William S. Penn of Michigan State University Teaches Important Lessons To College Students

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157 Responses

  1. Chris says:

    " 2. People with power over you will use that power to indulge themselves in droning, whether or not their droning offers any value."

    My first reading gave this statement a c.ompletely different meaning from what you intended.

  2. Hazard says:

    The thing I most note when someone says or does something stupid is the reactions based on political party. A more liberal aligned person will voluntarily leave the position or call for censure. A more conservative aligned person will bluster and deflect or claim reform and forgiveness.

    Stupid happens on both sides. However, one side owns up to it while the other gets put on the Science, Space and Technology Committee.

  3. R R Clark says:

    Number 3 is the only one you really need to know. From there, you can make informed decisions about how good at any particular job a given person is. What is striking is that many people who like to tell you about their personal political beliefs are often not very good at their jobs either. It's probably 50/50, which is scary when you consider life should break down to something like 20/60/20. 20% dismal failure, 60% adequate performance, 20% epic success. In anything, across all boundaries. Anyone who tells me they're 100% successful isn't worth my time.

  4. "People can be tremendously talented and knowledgeable about Subject X and be useless louts about Subject Y. Often they'll want to talk about Subject Y."

    Yeah, this one. I have spent a couple decades working with very, very smart people who often hold advanced degrees in subjects my simple mind cannot begin to grasp. Literal and figurative rocket scientists.

    But once they step out of their area of expertise they can be as dumb as any random stranger. The good ones know it. The others will talk on about Subject Y and feel their expertise in Subject X lends weight to their words.

  5. sorrykb says:

    @Hazard: I'm liberal, but I'd tend to disagree with you. I think it's more that partisan absolutists (of which we have plenty, on all sides) tend to choose which standards to uphold in a situation depending on the actual or perceived partisan alignment of the people involved.

  6. Dan Weber says:

    It only took 2 comments. That must be some kind of record.

    Leave it up to people in the Other Political Party to fail to behave in public.

  7. Xenocles says:

    Surely the protection for a professor's expression is not – and ought not be – unlimited. Expression can be closely entwined with unprofessional conduct, which you have agreed in the closing paragraphs that the professor was exhibiting. If you:

    "think that it's pathetic that these students are paying to hear Professor Penn indulge himself like that even for ten minutes."

    and you:

    "think his calling out a student in class for seeming to disagree displays low character and an excellent reason to avoid his class."

    how does it follow that you:

    "don't see anything that merits firing from his position at a public institution?"

  8. John Balog says:

    I don't want him fired because he's a partisan hack. I want him fired because he's a shitty teacher.

  9. Tom says:

    Xenocles, you can't possibly read this blog regularly and not understand the difference between a government institution firing someone for speech, and a private individual expressing disapproval of that speech, or encouraging other individuals to express that disapproval through association.

  10. Xenocles says:

    That's absurd, Tom. Government institutions have very strict speech codes that have held up under all levels of scrutiny. Do you think that government agencies are exempt from sexual harassment laws?

    If your speech interferes with your job, you are subject to discipline within that job. If you were hired to teach creative writing you are not entitled to use class time to launch tirades on whatever crackpot ideas you feel like at the moment.

    There's a difference between being fired and going to jail (which, by the way, can happen for a certain class of government employees for certain types of speech).

  11. Ken White says:

    @Xenocles, I don't wish to be rude, but have you actually read any of the caselaw analyzing the First Amendment rights of public university professors?

  12. Sam says:

    The proper response, in my most humble opinion, is not to fire the professor but for the students to drop his courses en masse. This is complicated, due to the fact that as an English professor he probably teaches some required courses.

    In any case, while I don't support termination that nonsense has no place in the classroom. Some of my most favorite professors were quite good in part due to the inscrutability of their personal politics.

  13. Xenocles says:

    It's true, Ken, I haven't. But I refuse to believe that firing someone for misusing class time or verbally abusing students constitutes a violation of his right to free speech. If that's what the case law says, then I disagree with the case law. It wouldn't be the first time. But as you've said many times before, some things are censorship and some things just look like it superficially.

  14. Ken White says:

    Gee, @Xenocles, it seems like you were less saying what you thought the law should be and more what you thought the law is when you drop things like this on people:

    That's absurd, Tom. Government institutions have very strict speech codes that have held up under all levels of scrutiny. Do you think that government agencies are exempt from sexual harassment laws?

    If your speech interferes with your job, you are subject to discipline within that job. If you were hired to teach creative writing you are not entitled to use class time to launch tirades on whatever crackpot ideas you feel like at the moment.

    It's actually, with all respect, a little more complicated than how you feel about it. If you wanted to know what the rule is, you'd have to read about the Pickering-Connick test, the ambiguity for professors created by the Garcetti case, and then the resolution of that ambiguity suggested by the Adams case linked above.

    It might be something other than absurd.

  15. Eric Mesa says:

    As someone who's always hearing about the liberal bias to everything, something like this is annoying because it's proof that can be pointed to. But then I realize it's just like the pastors who crash and burn like the super anti-gay ones caught having gay sex. That's what makes the news and that's what people see/remember – the spectacular failures.

  16. Eric Mesa says:

    @xenocles I think I'd look at it this way – dude went off the rails. Is this something he always does or something he did just once? If it's something he did just once then the First Amendment allows you to keep partisan bickering from forcing your hand. If it's something he does all the time, then First Amendment still protects him, but you fire him for routinely not doing his job. (Assuming his job is to teach students. For some unis the job is the research and teaching is incidental)

  17. James Pollock says:

    I think I see the point that Xenocles is trying for.

    The fact that he holds, and espouses, partisan political opinions is not grounds to discipline him academically. But the fact that he uses class time that the students have paid for (many with government assistance) to make partisan rants rather than the work he is being paid to perform should be.

    In other words, discipline is due not because of what he is saying, but because of what he is not doing.

    "I don't want him fired because he's a partisan hack. I want him fired because he's a shitty teacher."
    Agreed, but not until it's established that he is, indeed, a shitty teacher. He may well turn out to be an excellent teacher prone to unfortunately-timed ranting, which is bad but not nearly as bad as if his teaching is fundamentally poor.

    A class like, say, political science would be highly prone to ideological ranting. A class like, say, geology, would not be. Creative writing, on the other hand, has all the universe as an appropriate subject.

  18. Ben says:

    He's doing the students a favor getting a political rant out this early in the semester. Add/drop period isn't over yet so they can take the opportunity to switch to a class where they might learn something, or at least that probably won't be much worse.

  19. C. S. P. Schofield says:

    IF, and i doubt it will come to that, but IF Professor Penn gets fire, I suspect that it will be a close parallel to the Ward Churchill case. Universities can and often do hire people they know to be 'edgy' political ideologues because up to a point the controversy such people stir up is something Universities want.

    War Churchill wasn't fired for shooting his mouth off. And, though he certainly deserved to be, he wasn't fired for dishonest research and plagiarism. He was fired for becoming an embarrassment. If he had said what he had said at another time, and only outraged a handful of Rush Limbaugh fans, he would still have that job.

    He who is hired to be a loudmouthed politically outrageous jerk will probably get fired for being a loudmouthed politically outrageous jerk. Just like Shock-Jocks.

  20. Luke G says:

    Ah, and here I was all excited to see my Alma Mater on Popehat. I'll never forget the freshman writing/discussion course, not droppable due to scheduling, where the professor responded to my opening-day discussion opinion with "Well that is certainly a very white middle-class male point of view."

    I take it as a point of pride that the lesson I learned was that they can insult you and condescend to you, but if you document it they won't fail you because they know you earned that grade.

  21. Jason says:

    Yet another example of a liberal pretending to talk like a calm rational person, while vilifying and dehumanizing their political opposition, not because of the positions and ideas they espouse, but just because they are political opposition.

    Its this dehumanizing bit that really bothers me. If you don't view people who disagree with you politically as viable humans ("dead/dying people"), then how long before you're ok with efforts to make them be actually dead.

  22. Ben Long says:

    If it's pathetic that students are paying to listen to him rant, and if his ranting is giving students reason to avoid his classes and thereby reduce the value he presents as a professor, isn't that reason for the university to terminate him? Regardless of the content of his speech, that he is wasting class time and ridiculing students for things unrelated to the learning experience he is being paid to provide should be grounds enough for dismissal. But maybe I'm too much in favor of our professors actually teaching their students during class.

    I'm not saying he should be fired over the content of his speech, but the context in which he chose to deliver it, that is, on the university's time. If an employee of any company didn't do their job to instead rant to their co-workers about how they think the space pope's diabolical mind control beam is a threat to our national security, I don't think anyone would think twice about that company firing them. It's at-will employment 101, do your job or you get fired. And yes, I know professors aren't at-will, but the merits of tenure are a different discussion.

  23. Xenocles says:

    @James – we agree. And I'm not saying he should be fired, but it's the sort of thing that warrants intervention from his bosses. Professors should be given wide latitude to conduct their classes as they see fit, but it's the duty of the institution to provide oversight to ensure that conduct is effective. I don't care what he says specifically, but I do care very much that the taxpayers of Michigan are paying him to say it. That being the case, the taxpayers – through their agents, the university leadership – are entitled to assurance that they're getting what they're paying for.

    @Ken- That was a response to a comment that claimed broad protections for employees of government institutions as a whole. That protection does not exist. I know this personally; if I were to express my frank opinion of some politicians I would be liable to be "punished as a court-martial may direct," which could well include jail time.

    In principle it sounds like the conduct you described disrupted government operations (ie, teaching the course) and adversely affected the harmony of the workplace (to the extent that students can be considered workers). So you tell me.

  24. mcinsand says:

    >> His discourse isn't embarrassing because it is "liberal" or "anti-
    >>Republican." It's embarrassing because it demonstrates the level of
    >>discourse you'd expect from …

    I'm hearing more and more of this type of 'discourse' from both sides. The more the Democrats and Republican parties become alike, the more shrill the shouting as loyals try to con us to believing that the parties still have significant differences.

  25. uqbar says:

    6. Huge amounts of government money pay for absolute shit.

    There, fixed that for you.

  26. Shane says:

    @Hazard

    A more liberal aligned person will voluntarily leave the position or call for censure. A more conservative aligned person will bluster and deflect or claim reform and forgiveness.

    I could never guess in a kabizillion years which side of the political spectrum you are on.

  27. CJColucci says:

    While no sane Chair or Dean or Provost will go after a professor every time he or she wastes class time on some non-germane matter
    — imagine a professor who spent a minute each class day bemoaning the state of the local baseball team — there does come a time when enough is enough, and if you're really going after the professor for wasting precious class time on non-germane matters rather than reacting to the content of the non-germane speech, the First Amendment is no impediment.

  28. wgering says:

    My pea-sized non-lawyer brain is confused.

    This reminds me of the distinction between speech and conduct that was discussed in the recent post about the Ninth Circuit's decision re: conversion therapy.

    From the decision (also quoted in Ken's post):

    At one end of the continuum, where a professional is engaged in a public dialogue, First Amendment protection is at its greatest….At the other end of the continuum, and where we conclude that SB 1172 lands, is the regulation of professional conduct, where the state’s power is great, even though such regulation may have an incidental effect on speech.

    My question in this instance is: how can one draw a distinction between Prof. Penn's speech and his conduct?

    I recognize that, as a professor at a public university, Prof. Penn could be "engaged in a public dialogue," but at the same time (as has been brought up by @Xenocles and @James Pollock), the students are paying to hear this man speak, so his speech is necessarily part of his "professional conduct."

