Prof who went on plane rant no longer teaching

Karen Bettez Halnon. (Photo from

The Penn State Abington professor who lit a cigarette on a plane and went on an hours-long rant about U.S.-Venezuela relations is no longer teaching, but remains employed by the university, a university spokeswoman said Thursday.

Karen Bettez Halnon, who was arrested in Miami earlier this month after ignoring pleas from a flight attendant to stop, had been teaching before the incident.

The university’s investigation into the incident is continuing, said spokeswoman Lisa Powers.

Halnon, 52, has been an associate professor of sociology at the Abington campus since 1999. She said she was upset that the United States had declared Venezuela a national security threat and felt the need to speak out. She lit the cigarette, she said, to show solidarity with other revolutionaries.

Two Penn State undergrads, her research assistants, had been traveling with her. They were returning from a research trip in Nicaragua. Halnon was charged with disorderly conduct and has apologized for speaking out while students were traveling with her.