their son away from her, according to the report. He also threw a wine rack to the floor and challenged his wife to call 911.

Conley’s wife was not injured, and she demanded the police leave, according to the report.

Conley, reached by phone, said his lawyer advised him not to comment on the arrest.

Paul D’Anieri, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, said Conley was placed on paid leave Friday afternoon until UF has assessed the situation.

“We’re in an environment where one is expected to...take any possible indication that something is out of order very seriously, and that’s what the chair did,” D’Anieri said.

“I actually don’t think it’s that big a deal,” he said of closing the office. “I don’t think it caused a big disruption and if it helped people feel better, then that’s fine.”

Conley’s lawyer, Thomas Edwards, said the closure of the office was unwarranted. Edwards said Conley had made no threats to anyone at UF and that the closing was likely influenced by a strained relationship between Conley and Craig.

“There was no connection between what took place between he and his wife and the department chair closing down the department,” he said.

He said the reference to past violent threats in Craig’s e-mail likely alluded to allegations made by Conley’s ex-wife during divorce proceedings that began in 2006.

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According to Edwards, the allegations, which Conley said are untrue, were made to gain leverage in a custody battle.

Craig referred comment to UF spokeswoman Janine Sikes, who said her ability to comment was limited because the issue was a personnel matter.

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