    I realize the Ninth Cicruit's decision was focused on the field of medicine rather than education, but are there any parallels (either in theory or in law) between the two?

    Because I believe there should be. Were I a student of Prof. Penn's, I would be inclined to file a complaint with his superiors of unprofessional conduct. If he wants to wax politic, he can host a discussion (and I use that term loosely, as I believe he would) outside of class time. If I'm in a class to learn about creative writing, I don't want to hear about Ann Romney.

    So basically what @John Balog said.

  29. James Pollock says:

    "Yet another example of a liberal pretending to talk like a calm rational person, while vilifying and dehumanizing their political opposition, not because of the positions and ideas they espouse, but just because they are political opposition."

    Wait, is he a liberal, or just anti-Republican? While there is a considerable overlap between these two groups, it is not total.

  30. Zak N. says:

    Academic freedom is really broad. If this guy has tenure, then there is pretty much nothing they can do. Beyond grave misconduct like sexual harassment or blatant criminality, having tenure pretty much makes a professor immune to all punishments associate with their job performance.

    Or at least that's how the tenure system works in a hard science department. I've seen profs here pretty much close their labs and stop teaching and still be profs.

  31. Joel says:

    I think he should be fired, or whatever they can do to a Prof with tenure.

    Not for his statements, but because he was being a jackass and wasting time they students are paying for, the university is paying him for, and which his colleagues are expecting him to use to turn out students familiar with the course when they move on within the department.

    Freedom of speech is one thing.

    Using freedom of speech to NOT do your job is something different.

    There is a time and place, and a creative writing course isn't it. Perhaps he wants to be teaching a soft science or poli-sci, etc?

  32. Hoare says:

    third comment after the youtube video (long version)…

    "I am a student at MSU and have had this professor. He is actually a creative writing professor, who was asked by the university to teach this class for another prof who was unable to. So he taught this class the same way he teaches his creative writing classes. In a smaller setting he DOES allow for differing opinions. He also may be the most qualified prof IN HIS DEPARTMENT for the job. I would be sad to see him go just because he was asked to cover a class out of his area of study."

  33. Moriah Jovan says:

    Child's play.

    Libertarian in a state school in a liberal arts program (English) (writing and journalism, if you must know), this behavior is EXPECTED. You roll your eyes and get on with regurgitating what you're told (or don't, whichever fits your mood) so you can get that piece of paper that says you can work the system.

  34. Moriah Jovan says:

    Damned tablet (um, yeah, that's it) messing me up.

    As a libertarian who went to a state school … I knew to expect this behavior. Everyone around me would nod vigorously. I doodled and waited for the bullshit to pass by. Or the semester. Whichever came first.

  35. John Farrier says:

    1. In the course of your life, people with power will act badly with impunity.

    Yes, this is an important life lesson. It relates to one of my own personal laws: "Don't poke the snake with a stick." That is: avoid conflicts with dangerous people.

    It would be nice if abusive people like this professor would suffer consequences for their actions, but it's unlikely. Therefore avoid being targeted by them.

  36. sorrykb says:

    Jason wrote:

    Yet another example of a liberal partisan pretending to talk like a calm rational person, while vilifying and dehumanizing their political opposition, not because of the positions and ideas they espouse, but just because they are political opposition.

    Edited (italics) to make the statement less blatantly hypocritical.

  37. Rusty says:

    While I welcome and respect the positions that others have propounded, I think that the only really rational response to this incident is, "GO BLUE!"

    Sorry.

  38. CJK Fossman says:

    @ All who claim Mr. Penn isn't doing his job

    On what do you base that conclusion?

    I claim that the only measure of his success or failure as a teacher is the degree of improvement in his students' creative writing. Unless you have access to that information, your conclusion has no basis in fact.

    As to "on the university's time:" ratchet down your indignation for a moment and realize that he is introducing himself to the class. Professors do that on the first day. They are allowed to.

    If I recall correctly, a professor's job on the first day of class is to introduce himself, make sure people are in the class for which they signed up, make sure everybody knows what books and materials they need to have, explain the grading method for the class, describe what the students will be expected to produce, hand out the first assignment or assignments and solicit and answer questions. Those tasks pretty much consume the class period, again IIRC.

    Oh, and how would any of you feel about having ten minutes, maybe not the best ten minutes of your last work week posted anonymously on the WWW? Maybe that could be ten minutes of you talking politics on company time.

    You never do that? Bless you.

  39. mcinsand says:

    @sorrykb, I have to applaud you. Thank you for posting your edit!

  40. CJK Fossman says:

    @ Rusty

    GO blueBUCKS!

    There, fixed that for you.

  41. CJK Fossman says:

    @sorrykb

    Good one. I agree with mcinsand.

  42. Luke G says:

    @Rusty

    Them's fightin' words. I'd wager that Professor Penn at least had his shoelaces tied while giving his little speech… :D

  43. Ben Long says:

    @CJK Fossman

    I'm not saying he absolutely should be fired, I'm saying he's providing grounds for it. My previous example of a private sector parallel is even lacking in what this is. He stood up and ranted and belittled his customers. I'm saying IF he's done enough to drive away customers from his product, his employer is justified in firing him. Maybe he hasn't. That's not my call, or really any of our calls, that's the call of the university. I don't have all the facts of his career, so I'm not making the 'fire him' judgement. I'm just saying the university should be free to.

    It's my job every day to make the work I do for my employer of sufficient value to justify my paycheck. If my work is sufficient justify 10 minutes here or there not working, then I get to keep my job. If I neglect my duties and let servers burn to chat with coworkers, I'm going to lose my job. Context matters.

  44. Dion starfire says:

    Disclaimer: Okay, the only thing dumber than arguing on the internet is arguing on the internet with somebody about their specialty (when it's not your specialty), but I'm gonna give it a shot, if only to keep Ken honest.

    All but one of the cites you provided address situations where a person was discriminated against for their activities outside of their work hours (basically while "off-the-clock") but using their work identity (e.g. Professor of abc at xyz university) and professional credentials.

    The pdf you linked to at alliancedefendingfreedom.org does directly state that teaching is protected speech and quotes some rulings to that effect. However, there's a general theme of discussing (i.e. feedback from students is integral to the lesson), analyzing or inquiring about an issue. The video depicts a lecturing (i.e. unilateral) communication style. He is presenting opinions as fact, not seeking a better understanding (on his or his students' part) of an issue.

    Also, that same memorandum summarizes professors speech protection with the phrase

    "So long as professors stay within the subject required by the curriculum, they are entitled to free speech."

    That isn't the case here. The lesson seems to be a standard "welcome to my class, here's what we'll be covering …" type speech you get on the first day of class. Unless this is a political or current events class and the professor is explaining the perspective he'll be using, the BS he's saying is not relevant.

    sorry for any odd formatting. I think I got all the tags right, and it looks okay in the sandbox I tested it at, you can never be sure without a preview or edit option.

  45. V says:

    @CJK Fossman
    Did you see Hoare's comment? the youtube comment it quotes might suggest it wasn't a creative writing class.

  46. CJK Fossman says:

    @ Ben Long

    I get what you're saying.

    I'm just having a little trouble seeing the difference between "should be fired" and "providing grounds for it."

    Look, if I were taking a creative writing course again I would *want* to know the instructor's hot buttons. And I would want to know how he reacts to having them pushed. Let's say I aspire to write for the Onion, Fox News or some other fiction outlet. Do I try to get a good grade by pandering to the instructor's views? Or do I try to get a good grade by enraging him, but doing it with such style and wit that he has to give me an A?

    And if there's some pallid grad assistant evaluating my work, I want to know as much about him or her as possible.

  47. J@m3z Aitch says:

    Well, he's a creative writing prof, which mostly means fiction and dramatic license, so maybe this was just a demonstration.

    More seriously, I'm a libertarian-leaning poli sci prof, and while I have some agreement with this yahoo (Republicans are currently too reliant on an aging and too white core of supporters and they are working to constrain some predictably Democratic turnout–I would explain these as strategic matters, not moral ones, and do not parrot my views in a didactic matter, because reasonable people can disagree on these matters, and it's not my job to impart my own values to students.

    But I think one important point is being missed. The worst thing this prof said was, "If you're a closet racist, I'm coming after you." While that's too vague and generalized to be prohibitable under the First Anendment, I think it's clearly crossing the boundary of legitimacy in a college classroom, because a reasonable student could–perhaps should–interpret this as a threat to their grade should they express the "wrong" views.

    A firing offense? No, not close. A reprimandable offense, not covered by academic freedom? In my considered opinion, yes, absolutely.
    Of course a reasonable person could disagree.

  48. CJK Fossman says:

    @V

    Thanks for the note. I did see Hoare's comment.

    I think a lot of what I wrote still applies. The ten minutes we see in the longer video is him introducing himself. I wasn't in that class that day, but I'll wager he spent the rest of that period dealing with the first day administrivia.

  49. CJK Fossman says:

    I also noticed that Mr. Penn told his students, "I care about you." He also mentioned that humor directed at him is OK in class. I think he said it was OK even if it was mean.

    My audio wasn't real clear, but I think I also heard him say he would not tolerate racially offensive material in class.

    Funny how the, um, partisan commentators couldn't find space to mention any of those things.

  50. Renee Marie Jones says:

    That little speach is absolutely NOTHING compared to the Tea Party nonsense lectures that I have to endure multiple times each day from the gentleman who sits next to me at work. He turns "gee it looks like rain" into a political lecture. If I so much as say "no" to anything everyone jumps down my throat. So, I just remain silent and when it gets too bad I put on my headphones. That teacher is an order of magnitude more polite than any conservative I have ever worked with. You have no right to complain. Your side is the problem. Not mine. Your side is closed minded and prejudiced. Not mine.

  51. Robert says:

    Contrary to the assertion that this is protected free speech, this behavior would be a violation of his employment contract at any of the three national universities at which I've taught. And that would apply whether he was tenured or not.

  52. Doug says:

    working with someone and being taught by someone are two different things.

  53. Bob says:

    Is this satire?

  54. Bob says:

    Crap. That's what I get for trying to use tags. Let me try again.

    "You have no right to complain. Your side is the problem. Not mine. Your side is closed minded and prejudiced. Not mine."

    Is this satire?

  55. RKN says:

    Lot of talk about the prof and his academic freedom, and his broad 1st amendment rights, but I wanted to see one of the students exercise their academic freedom and 1st amendment rights, and stuff it back in his face.

    Prof: "Married to her (Ann Romney)? [sigh] Really?"

    Bold dude raises hand: "Yes, I'd prefer Ann Romney. Personally speaking, professor, I'd take that white milf over Michelle any day."

    This followed, of course, by handing in a drop slip and dismissing oneself from class.

  56. Brian says:

    The Pophat guy would be pretty smart is he wasn't completely incoherent. He just said the Professor was masturbating in front of his class, wasn't worth the time & money of the University's students, etc. but they guy cannot be fired because First Amendment.

    Dumb.

  57. Duvane says:

    @Bob
    I've been trying over the last week or so to decide if @Renee Marie Jones is a bot, a troll, or a kook. I'm starting to lean towards kook–a troll that sophisticated wouldn't bother trying to insult the readers of this blog by calling them "one side" of what is implied to be a political spectrum with exactly two poles.

  58. Sami says:

    You know, by American standards, I'm spectacularly liberal. I genuinely dreaded the consequences for the world at large if Mitt Romney won the election last year, and I think Ann Romney is kind of creepy and horrible.

    … I think that professor should be disciplined, and fired if this is something he makes a habit of doing. Not for the fact that he went on a ten-minute political diatribe, but because he spent ten minutes bitching about something he's personally pissy about and that's NOT HIS FUCKING JOB.

    Teaching, at university or any other level, is an important job, and students are there to be taught. If you want to whine, get a LiveJournal. When you have a class in front of you, DO YOUR FUCKING JOB.

  59. AlphaCentauri says:

    Tenured faculty can be fired for cause. The cause has to be very clearly not due them exercising their freedom of speech.

    If you're going to set a university policy that no one can use class time to espouse a political point of view, you're going to have an unenforceable policy. Students who feel their history or political science teachers aren't backing their own partisan points of view will accuse the professors of bias, just for being fair to both sides. Think of the accusations that could be made against a biology teacher who teaches that careful research does not support the claim that abortions raise the risk of breast cancer, or a geologist that discusses rocks that are over 6000 years old. Trying to draw the line of what is impermissable political partisanship on the part of the teacher would suck up a lot of time and effort, since there is no agreed on "truth" to measure his statements against. Ad hominem attacks against the wife of a defeated politician is out of line, but other stuff would not be so obvious. And whatever policy you use to try to fire a tenured professor, it has to apply to everyone.

    The reality is that if they guy's a douche in the classroom, he's probably a douche in department meetings and faculty senate meetings. There are ways that he can be marginalized as far as whether he can teach upper level classes of his choice or whether he gets merit raises based on student evaluations and contact hours. With luck, he'll take a higher paying job in industry or politics and go on permanent leave of absence.

  60. Rick H. says:

    Duvane:

    I've noticed that pretty much every comment by Renee Marie Jones has been a drive-by conflating the terms "libertarian" and "conservative." She/he/it somehow shoehorns this precise fallacy into each discussion. It would be difficult for that to occur as a product of chance.

    Perhaps a kooky troll with robotic tendencies.

  61. mcinsand says:

    @Rick H., This little gem from Ms. Jones' last comment really had me laughing:

    >>Not mine. Your side is closed minded and prejudiced. Not mine.

    Pot, meet Kettle. Kettle, meet Pot.

  62. Tarrou says:

    Aitch has the right of it.

    All the rest is just boilerplate you hear in virtually every classroom in the country. But threatening your students that you will "come after" them if you think they are "closet racists" is clearly intimidating behavior (dear jesus save me from pedantic "true threats" arguments). This guy is some sort of self-appointed Spanish Inquisition set to smoke out the heretics in MSU. Not going to end well.

    I'd be more outraged, but I hear worse from dozens of professors a year. If you aren't liberal in academia, you get used to it. If you aren't, it might be shocking, but that's modern universities. Best part is, their politics blind them so completely that anyone who isn't standard-issue marxist can run intellectual rings around everyone else, because they've never heard a dissenting opinion, and you have to be a mind-ninja just not to get knifed in the faculty lounge.

  63. Castaigne says:

    @Xenocles: nd I'm not saying he should be fired, but it's the sort of thing that warrants intervention from his bosses. Professors should be given wide latitude to conduct their classes as they see fit, but it's the duty of the institution to provide oversight to ensure that conduct is effective.

    I don't really see any intervention that would have any ounce of effectiveness BUT firing. The education industry is just like any other industry, and firing/termination is really the only intervention that has practical effect in business.
    ===

    @RKN: Lot of talk about the prof and his academic freedom, and his broad 1st amendment rights, but I wanted to see one of the students exercise their academic freedom and 1st amendment rights, and stuff it back in his face.

    A student does not talk back to the teacher, just as the employee does not talk back to the employer. Of course, that may just be a personal predilection conferred unto me by my father.

    Perhaps a moot point, though, as per @CJK Fossman: 'I also noticed that Mr. Penn told his students, "I care about you." He also mentioned that humor directed at him is OK in class. I think he said it was OK even if it was mean.'
    ===

  64. James Pollock says:

    "This guy is some sort of self-appointed Spanish Inquisition set to smoke out the heretics in MSU."

    NOBODY EXPECTS THE SPANISH INQUISITION!

  65. Xenocles says:

    @Castaigne-

    Discipline in a workplace is a continuum, with termination at one extreme and perhaps an informal discussion at the other. Termination should result only from offenses that are either severe or do not respond to lesser means of correction. Which tool to use depends on the severity and the frequency of the problem.

    Termination is a tough proposition. You open yourself up to litigation, which can be expensive. Even if there's no possibility of that you have created a hole in your roster that you have to fill. Education might be different, but in a lot of industries there's an unexpectedly steep cost to replacing someone, plus getting the replacement up to speed. It's disruptive and hurts productivity, and so it should only be used if the problem employee is causing you more trouble than you would face replacing him.

    So in general you want to err on the side of giving the employee a chance to reform his behavior.

  66. Nemo says:

    I don't lay claim to having a big brain, but if the purpose of free speech at a university is for freedom of thought and vigorous debate, how does a prof who uses his power over students (via undeserved poor grades, certainly a possibility in "soft" courses) to quell dissent serve that purpose?

    This case doesn't quite go that far, being merely a verbal slight directed at a student who may or may not have expressed disagreement via facial expression – but even that sort of thing is almost certain to suppress opposition, to some extent.

    The problem that i see is that the activist partisans are all too often trying to "program" students (among many other non-educational goals, such as protecting departmental existence and personal jobs), rather than actually using tme to best educate the paying customers.

    Being taught how to think often hurts, I get that. BTDT. But being taught to conform can also be painful – and isn't exactly compliant with the stated goals of most universities, is it?

    That being said, micromanaging by rule-making is a solution worse than the disease. Things are already bad enough that a sensible manager can't really take a loose cannon into his office and say meaningfully "I know you have your passions, but keep it out of the classroom, and stick to the topic at hand", any more. Micro-managing rules have already pretty much put that possibility to rest.

    I have no solution, only the caution that those who seek to impose absolute control on a system via regulation would do well to examine the "no tolerance" policies of grade schools regarding "sex", "drugs", and "guns", etc, and the result of same.

  67. Aonghus says:

    Two thoughts on reading Ken's post and the follow-up discussion:
    1). What, exactly, is the closest real world (non-academic) parallel to the Professor/student interaction. While it is definitely not as casual as the co-worker/co-worker interaction described by one of the commenters above, does it rise to the level of an employer/employee relationship? Isn't a lot of sexual harassment law based on the unequal power inherent in the e/e relationship?
    2) In my lifetime, I've seen an alarming growth in the demonization of one's political opponents from both sides of the isle. If’s one’s opponent simply has a different view, or is, at worst, mistaken, then there is room for discussion and compromise. If, on the other hand, they are actively evil, then no meaningful discussion or compromise is possible. This may be handy for firing up the base, but it is an absolute disaster when it comes to governing or even polite discourse.

  68. AlphaCentauri says:

    Amen, @Nemo.

  69. Jason says:

    @sorrykb

    Actually, I can't say I disagree with the edit either.

    Thanks.

  70. James Pollock says:

    "Education might be different, but in a lot of industries there's an unexpectedly steep cost to replacing someone, plus getting the replacement up to speed. "

    Education is no different, and may even be MORE problematic in this area. Replacing an instructor right before a term starts is difficult (can you use faculty you already have? Do you need to hire an adjunct? Do you need to hire a tenure-track instructor? Each of these presents difficulties…) Replacing an instructor mid-course is much, much worse. First, students have an expectation that their class will be taught once they've started it… and the accreditating agency requires that it be for a certain number of contact hours, and any student not satisfied with the change has a reason to complain to the department head, the dean of students, the president of the college or university, and/or the accrediting agency, in pretty much any order and any combination.
    I've taken over classes for another instructor before… which meant I had to teach off his course plan instead of mine, and I had a very short time to figure out what they'd already done, what they still needed to do, and how to arrange to get to the necessary destination. Fortunately, it was in a college that had small class sizes.

  71. Sami says:

    A student does not talk back to the teacher, just as the employee does not talk back to the employer. Of course, that may just be a personal predilection conferred unto me by my father.

    I hope it is, or else America is doomed.

    In my experience, the question of "talking back" to a teacher has variable validity. One must always be civil, of course, but I have had quite intense, even vehement disagreements with teachers – in university and even in high school – in humanities classes. In year 12, I spent an entire term arguing with Mr Hanna about the merits of Bruce Dawe as a poet, and another about the validity of historical commentary in a "historical" play that is wildly historically inaccurate.

    At university, I went on to have lively debates with lecturers in history and philosophy classes, and a reasonably extensive discourse about a subtopic in computer science; I confess I never really had any such experiences in my handful of classes in mathematics, but, you know, first year mathematics isn't really up for debate.

    If a lecturer is wasting class time with a personal rant about politics, students have every right to debate the issues with him, so long as the student remains civil. The professor has no right at all to seek to impose any kind of penalty on students for disagreeing with him.

    When you get right down to it, of course, William S. Penn is a professor of Creative Writing. Now, my best friend is an English major and I gave my heart to the Arts Faculty, I really did, but while literature is, in my opinion, a valid field of academic endeavour, Creative Writing really isn't (and I say that despite, or possibly because of, the fact that I did a Creative Writing course at university, and the lecturer was the most soft-headed idiot I ever encountered at my institution).

    Creative Writing, as a university-level subject, is the purest academic wank.

    Basically this is a button mushroom of a man who's made a career out of intellectual masturbation anyway, but I maintain that that level of personal, self-absorbed classroom onanism deserves strict disciplinary action by the institution.

  72. James Pollock says:

    "Creative Writing, as a university-level subject, is the purest academic wank."

    I disagree; it is a pursuit which can be improved by guided practice, which makes it as valid as, say, reading law or diagnosing illness… both of which are not only university-level subjects, but graduate-school subjects. No, it's not the same as, say, physics or mathematics, where progress can be charted by comparing to a single correct answer… that's why these subjects are not taught in the same college at the university.

    For the record, I think the university subject that qualifies as the "purest wank" is education.

  73. Castaigne says:

    @Castaigne: Discipline in a workplace is a continuum, with termination at one extreme and perhaps an informal discussion at the other.

    I agree. A continuum in which only the very end of one side of the spectrum has any significance whatsoever.

    Termination is a tough proposition. You open yourself up to litigation, which can be expensive.

    Perhaps in Michigan, but I live in Georgia, which practices right-to-work AND at-will employment. I can fire anyone for whatever reason I choose and suffer no consequences so long as I don't state the reason. If the requests for unemployment become bad enough, I just doctor up documentation showing there was a verbal and a written prior to termination…but this is rarely needed when the DOL is so firmly on your side.

    Even if there's no possibility of that you have created a hole in your roster that you have to fill.

    Yeah. And?

    Education might be different, but in a lot of industries there's an unexpectedly steep cost to replacing someone, plus getting the replacement up to speed. It's disruptive and hurts productivity, and so it should only be used if the problem employee is causing you more trouble than you would face replacing him.

    That's crap. You obviously don't follow the doctrine of the Job Creator. It is executives and management which are truly irreplaceable as Job Creators; all others, like salesmen and engineers and secretaries and whatnot, are not Job Creators and therefore negligible and easily replaceable. It is the Job Creators that think and plan and produce; everyone else is just a replaceable wagemonkey, an extension of the Job Creator's thought and will.

    Therefore, everyone is expendable, excepting the Job Creators.
    =====

    @Jason Pollock: Education is no different, and may even be MORE problematic in this area. Replacing an instructor right before a term starts is difficult (can you use faculty you already have? Do you need to hire an adjunct? Do you need to hire a tenure-track instructor? Each of these presents difficulties…)

    Easy solution. I am the Department Head, the local Job Creator of the college department in question. I fire Creative Writing Wagemonkey #1 because I am displeased with their partisan whateverness. I then select whichever of the resumes I like best, and boom, Creative Writing Wagemonkey #2 is in place. Since I as the Department Head/Job Creator have determined what the curriculum will be and how it will be followed ahead of time (as is my job to do), Creative Writing Wagemonkey #2 need only follow the written curriculum and teach by rote. Obedience to my dictates, as it were, and the students are taught.

    Rinse and repeat until you find a Creative Writing Wagemonkey who will do what they're told without problems. Issue resolved.

    See, it's just like tech support. You replace the broken part. Machine is fixed.
    =====

    @Sami: I hope it is, or else America is doomed.

    I disagree. I think it is absolutely necessary for surival. The two most important ideals for civilization are Loyalty and Obedience. Especially with conservatism, in which the Four Obediences ensure a good living:

    Obedience to God.
    Obedience to the parental unit.
    Obedience to your pastor.
    Obedience to the Job Creator.

    Follow these and you will never make a wrong choice. For instance, obedience to Edison by his workers allowed him to create all of those inventions we love today.

  74. Tarrou says:

    @ Sami,

    I'm a pretty hardcore traditionalist when it comes to education. And I have the deserved reputation of being a teacher-hater. I've mentioned before that I met a good teacher once, and he was an English prof. I took three classes with him and one was creative writing. It's the only class that ever improved my writing skills. Of course, for many professors, the weak requirements of the course provide an easy out for them to shower no-effort A's around the class. But it is possible to do it correctly. And more importantly, if done correctly, it improves ones writing skills, which in turn affects every other class. One writes for everything. I believe you are correct that the vast majority of CW classes are not taught well, and may be useless, but the field is anything but.

    @ James Pollock, agree on education, add communications and journalism.

  75. pillsy says:

    @Brian:

    I don't claim to know much about the limits of free speech protection for what faculty say during class at a state universities, but arguments that boil down to, "How can you say the First Amendment protects this guy's right to be an asshole?" aren't really proof that Ken is being incoherent.

  76. R R Clark says:

    Honestly my only real concern here is that dropping a core curricula course, as this likely is for several if not all of his students, can deprive a student of their financial aid.

    Now, I am the sort of jerk would respond asking for empirical evidence of the greater malfeasance of one party over the other, but I had the liberty of not having to count on anyone else for my college tuition. My collegiate honors English professor was also a New England liberal, but he was more interested in getting us to read Greek philosophers and examine their persuasive writing techniques. Also, I was going to school in Boston, so that was hardly surprising or, indeed, out of place.

    I do find the idea that "suffering through liberal professors" is the burden of the libertarian/Libertarian/Republican somewhat laughable, of course.

    But then I realize that as an adult I have had to deal with a lot of onerous and awkward situations. If those hadn't really begun to come hard and fast in college I would probably be a lesser person for it, so I think dropping the class would be tantamount to admitting you aren't ready for college anyway.

    The real education comes, of course, when confronted with a like situation you simply cannot quit. Like, for instance, in the middle of a deployment or at a family reunion. Personally, I find the adulation delivered to many politicians these days scary. It borders on hero worship, which would be okay if they were being worshipped for their heroism. Instead they're being worshipped for the ideals to which they pay laughable lip service.

  77. TMPinSYR says:

    "3. People can be tremendously talented and knowledgeable about Subject X and be useless louts about Subject Y. Often they'll want to talk about Subject Y."

    I'm surprised that no one has referenced Robert Heinlein yet! In Time Enough For Love, he writes:

    "Expertise in one field does not carry over into other fields. But experts often think so. The narrower their field of knowledge the more likely they are to think so."

    I love that quote and am constantly reminded of how accurate it is. It would certainly seem to apply here. (…to a Creative Writing professor, no less!)

  78. Xenocles says:

    @Castaigne-

    I understand now. Thanks for making it clear for me.

  79. Mark says:

    James Pollack said: "A class like, say, political science would be highly prone to ideological ranting. A class like, say, geology, would not be. "

    Hmm. Geology includes the hsitory of the earth. This includes both Ice ages and Very warm periods (oversimplified: 1 Km of ice over Buffalo and Coal swamps in Pennsylvania). Today, the possibility of anthromorphically tipped Global Warming is dicussed in many Geology departments and ideological ranting exists.

    The government has been know to take an interest in this type of "rant" see the Attorney General of Virginia vs Mann. http://www.forbes.com/sites/jamestaylor/2013/08/09/global-warming-activist-michael-mann-wages-war-on-government-transparency/
    This arguement has degenerated into a discussion of data tampering, but the AG's initial objectin was that funds were being used to disprove Global Warming.

    For the geologic record, IANAL, but IAAG.

  80. Gunnutmegger says:

    "But I don't see anything that merits firing from his position at a public institution, and I am not enthused about a system in which public universities will be policed for insipid partisanship by other partisans."

    Plenty of non-liberals have been hounded out of their livelihoods by the baying hounds of liberalism.

    2 wrongs may not make a right, but playing by the rules hasn't worked out for conservatives (or liberarians) so far. Why keep fighting the culture war with our hands tied behind our back?

    Fire the teacher. When he sues, the discovery process could be entertaining. Maybe we can start putting the educational system on trial for failing to do what they are paid to do.

  81. J@m3z Aitch says:

    @Castaigne,
    It is executives and management which are truly irreplaceable as Job Creators; all others, like salesmen and engineers and secretaries and whatnot, are not Job Creators and therefore negligible and easily replaceable. It is the Job Creators that think and plan and produce; everyone else is just a replaceable wagemonkey, an extension of the Job Creator's thought and will.

    I'm not sure if Castaigne is being serious or tongue-in-cheek. Generosity compels me to hope it's tongue-in-cheek, because to take it seriously would require one to ignore agency problems, the problem of shirking, and skill variability between individuals.

    It's not that a competent secretary can't be replaced more easily than a competent leader, but that even replacing a competent secretary can be harder than expected. Many years ago I worked as a stockboy for a building supply company. Stockboys are pretty interchangeable, to be sure, yet there were very good ones, pretty good ones, and lousy ones. Not everyone had the same initiative to take on tasks before the manager gave an order to do so, or the same attention to detail so that the work was done accurately, or the same amount of energy/drive to work hard throughout the day.

    Having been down at the low end of the job hierarchy, and having seen the damage done to workplace efficiency by bosses who treated all the wagemonkeys as identical, easily replaced, cogs, I now make it a practice to treat all the staff at my college nicely. I say hello to the janitors each time I see them and call them by name, ask how they're doing, listen, and thank them when they come into my office to empty my trash. I treat the secretaries nicely, too. The result is that when I need something from them, I get results more quickly, and often more thoroughly, than those to whom the staff are just faceless and nameless wagemonkeys.

    From a managerial perspective (I don't manage the staff I mentioned), this matters, too, because training new employees is a cost. I know a woman who used to run a restaurant with her (now ex) husband, and she used to complain about how he treated the employees. I asked if they had high turnover rates, and she said they did. And I asked how that affected the bottom line, and she said, "It kills us. We're constantly having to train new people, and we always have unhappy wait staff which drives customers away."

    Any job creator who doesn't understand that may be a good ideas person for new products/services, but they're not as good an entrepreneur as they could be because they can't recognize when they're creating unnecessary costs.

    But I note again, that I don't know that Castaigne was serious. If he was joking, and I missed it, please read this as a rant against the people he's mocking, not at him.

  82. Gunnutmegger says:

    @J@m3z Aitch

    "Republicans are … are working to constrain some predictably Democratic turnout"

    Utter nonsense.

    For the last 30 years, the only party that has actively worked to suppress the turnout of the other party has been the Democrats.

    Who is the targeted demographic of this nefarious campaign of voter suppression? The right-leaning military, who vote via absentee ballot while deployed.

  83. naught_for_naught says:

    Here's the most essential question facing Professor Penn's students right now: "Is it too late to drop this class without getting a W on my permanent transcripts?" — 'cause you definitely are not going to want to be around this guy for the next ten weeks or have him give you a grade.

  84. J@m3z Aitch says:

    A few more random thoughts (because I am that kind of annoying guy):
    People can be tremendously talented and knowledgeable about Subject X and be useless louts about Subject Y. Often they'll want to talk about Subject Y."

    I suspect this is a subset of the Dunning-Krueger Effect.

    @TMPinSYR. Thanks for the Heinlein quote.

    On replacing faculty members. I work at a small college that is not close to a large urban area. Finding qualified replacements is difficult for us. Less than two weeks before the start of this fall term we had an adjunct suddenly quit on us, and my department chair was in a panic as to how we would find a replacement that quickly. Fortunately, only a week before, a friend of mine had introduced me to a just retired prof, who had taught the course for years, and who lived in our area. Providence, I guess.

    @Tarrou: you have to be a mind-ninja just not to get knifed in the faculty lounge.

    I'm lucky, I think. Although my faculty colleagues are generally as liberal as any other set of faculty, I've only had a serious problem over ideological issues with one person, which included public insults about my views in the presence of students, and he's learned not to do so anymore (Lesson: strategic office politics beats moral outrage every time). But I tend to avoid getting into political/ideological arguments with my colleagues. I don't hide my views, but I don't seek out arguments, and when asked I couch my comments as being cautionary and based on certain academic-intellectual principles (basically, public choice theory). By presenting it as an alternative set of ideas to consider, rather than as capital-T Truth, I ease their reactive tendencies by being non-didactic (and simultaneously look better to observers than do the didacts).

    I find it useful to remember that strategic behavior is as valuable when discussing issues with others as it is when figuring out how to mobilize voters. Which isn't to say I always remember to be strategic, but I'm only going to talk about my success because, hey, who wants to boast about their failures?

  85. Lizard says:

    2 wrongs may not make a right, but playing by the rules hasn't worked out for conservatives (or liberarians) so far. Why keep fighting the culture war with our hands tied behind our back?

    Presumably, it's because you're actually fighting for principles you believe are superior, and not fighting because you drew the green ribbon from the barrel and they drew the purple ribbon. Once you decide to focus on the "war", and not on the actual cause you support, you are fighting for the sake of fighting. You cheer whoever is on "your team", and boo whoever is on "their team".

    A lot easier than actually standing up for principles, true, which is why so many people prefer it. However, it also sends a clear message: Our principles don't actually work, and we don't actually believe in them. Our advocacy of them is just a signalling call, a mass of syllables to identify ourselves to others in our tribe. There is no actual meaning to our words; it's just hoots and hollers because we no longer can identify each other by scent.

  86. J@m3z Aitch says:

    @Gunnutmegger,

    Not nonsense. I don't pretend the Democrats don't do this also, but as I said in the comment you referenced, I view it strategically, not morally. The military tends to lean Republican, so of course Democrats would strategically prefer to limit their turnout–the GOP would lose more votes than the Dems would. (On the other hand, I'm not aware of many recent successes here–absentee voting overall has expanded, not contracted. But I could be missing some specific cases.)

    But they are clearly not "only party that has actively worked to suppress the turnout of the other party." The GOP's efforts to push voter ID (which is, I note, legally/constitutionally legitimate in general) is selectively targeted at allegations of Democratic voting fraud, and the overwhelming majority of those allegations have, when investigated, proved unfounded.

    To take another example, in North Carolina, the GOP has eliminated a voting precinct on the campus of Appalachian State University, combining 3 precincts into one "super precinct" that has only 35 parking spaces.

    Hey, from the perspective of a political analyst, I respect each party's efforts to rig the game in their own favor. From a partisan perspective….well, I don't have a partisan perspective, so we may be talking past one another. (For the record, my colleague is aghast at the moves in NC, calling it a "grotesque subversion of democracy." I shrug my shoulders at his partisan perspective, too.)

  87. J@m3z Aitch says:

    @Lizard,

    Well said.

  88. Darryl says:

    Gunnut–"For the last 30 years, the only party that has actively worked to suppress the turnout of the other party has been the Democrats."

    Wow, just wow. You appear to be drinking the kool-aid just a bit too much. Try not listening to right-wing radio so much.

  89. mcinsand says:

    On the voter ID issue, both sides need to take a massive chill pill. I do believe that this is merely a push to pander to the pinheads that desire some voter suppression and actually think that requiring an ID would have an impact. From my perspective, requring voter ID's to suppress existing fraud is stupid, and using that as a justification makes the GOP look stupid. There are other reasons, but those don't seem to be the ones that they're using to get attention.

    On the other side, claiming that this will have significant voter suppression makes the Democrats look stupid. Requiring a photo ID doesn't seem to hamper transactions such as buying a beer, cigarettes, or a mature-rated bit of entertainment such as Diablo III.

    Both sides have just used this issue as a way to inflame the partisans that would rather use energy being upset than to think rationally.

  90. R R Clark says:

    @Gunnutmegger

    Two points. The first is that all the sources fail to mention whether Mr. Penn is tenured or not. It makes a fairly big difference in how the university handles this.

    The second is that you have clearly not been in the military any time in recent memory. Which isn't to say that the military is no longer a conservative organization and that military members aren't interested in conservative representation. Just that they don't perceive Republicans as capable of governing responsibly. A glance around the internet at the recent outrage over Republican-backed legislation and bills should be enough evidence to allow that they may even have a point.

  91. ChicagoTom says:

    On the other side, claiming that this will have significant voter suppression makes the Democrats look stupid. Requiring a photo ID doesn't seem to hamper transactions such as buying a beer, cigarettes, or a mature-rated bit of entertainment such as Diablo III.

    Those things you compare voting to aren't fundamental rights. They are voluntary commercial transactions.

    On the other side, claiming that this will have significant voter suppression makes the Democrats look stupid.

    Only if you ignore all the court rulings that show that a significant number of voters will be dis-enfranchised which is why many voter id regimes have been halted by the courts. Look at court cases in PA for example where multiple times the voter id laws have been suspended because the state has been unable to implement them in a way that wont disenfranchise large numbers of legitimate voters.

    Furthermore, you ignore the fact that voter ID laws don't actually prevent vote fraud. In person vote fraud (where someone shows up pretending to be a registered voter that they arent) is very very rare…and one of the easiest things to catch. When the real voter shows up there will be a problem since that person will have already voted.

    If people were being serious about protecting the integrity of the voting process they would be talking about voter registration fraud (voters registering who aren't actually eligible to vote) rather than putting extra burdens on already registered voters making harder to cast their ballot on election day.

  92. sorrykb says:

    @Jason: You're welcome. :-)

  93. James Pollock says:

    "For the last 30 years, the only party that has actively worked to suppress the turnout of the other party has been the Democrats.
    Who is the targeted demographic of this nefarious campaign of voter suppression? The right-leaning military, who vote via absentee ballot while deployed."

    Oops. It was Republicans who wanted absentee mail-in voting to be more restricted, because too many people were using them instead of coming to the polls, and there's no way to check ID of an absentee ballot.

  94. Black Betty says:

    Ken,

    The one of the key points here, is "…people with power over you." This was the first day of a creative writing class. These students have now been given the message that their academic future in that class (and essentially their GPA) will be affected by how they conduct themselves politically. And don't think for one moment, they didn't get that message. There will be no dissent. You can argue for this professor's 1st Amendment rights, but what of the 1st Amendment rights for the students? And this is happening in every university all over the country.

    My second issue is that this was a Creative Writing course. It was not a Political Science course. There has been an intolerable shift in academia towards making everything political. Academia has an intrinsic responsibility to engage in integrity of study. Edward Shils notes:

    "Academic freedom is the freedom of university teachers to perform their academic obligations of teaching and research. These are obligations to seek and communicate the truth according to 'their best lights.' Academic freedom is not the freedom of academic individuals to do just anything, to follow any impulse or desire, or to say anything that occurs to them. It is the freedom to do academic things: to teach the truth as they see it on the basis of prolonged and intensive study, to discuss their ideas freely with their colleagues, to publish the truth as they have arrived at it by systematic methodical research and assiduous research."

    There is difference between freedom of speech and academic freedom. I also find it troubling that these same universities who defend the 1st Amendment rights of professors, are so quick to violate the same Constitutionally protected rights of students.

    You can't have it both ways. Either everyone admits that universities are no longer the academic institutions they are claiming to be or they cease the intimidation, bullying and civil rights violations of students. So while this professor may have the 1st Amendment right to politically rant, I submit that he doesn't have the right to do it in a Creative Writing course that those students have paid for. And he doesn't have the right to intimidate his students and put them in fear of their academic career.

  95. James Pollock says:

    "The GOP's efforts to push voter ID (which is, I note, legally/constitutionally legitimate in general)"

    Well, it can be done constitutionally, but the current implementation is not without issue. If you require a state-issued ID to vote, and you charge a fee for state-issued ID, you have a poll tax.

  96. James Pollock says:

    "This was the first day of a creative writing class. These students have now been given the message that their academic future in that class (and essentially their GPA) will be affected by how they conduct themselves politically"

    Unless they conduct themselves politically by leaving. You can drop classes without penalty, usually for the first two weeks of the term.
    Hell, it's much better it someone who is an ideologue says so right on the first day of class instead of springing it on you around midterm-time.

  97. Gaius Gracchuss says:

    "It's trivial and banal, the self-indulgent stream-of-consciousness sniping of someone with a captive audience and a position of power. This is a sad old man masturbating in public."
    And unfortunately absolutely typical of many Professors at most college level institutions

  98. James Pollock says:

    "2 wrongs may not make a right, but playing by the rules hasn't worked out for conservatives (or liberarians) so far. Why keep fighting the culture war with our hands tied behind our back?"

    Another assessment is that embracing the most extremist views amongst yourselves is what hasn't worked out. Alienating swing voters hasn't worked out. Rejecting large demographics of Americans hasn't worked out.

    I live in a state that once elected the likes of Tom McCall and Mark Hatfield as Republicans. Today, these men wouldn't survive a Republican primary, and, coincidentally, the Republicans can't win statewide office. Hmmm. Yes, it's definitely the problem of being hamstrung by the rules.

  99. Richard says:

    As a former creative writing student, I wanted to chip in here and note:

    a) He teaches creative writing. It's basically an art class. It is not a social science. Creative writing classes can be very freewheeling.

    b) Tenured creative writing faculty members are academics, but they are artists first and foremost. They are much weirder than your average professor, and off-the-wall rants happen from time to time. Expecting a novelist or poet to stay away from controversial topics is like going to a Thai restaurant and expecting the food not to be spicy. If that's what you want, you're in the wrong place.

  100. Richard says:

    One more thing – for those of you who think the professor is neglecting his duties and wasting class time by launching into an off-topic rant: in your average undergraduate creative writing workshop, you spend most of your class time critiquing the writing of other students – in other words, listening to students who don't know what they're talking about express opinions about writing by students who don't know how to write. Wasted time is part of the equation.

  101. Jason says:

    @Lizard

    Are you perchance referring to the Drazi from Babylon 5? If so that's Awesome!, if not please ignore this comment.

  102. Peter H says:

    I think the speech could be (but probably isn't) fireable under Pickering Connick, as follows:

    1. Does the speech in question involve a matter of public concern?

    With respect to the political stuff: yes.
    With respect to humiliating a student for a facial expression: no.

    2. The employee must show the speech was a substantial factor driving the challenged governmental action.

    Yup.

    3. Can the employer show that it would have taken the same employment action against the employee even in the absence of the protected speech?

    If the school had good management and enforced a reasonable and content-neutral prohibition on humiliation of students or wasting class time on matters unrelated to the course, then this would be fireable under Pickering-Connick. While these would be good policies for them to have, and there are probably written policies about them in a handbook somewhere, they're likely seldom if ever used, and the selective enforcement problem would be insurmountable for the University as an employer. But if they were a better employer, they would enforce them regularly, and therefore would be able to enforce them here.

  103. Joe Hone says:

    "People can be tremendously talented and knowledgeable about Subject X and be useless louts about Subject Y. Often they'll want to talk about Subject Y."

    As a beginning attorney at my first day on the job in 1984, the senior partner of the firm sat me down and gave me this career advice: "If you can get 3 or 4 physicians as clients, you are set for life!" Then my very first client was a physician who insists to this day that the illegal tax shelters she formed were legitimate.

    As a professor teaching in a university's business school, I always begin my first day of class going through the syllabus and educating the students on their education contract with me as an agent of the university – the syllabus holds me to contractual obligations that are enforceable by them if I stray. I would be curious to see the professor's syllabus and how his conduct holds to what he represented his class was about.

  104. L says:

    From yesterday: "The Pophat guy would be pretty smart is he wasn't completely incoherent."

    Can this be a site-specific meme, please?

  105. Ken White says:

    @L

    From yesterday: "The Pophat guy would be pretty smart is he wasn't completely incoherent."

    Can this be a site-specific meme, please?

    First we have to resolve this: is it grammatical because it isn't actually counterfactual and therefore doesn't call for the subjunctive?

  106. J@m3z Aitch says:

    @Black Betty,

    My second issue is that this was a Creative Writing course. It was not a Political Science course.

    As a political science prof (13 or so years in now), I would find this wildly inappropriate in a political science class, too. Which isn't to say it doesn't happen (sigh).

    I'm more than happy to challenge students on their beliefs, but to get them to think them through more clearly, not to demonize them or with the intent of changing them (although that is sometimes the consequence). But I think the professional way to do that is from a devil's advocate approach, or by introducing them to new concepts they've not learned before and allowing them to figure out how those concepts fit, or don't, into their belief system. Anything else is inappropriate. I'm not perfect, perhaps (I tend to be pretty obvious on civil liberties issues, but at least in a libertarian way, so I'm not pushing just one of the major party's preferred civil liberties platforms), but I still wouldn't verbally denounce or pseudo-threaten a student who, say, opposed same-sex marriage, constraints on religious establishments, or 2nd Amdt rights.

  107. Black Betty says:

    @James Pollock

    How many classes will a student have to drop in order to protect themselves and their GPA? I suspect, quite a few. How long will their academic careers be extended because of this? A semester or more? How much financial harm does this cause a student? How much more will they have to spend on annual fees and tuition, just to re-gain the ground lost in dropped classes?

    And what about courses a student can't drop? Courses which are required for their major and are only taught by one professor. You're basically telling students to play "Mine Sweeper" with their academic careers. I you hit a bomb, just start the game over. I understand what you're saying, but I don't think it's practical.

  108. Black Betty says:

    @J@m3z Aitch,

    Oh, I absolutely agree with you. I too, think it would have been wildly inappropriate even for a Political Science class. My point was that it wasn't even topical to the subject matter of the course.

  109. J@m3z Aitch says:

    @James Pollock
    ""he GOP's efforts to push voter ID (which is, I note, legally/constitutionally legitimate in general)"

    Well, it can be done constitutionally, but the current implementation is not without issue. If you require a state-issued ID to vote, and you charge a fee for state-issued ID, you have a poll tax.

    Yes. What I had in mind was that the general concept of requiring ID to cast a vote, in order to ensure clean, non-fraud tainted, elections, is legitimate. But you're right that the specific implementation requires a deeper analysis. In addition to the poll tax issue you mention, there is also perhaps an issue of disproportionate impact (at least some argue; I'm not as well-versed on the law there, though), and, totally imo, the fact that the allegations of fraud don't seem to be holding up. It's harder for government to claim a substantial interest, or maybe even just a legitimate interest, if they're seeking to prevent a (surprisingly, perhaps) non-existent problem.

  110. holly says:

    I'm embarassed for my Alma Mater. Not so much for this rant as for the 20+ year history this man has of "teaching" in this manner. For two decades students have complained that his classes consist of forcing them to buy his books and then writing papers to tell him how wonderful they are. The entire "Integrative Studies" curriculum that MSU launched in 1992 (and which this class is an example of, BTW) was a complete waste of time and money then as now. Professor Penn deserves to be terminated not due to the rant – but because he is and has always been a terrible instructor.

  111. Matt says:

    @Ken:

    First we have to resolve this: is it grammatical

    Not for a meme, we don't! :D

  112. James Pollock says:

    "How many classes will a student have to drop in order to protect themselves and their GPA? I suspect, quite a few. How long will their academic careers be extended because of this? A semester or more? How much financial harm does this cause a student? How much more will they have to spend on annual fees and tuition, just to re-gain the ground lost in dropped classes?"

    Are you that unfamiliar with how a university operates? First off, intelligent students sign up for more classes than they really want to take, then drop the one they like the least. Even the ones who haven't figured out THAT particular dodge will note that the form that has to be filled out (or, nowadays, the web page) to drop a class is called the "add/drop" form. If you drop a class, and it leaves you without a full schedule, you can add another class.
    Then, of course, the really smart students find out about the professors ahead of time, and don't schedule the ones that are likely to be a problem for them in the first place. (Yeah, you can get caught by last-minute substitutions… but refer back to the "add/drop" discussion above.)

  113. ChicagoTom says:

    Professor Penn has been releived of his teaching duties for the rest of the semester although still employed by the University

    http://www.detroitnews.com/article/20130905/SCHOOLS/309050087#ixzz2e2jo7wq7

  114. Black Betty says:

    I don't need a lecture from you about how universities work. I went to one. And I didn't sign up for more classes than I wanted to take, because I DID look into the courses before I signed up for them. You can insult me all you want, but you know nothing about me.

    The fact of the matter is, students these days do not have the academic freedom that I had, and I didn't have the academic freedom that my parents had. They can drop classes till the cows come home, but it is inevitable that they will face political pressure by some of their professors who have power over their academic careers. Professors should not have the freedom to do this since ultimately students do not have the freedom to avoid it.

  115. James Pollock says:

    "The fact of the matter is, students these days do not have the academic freedom that I had, and I didn't have the academic freedom that my parents had."

    You got all that from your one university? You got it backwards. There's more freedom in education today than ever before, and it's been on an increasing trend for generations.

    "I don't need a lecture from you about how universities work."
    Evidence suggests you need a lecture from SOMEBODY.

  116. CJColucci says:

    I don't know how old you are, Black Betty, or how deeply you get involved in academic issues, but I'm pretty old, and much of my professional work involves complaints about first amendment issues on campus, and I can say that I am sure I had more academic freedom than my parents did, and I see no evidence that students today have less than I did.

  117. Black Betty says:

    I don't think "academic freedom" means what you think it means. See above.

    On another note…https://www.koofers.com/michigan-state-university-msu/instructors/penn-159539/

  118. Nate says:

    When I was in college, granted that was 6 years ago now (but based on what my friend tells me this is still similar to what occurs today), the first 2-3 weeks were drop/add weeks where you could drop or add classes without any penalty minus you might have missed some information. After that there was another period where you could drop a class with no consequence followed by a third period where if you dropped you got a withdraw or W on your record (generally until the middle of the semester so you could bomb the first test or so and still get out). For the most part one or two W's are not an issue (even if you want to go to medical/graduate/whatever school). Assuming Michigan State runs on the normal semester system, they are probably still in the drop/add part and any student who doesn't want to take the class can still leave with no consequence.

    Class schedules can get tricky when you get to upper level courses where there aren't many options for professors, but even for some of these upper level courses the curricula has options. For instance, in my case, I could take inorganic chemistry or advance organic chemistry II or the third option which I no longer remember). If I signed up for one and didn't like it I could always drop and take a different course out of the options. Some courses are mandatory for the major, but for a large school, even these courses may have multiple offerings. For upper level science courses, the same course could be offered all semesters (fall, spring, summer) and each semester would be taught by a different professor. Theoretically you could tailor your course taking to get the professors that suited you. Also, the number of classes varied depending on how many majors required it, i.e. there were many more upper level english courses than science courses because more majors had an upper level english requirement.

    I went to a large public school similar to Michigan State. Even at a large school, students talk. At my school we definitely had teachers with very strong political or ideological leanings or were arrogant assholes, and we knew who they were. None of these things really preclude someone from being a good teacher. Going into a class we generally knew what we were going to get, so we were able to dismiss that which we thought ridiculous/sift through the bullshit. The university also responded to pressure from students dropping/adding a class by increasing/decreasing class sizes for the professor in question. This happened when I took organic. One class had a professor, brand new, who at the time was terrible (she improved tons with experience and now is excellent), so everyone switched to the other class. The school increased the enrollment for the other class and decreased the enrollment for her class. I think it likely that most students had heard of him and probably had an idea of what he was like. (Furthermore, basic rate my professor research reaffirms the various analyses of his personality, so again I find it unlikely too many of them were too surprised.)

    I guess what I'm saying is student options aren't really that limited (at least at a large school). Some people may be adversely affected, but for the majority, his outburst is a minor blip now and a great story later.

  119. Duvane says:

    "First off, intelligent students sign up for more classes than they really want to take, then drop the one they like the least."

    Well, sure, I did that all the time, and for a creative writing course that's probably a garbage humanities elective for most students taking it (no offence to any humanities majors), that's probably fine. However, its a bit more of a problem if were the first course of a two semester OChem or Thermo series, or a course that's tightly wound up in prereqs. There were plenty of courses like that in my decent size (couple of hundred students) engineering program at a fairly large state university, and I'm sure its even more of a problem in smaller programs.

    Even knowing who the good and bad instructors are doesn't do you any good if its the bad instructor who's got the course this year and you want to graduate in less than six years.

  120. James Pollock says:

    "However, its a bit more of a problem if were the first course of a two semester OChem or Thermo series, or a course that's tightly wound up in prereqs."

    Generally speaking, the entry level courses (usually, but not always, lower division) are taught by everybody, and then each professor teaches in their specialty in the upper division. So drop the class taught by the prof you don't like, and add the section taught by someone else.
    This is true no matter whether it's the prof's politics or pedagogy you don't like. If that prof is the only person who teaches a course you really want to take, well… you picked the wrong school, or you need to learn to learn from people you disagree with.

  121. James Pollock says:

    "I don't think "academic freedom" means what you think it means."

    OK. I don't think reality reflects your opinion on THAT, either.

  122. Gunnutmegger says:

    @James Pollock

    "Another assessment is that embracing the most extremist views amongst yourselves is what hasn't worked out. Alienating swing voters hasn't worked out. Rejecting large demographics of Americans hasn't worked out."

    Tell that to Obama.

    "There's more freedom in education today than ever before, and it's been on an increasing trend for generations."

    Please provide some evidence for this absurd claim.

    "Are you that unfamiliar with how a university operates? First off, intelligent students sign up for more classes than they really want to take, then drop the one they like the least."

    On what planet? And in what majors program does that tactic work, Liberal Arts? General Studies?

    I am not surprised to learn that you claim to be a professor of some sort.

    "Oops. It was Republicans who wanted absentee mail-in voting to be more restricted, because too many people were using them instead of coming to the polls, and there's no way to check ID of an absentee ballot."

    The issue was the suppression of military votes, not absentee voting in general. Try to focus, hm?

    It isn't a myth, despite what the Democrats (here and elsewhere) attempt to claim:

    http://www.forbes.com/sites/rickungar/2012/09/26/obama-accused-of-suppressing-military-vote-by-withholding-absentee-ballots/

  123. Gunnutmegger says:

    @ R R Clark

    "Two points. The first is that all the sources fail to mention whether Mr. Penn is tenured or not. It makes a fairly big difference in how the university handles this."

    But it doesn't affect the nature of the offense itself.

    "The second is that you have clearly not been in the military any time in recent memory. Which isn't to say that the military is no longer a conservative organization and that military members aren't interested in conservative representation. Just that they don't perceive Republicans as capable of governing responsibly."

    Not sure where you get your information from. Probably not the store that sells facts.

    And nothing in your claim addresses the fact that, however bad you claim the Republicans are on the issue of governing responsibly (no argument from me on that), the Democrats are much worse and have maintained or increased the competence gap between themselves and Republicans.

    It's still a clear choice. The lesser of two evils is still Republicans, which is why the military vote leans right.

  124. Gunnutmegger says:

    @Lizard

    "Presumably, it's because you're actually fighting for principles you believe are superior, and not fighting because you drew the green ribbon from the barrel and they drew the purple ribbon. Once you decide to focus on the "war", and not on the actual cause you support, you are fighting for the sake of fighting. You cheer whoever is on "your team", and boo whoever is on "their team".

    A lot easier than actually standing up for principles, true, which is why so many people prefer it. However, it also sends a clear message: Our principles don't actually work, and we don't actually believe in them. Our advocacy of them is just a signalling call, a mass of syllables to identify ourselves to others in our tribe. There is no actual meaning to our words; it's just hoots and hollers because we no longer can identify each other by scent."

    Excellent distillation of Democrat behavior. Bravo.

  125. Gunnutmegger says:

    @ J@m3z Aitch

    "I don't pretend the Democrats don't do this also, but as I said in the comment you referenced, I view it strategically, not morally."

    Which means…nothing.

    Does Trayvon Martin care why Zimmerman pulled the trigger?

    "The military tends to lean Republican, so of course Democrats would strategically prefer to limit their turnout–the GOP would lose more votes than the Dems would. (On the other hand, I'm not aware of many recent successes here–absentee voting overall has expanded, not contracted. But I could be missing some specific cases.)

    Did you even bother to see what the facts are before making this dismissive claim?

    I linked an article from Forbes; here's another:

    http://www.humanevents.com/2012/09/27/is-the-obama-administration-suppressing-the-military-vote/

    "But they are clearly not "only party that has actively worked to suppress the turnout of the other party." The GOP's efforts to push voter ID (which is, I note, legally/constitutionally legitimate in general) is selectively targeted at allegations of Democratic voting fraud,"

    It is targeted at vote fraud. Which is wrong, whether you view it strategically or morally. LOL.

    "and the overwhelming majority of those allegations have, when investigated, proved unfounded."

    …And that's where you tipped your hand.

    Most instances of vote fraud are NOT investigated. Democrats don't investigate themselves.

    But where do you get your information that the claims are all bogus?

    https://www.google.com/#q=voter+fraud+ohio

    "To take another example, in North Carolina, the GOP has eliminated a voting precinct on the campus of Appalachian State University, combining 3 precincts into one "super precinct" that has only 35 parking spaces."

    To paraphrase Rick James: gerrymandering is a helluva drug.

    "From a partisan perspective….well, I don't have a partisan perspective, so we may be talking past one another."

    …and yet your expressed beliefs all seem to dovetail cleanly with Democrat positions, and cast Republicans as the villain. How interesting.

    While appreciate the cleverness of your "I'm a libertarian" fig-leaf, your modesty is overstated.

  126. Gunnutmegger says:

    "A study by the University of Delaware and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln found that "concerns about voter identification laws affecting turnout are much ado about nothing." Nothing, that is, unless you are an administration willing to play the race card to gain minority votes in the next election."

    http://news.investors.com/ibd-editorials/090513-670029-holder-sues-texas-over-voter-id.htm?p=2

  127. Duvane says:

    "Generally speaking, the entry level courses (usually, but not always, lower division) are taught by everybody, and then each professor teaches in their specialty in the upper division. So drop the class taught by the prof you don't like, and add the section taught by someone else."

    Again, depends on the department. Its often true for courses that have lots of extra-departmental enrollment (chemistry, physics, calculus), but even the freshman two-part intro course in my program was typically taught in two large sections per semester by the same instructor. So if you had a real problem with that instructor, your choices were suck it up, change majors, change universities, or put your program behind by a semester to a year, as there would be a prerequisite chain of five or six courses that followed on. I knew plenty of people that did take one of those routes. It's just a fact of life in a program (like many engineering programs) which have a lot of departmental specific core courses. Physics, math, humanities majors typically have more flexibility in their early courses simply because the enrollments are larger.

    "If that prof is the only person who teaches a course you really want to take, well… you picked the wrong school, or you need to learn to learn from people you disagree with."

    Yeah, that was kind of my point. Your response to Black Betty stated that "intelligent students" could easily avoid particular professors just by clever manipulation of their schedules, and while most students are able to do just that with their non-core courses and with introductory courses in some programs, there are plenty of cases where it isn't so simple. Dealing with the personalities of professors and difficulties in scheduling is just a fact of life for any university student, and one that can be the source of some valuable life lessons, but its not a problem that can be broadly hand-waved away with "be smart about your scheduling".

  128. James Pollock says:

    "Tell that to Obama."
    I have some bad news for you. He was re-elected.
    (The fact that he was re-elected kind of points out how badly Republicans have botched their appeal to the middle.)

    "I am not surprised to learn that you claim to be a professor of some sort."
    I was an instructor in a vocational school for just over ten years. (Actually, I wasn't an instructor the whole time; about half of my time was spent managing IT systems.) I've also been an adjunct instructor at the local community college.

    "The issue was the suppression of military votes, not absentee voting in general. Try to focus, hm?"
    I notice there's not a denial in there.

    "It isn't a myth, despite what the Democrats (here and elsewhere) attempt to claim:"
    Perhaps you should actually READ the article you linked to, which concludes that the accusations against the President were not founded in fact. In fact, let me quote a part of it:
    "Therefore, it appears exceedingly difficult to support an argument that the President’s henchmen have been busy pushing around these state officials in the effort to convince them to violate election laws for the benefit of the Obama campaign."

  129. James Pollock says:

    "Not sure where you get your information from. Probably not the store that sells facts."
    Actually, the fact that the historical edge the Republicans have had in votes from the military is closing was noted in the article you quoted at me… here's a second point of proof that you didn't actually read it.

  130. James Pollock says:

    "I linked an article from Forbes; here's another:"

    Coincidentally, this article ALSO doesn't support your claim. It says that requests for absentee ballots are down (for the 2012 election), and then concludes without evidence that it must be Obama's fault. Gee, I wonder if that website might have any sort of, well, bias to it.

    "But where do you get your information that the claims are all bogus?"
    Not all of them. Oregon arrested an election worker who was tampering with submitted ballots. Oops, she was adding votes for Republicans. Never mind.

  131. James Pollock says:

    "'The GOP's efforts to push voter ID (which is, I note, legally/constitutionally legitimate in general) is selectively targeted at allegations of Democratic voting fraud,'
    "It is targeted at vote fraud. Which is wrong, whether you view it strategically or morally. LOL."

    The GOP could derail all the the talk about how voter ID is intended to suppress turnout amongst historically Democratic-leaning populations by simply adding sections to voter ID laws requiring outreach to ensure that all qualified voters are allowed to vote. For some reason, they have failed to do this in every state where they have introduced voter ID laws.
    LOL (not).

  132. James Pollock says:

    "Excellent distillation of Democrat behavior. Bravo."

    Seriously? The "I know you are, but what am I?" defense? Are you 8?

  133. Lizard says:

    Excellent distillation of Democrat behavior. Bravo.

    It's a good thing I long since stopped using irony meters, because if I still was, that would have been another one down the tubes.

    Me:"Focusing on 'my team good, their team bad' instead of on actual ideas and values is the bane of any meaningful discussion."
    Reply:"Yeah, that's what I keep telling them dumb-o-crats! Yeee-hah!"

  134. Pammie says:

    @Renee Marie "Your side is the problem. Not mine. Your side is closed minded and prejudiced. Not mine."…are you freaking serious?

  135. David says:

    Now, now, children. Maybe the world isn't quite so Manichaean.

  136. James Pollock says:

    Of course, one other possibility is that people who like to argue with the instructor of a class just don't do as well as the ones who listen, then ascribe the resultant bad grade on animus that was never present. This theory could be tested with a blind blind-grading study. First, you'd have to have a mechanism set up so that the grading is done blind. This is common in law schools; not so much in undergraduate courses. Then, you'd have to not tell the students that grading is blind. Finally, survey the students to see how many think they got a lower grade from the instructor because of personal animus, political bias, or various other zones of contention. Finally, compare to control groups where traditional, non-blind grading occurs and where blind grading is used, and the students know that grading is blind. It'd make and interesting master's thesis, but of course, nobody pursuing a master's has access to grading procedures in other classes, so we'll probably never know.

  137. R R Clark says:

    @gunnutmegger

    Regarding tenure, it does at that change the nature of the offense. From 'termination for misconduct' to 'figure out another way to punish someone' and so they did.

    Regarding where I get my "facts" — this sort of thing being an exercise in anecdotal replacement notwithstanding, it's from years of active duty and IMA duty in an active unit where I mentor young airmen, soldiers, sailors, and Marines. I can certainly tell you the tenor of conversation has changed significantly from the early aughts. The youth vote in the last two election cycles has been completely dominated by the Democrats and that's true even within the military, based on informal and formal polling (with Democrats significantly splitting the vote for the first time anyone can remember).

    As a member of the well-ordered militia so prescribed I clearly believe in the 2nd Amendment. I also believe in the sum total of the Bill of Rights and most of the Amendments to our Constitution besides. Yet I don't delude myself into thinking either party will protect those Rights above their own selfish interests. I vote on the issues. Right now I'm fairly happy I didn't vote for Bush the second time around (I wrote in for Chuck Norris, if it matters). The extent of the crimes for which his administration is guilty is only just beginning to come to light, despite the scandals of the past few years.

    With all that said, I don't believe either party is terribly effective at governing at the moment, but I'm willing to accept the Democrats' argument that the ineffectiveness of their administration has a lot to do with the obstructionist directive the Republicans in Congress have taken as their raison d'etre. It's somewhat incredible to me that nobody has bothered to mention that the last two Congresses have accomplished less combined than the single worst Congress prior to that; Roosevelt's so-called "Do Nothing Congress."

    That ought to offend us, frankly, and it certainly ought to offend the obstructionists in Congress.

  138. Gunnutmegger says:

    @James Pollock

    "Perhaps you should actually READ the article you linked to, which concludes that the accusations against the President were not founded in fact."

    And who made those decisions? Someone with a partisan axe to grind? Exactly how much examination do you give to facts that are presented to you by your political allies? None?

    "It says that requests for absentee ballots are down (for the 2012 election)"…"

    The issue is not and never has been "absentee ballots" or their raw #s.

    The issue was the deliberate suppression of military absentee ballots.

    "The GOP could derail all the the talk about how voter ID is intended to suppress turnout amongst historically Democratic-leaning populations by simply adding sections to voter ID laws requiring outreach to ensure that all qualified voters are allowed to vote. "

    Whoa. Hold on. Are you actually claiming that Democrats would stop opposing ID requirements if the GOP did that? Because anyone who has been paying attention to Democrat behavior for the last 30 years knows that is never going to happen.

    And, do you actually believe that "outreach" is even possible, or could be accomplished without inherent political bias?

    Funny, all of the people attacking the GOP (not my political party, BTW…they just have done less to attack me and my beliefs) have a blind spot for Democrat misbehavior.

    I mean, it's a free country (sort of). You can do that. I don't think you should be arrested or anything for having done so…

    But it makes it hard to take your claims of impartiality seriously.

  139. Gunnutmegger says:

    @ Lizard

    "Me:"Focusing on 'my team good, their team bad' instead of on actual ideas and values is the bane of any meaningful discussion."
    Reply:"Yeah, that's what I keep telling them dumb-o-crats! Yeee-hah!"

    Are you aware that Democrats hold the White House and the Senate, and thus are the party in power at the moment?

    While a person could choose to complain about a political party that is NOT in power, it seems to me that complaining to the people who might actually have the power to enact a change might be a better tactic.

    Can you show me any Democrat writing or speaking on issues without relying on self-serving partisanship?

    Example: Do you really believe that Democrats would support unrestricted immigration if they didn't believe that it would give them a political advantage?

    In short, while I agree with your philosophy, I am amused by your apparent decision to place most of the blame for our current problems on the party that didn't directly cause them.

  140. James Pollock says:

    "And who made those decisions?"
    So, no, you didn't read it, if you have to ask me questions about its contents.

    "The issue was the deliberate suppression of military absentee ballots."
    If there isn't any deliberate suppression of ANY absentee ballots, then there wasn't any suppression of MILITARY absentee ballots. The problem wasn't that the military members couldn't get absentee ballots, the problem was that they were not asking for them. Republican turnout in 2012 was down across the board.

    "Whoa. Hold on. Are you actually claiming that Democrats would stop opposing ID requirements if the GOP did that?"
    Um, yeah, I guess I AM arguing that if the GOP stopped trying to suppress likely Democrat voters, the Democrats would stop complaining that the GOP is trying to suppress likely Democrat voters.

    I ALSO believe that if the GOP stopped trying to gerrymander districts to work in their favor, the Democrats would stop complaining that the GOP was gerrymandering districts to work in their favor. (Note that this is ENTIRELY different from claiming that Democrats would stop trying to gerrymander districts in THEIR favor.)

    "And, do you actually believe that "outreach" is even possible, or could be accomplished without inherent political bias?"
    If the Republicans have their way, we'll never know, will we? Note that I think Voter ID MUST include providing an ID that meets the requirements for voting eligibility FOR FREE to interested voters, so the outreach has to happen to make "voter ID" constitutional in the first place.

    "Funny, all of the people attacking the GOP (not my political party, BTW…they just have done less to attack me and my beliefs) have a blind spot for Democrat misbehavior."
    Funny. You're sure you're not imagining it? I'm not Democrat by choice so much as virulently anti-Republican and left with the D's because their primaries are where state offices are decided in Oregon. Seeing as how Republicans here can't nominate anyone suitable for state offices (they just recalled their own chair, and haven't won the governor's race since I've been eligible to vote.) Almost all of our statewide elected officials are Democrats, so there's been no shortage of misbehavior (heck, the county chair of the most Democratic county in the state just resigned over a sex scandal, and it's not NEARLY as salaciious as the sex scandal that engulfed former governor Goldschmidt, or the one that engulfed former portland mayor Sam Adams, what with both of them involving minors.)
    I don't bother to point out most misbehaviors because Republicans will do that

    "But it makes it hard to take your claims of impartiality seriously."
    What claims of impartiality. I'm anti-Republican. The thing is, when you point out things that Republcians (the party, I mean, not individuals acting on their own selfish interests who happen to be nominally Republicans at the time) do wrong, the OVERWHELMING response is "well, they do it, too!"
    "Well, they do it, too!" is NOT an excuse for wrongdoing, and it is particularly egregious for Republicans to use it since they market themselves as the party of integrity and personal responsibility, both of which are counter to "well, they do it, too!" If you want to claim to be better than the other guys, you have to NOT do what they do if it's wrong.

  141. James Pollock says:

    "Are you aware that Democrats hold the White House and the Senate, and thus are the party in power at the moment?"

    No, you're the party in power if you hold a majority of the House, 60 or more seats in the Senate, and the White House. If you don't have all of these things, then power is shared.

    "Can you show me any Democrat writing or speaking on issues without relying on self-serving partisanship?
    Can you show me any politician/pundit, regardless of party, writing or speaking on issues without relying on self-serving partisanship?

    "Example: Do you really believe that Democrats would support unrestricted immigration if they didn't believe that it would give them a political advantage?"
    Answer: Some of them would, and some of them would not, largely but not exclusively depending on how unrestricted immigration would affect their districts. This is one of those issues where the partisan lines in the sand don't match up well to the actual positions of representatives. W nearly split his party on that topic, before they started ignoring his positions.

    "I am amused by your apparent decision to place most of the blame for our current problems on the party that didn't directly cause them."
    Odd. I could say the same about you.

  142. Gunnutmegger says:

    http://www.suntimes.com/22212263-761/watchdogs-tally-in-illinois-grant-fraud-probe-so-far-13-charged-16m-embezzled.html

    Oddly left unmentioned in this new story: the fact that every one of the 13 is a Democrat. Must be an oversight, huh?

  143. Gunnutmegger says:

    @ James Pollock

    "So, no, you didn't read it, if you have to ask me questions about its contents."

    No, once again you are incorrect. I read it, as well as understood it. But unlike you I do not insist that it means more than what it says, or make the mistake of assuming that the article had all of the relevant facts and that there was no bias in it.

    "If there isn't any deliberate suppression of ANY absentee ballots, then there wasn't any suppression of MILITARY absentee ballots.""

    Which, if it was true, would be nice. But you haven't offered even a shred of evidence to convincingly make that claim.

    "Um, yeah, I guess I AM arguing that if the GOP stopped trying to suppress likely Democrat voters, the Democrats would stop complaining that the GOP is trying to suppress likely Democrat voters."

    That wasn't the question. Nice try at deflection but it didn't work. You're wrong and you know it, hence your lies and weasel-words. But then again, you show a brief flash of honesty:

    "I'm not Democrat by choice so much as virulently anti-Republican"

    No kidding.

    Hey, have you talked to Lizard? He thinks that your focus on party identity is harmful to the country.

    ""Well, they do it, too!" is NOT an excuse for wrongdoing"

    If that's what you believe, why do your actions contradict that philosophy?

  144. Gunnutmegger says:

    ""I am amused by your apparent decision to place most of the blame for our current problems on the party that didn't directly cause them."
    Odd. I could say the same about you"

    What political party created Jim Crow laws?

    Which party got America involved in WW1? How about WW2? Korea? Vietnam?

    Which party champions socialist economic plans like Social Security and welfare?

    Which party votes to raise taxes the most?

    (Hint: the party name ends in -rat…)

  145. Ahkbar says:

    Is your implication that the media, in this specific case the Chicago Sun Times, was actively trying to downplay connections to the Democratic party?

    Because mentioned upfront in the article is that two of the defendants have close ties to the Democratic President.

    One defendant was stated to have used the money to pay campaign workers for a Democratic State Senator.

    Another defendant was stated to have used the money to pay rent for a retired Democratic State Representative.

    Said Democratic State Representative is said to have used the money for personal use.

    So maybe the article doesn't come out say "ALL THESE PEOPLE ARE DEMOCRATS!". But I fail to see how it is somehow pulling a "wink, wink, oversight" whitewash of a Democratic party connection.

  146. JasonR says:

    This was an interesting read, and I'm glad I read it. And it is something I ran into before during my undergraduate degree. IANAL, and all other disclaimers apply!

    The case: I went to a Catholic liberal arts college in the Northeast. One of the requirements to graduate was 9 credits in philosophy, 9 credits in religion, and 9 credits in math & science/liberal arts opposite your degree program. So if you were a Chemistry major you had to take 9 credits in liberal arts.

    The first required religion class was "Introduction to World Religions" which was divided into five parts: Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, and Other. The course description was pretty predictably boring too – "Learn all about world religions around the world, and reflect back on your own faith!"

    First day of class, we all show up and file in and our professor introduces himself. He was a new hire, and he was going on about how he used to be a top scientist in the biochemistry industry, but then "he saw the light." For the next three weeks he showed us movies from his non-denominational Christian church (Interview with the Devil, Saving your Soul, The Truth, and a few others), talked about why all world organized religions (Baptists, Catholics, Anglicans, Muslims, etc etc) were horrible and evil, and why scientists were hell bend on leading us to Hell (most scientists, you understand, were demons).

    By week three it lost its charm and we went to the Dept Chair. He had a PhD in theology from some university in Rome and felt that we might not be getting the religious education we paid for. Week four the Chair took over during class, and brought the class back on track.

    Anyway, my loooooooooooong drawn out point being that there ways to handle professors with an axe to grind. But students shouldn't let the axe be ground, nor should a mob online make the decision. The students must examine the course, and determine if their educational needs are being met, and if not go to the Chair, then the Dean, and then the Faculty Senate (or equivalent organization).

  147. James Pollock says:

    "No, once again you are incorrect. I read it, as well as understood it."
    I see. You went out and cited an article that says the opposite of what YOU say, not because you were trying to offer support for your argument, but because you wanted to say something about how bias works? That's odd, because your NEXT article was an obviously biased piece the other way. Were you trying to signal to me that I shouldn't believe any supplementary material you choose to post? That WAS the outcome, I'm just surprised to hear it was intentional.

    "Which, if it was true, would be nice. But you haven't offered even a shred of evidence to convincingly make that claim. "
    Backwards! YOU made the claim that Obama was suppressing absentee ballots from servicepeople, but offered no evidence to support that claim (Well, you DID cite an article that says there wasn't, and then another one that says that absentee ballots are down and then goes on to blame Obama for it, also without presenting any evidence, but now you say that was just to prove that we can't believe things that you cite.)
    So, you made the claim, you offer no evidence, and now you challenge me to present evidence that your claim is not true. Debate foul.

    "That wasn't the question."
    Then what was?

    "You're wrong and you know it, hence your lies and weasel-words."
    You're projecting.

    "If that's what you believe, why do your actions contradict that philosophy?"
    Because they don't?

    "Which party got America involved in WW1? How about WW2? Korea? Vietnam?"
    Well, for WW2, the answer is pretty clearly "the one that was running Japan at the time", or do you not know how we got into WW2?
    And for Vietnam, the answer is "Republicans", to the degree that Eisenhower was a Republican.

    "Which party champions socialist economic plans like Social Security and welfare?"
    Both of them. The details are mildly different under each.

    "Which party votes to raise taxes the most?"
    That one's a setup. The Democrats are tax-and-spend. The Republicans are don't-tax-and-spend-anyway.

    "What political party created Jim Crow laws?"
    I saved this one for last, because it's the most desperate-sounding of the lot. It's a perfect jab at people who attack Republicans now, unless anyone involved remembers that the parties switched places on this subject 60 years ago or so. 100 years ago, the south was all Democrat, and Republicans couldn't get elected in the South because, well, Lincoln. But the national Democratic party, outside of the south, did things like pass the Civil Rights Act of 1965, and this led directly to the Nixon "Southern Strategy" to convert all those Democrats who opposed the CRA of 1965 (and the CRA of 1968) into Republicans, which is what they are today.
    Now, THAT'S some party branding over reasoning, right there… I should support Republicans now because 100 years ago, the party choice of racists was the Democrats. (Never mind the party of choice for racists TODAY…)

  148. Gunnutmegger says:

    @ James Pollock

    Once again, you enjoy the taste of your own foot:

    ""Which party got America involved in WW1? How about WW2? Korea? Vietnam?"
    Well, for WW2, the answer is pretty clearly "the one that was running Japan at the time", or do you not know how we got into WW2?"

    http://www.independent.org/newsroom/article.asp?id=1930

    A quote: "Roosevelt and his subordinates knew they were putting Japan in an untenable position and that the Japanese government might well try to escape the stranglehold by going to war…"

    Oh, and I hope you can unhinge your jaws to make room for the other foot:

    "And for Vietnam, the answer is "Republicans", to the degree that Eisenhower was a Republican."

    http://wiki.answers.com/Q/Why_did_the_US_become_involved_in_Vietnam

    "Advisors" is not the same thing as "troops".

    Highest troop levels in Vietnam? Achieved under LBJ's administration.

    And don't think your omission of the other wars has gone unnoticed. Hell, just look at the awesome job your tin god 0bama is doing on Syria. At least we won't be directly bombing Russians, like Clinton's boy Wes Clark tried to do in the Balkans.

    "[Jim Crow]'s a perfect jab at people who attack Republicans now, unless anyone involved remembers that the parties switched places on this subject 60 years ago or so."

    Any proof of this? Do you have the minutes from some redneck Wannsee Conference that the rest of us aren't privy to?

    Or are you just lying and making stuff up again?

    Hey, what's that noise? Is it your 0bamaphone ringing?

  149. James Pollock says:

    "Or are you just lying and making stuff up again?"

    If the truth hurts, don't bring it up.

    "Hey, what's that noise? Is it your 0bamaphone ringing?"
    You're funny… but not on purpose.

  150. Ken White says:

    Occasionally people conclude that I don't mean what I say when I say I want bad commenting behavior to stop. Occasionally those people learn to their regret that I do, in fact, mean it.

  151. Brad Hutchings (@BradHutchings) says:

    Ken, if I were an administrator at Michigan State and Penn's classroom escapades bothered me, are there bounds to creative pressure I could exercise? For example, could I just sit in on his classes? He's of course free to go on with his public political wank in front of his captive audience. Could I take the opportunity of an international controversy to set up a symposium about academic freedom in the classroom and invite thoughtful people and a large audience to watch the YouTube video and give it a giant legal and academic vivisection? Assuming I'm concerned about the brand damage this might do to my institution, how giant of a jerk could I be to get the point across? Not that many university administrators would ever have that kind of gravitas dangling between their loins, but imagine one did.

  152. DeeBob says:

    This low-info, never had a real job in his life, is now unemployed. See Ya.

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