February 15, 2005
Student expelled for expressing opinion
FIRE reports that a master's student in Le Moyne College's graduate education program has been expelled for expressing personal beliefs that don't tally with the ideological and pedagogical stance of the program. Ironically, what got the student expelled was a paper advocating strict discipline in the classroom; apparently, at Le Moyne advocating discipline to pedagogues who don't approve of it leads to the strictest, most gratuitously punitive discipline of all. In expelling the student, Le Moyne has violated its own policy on free expression. Read all about it on FIRE's site.
It's an amazing story, isn't it? And they wonder why people who haven't signed on at a school of Education think they're part of the problem?
Jebus Kerist. Follow the links to the PDFs of the letters from these guys! The dismissal letter and response to FIRE's letter are short, sweet and well... Way out of line. To be sure, this is a private school and is therefore not as prey to antidiscrimination actions, but... Jebus Freakin' Kerist!
Bill..as a private institution they may not be subject to First Amendment actions in the same way as a public university..however, private institutions are still required to honor their contracts, and I would think a case could be made that statements in the student handbook, policy guide (or whatever) constitue an implicit contract.
Personally it sounds to me as if LeMoyne is aiming for a lockstep march to the beat of the faculty and don't you dare use your brain. I would say that the professors in charge expect a regurgitation of what they say and nothing else. If that is what is being taught to our future teachers and at the graduate level, then no wonder the teachers are so bad and the schools don't teach our kids. Apparently the head of the department doesn't believe that kids are different and the approaches that work with teaching them have to be flexible if the schools are to succeed. I hope FIRE goes after them full bore. I definitely think Mr McConnell has a case here and he should be recompensed for all his troubles and then he should take himself to a GOOD school of education to get his master's degree.
Regarding the letter from LeMoyne: unless they have a letter on file from the student explicitly waiving his privacy rights, they are forbidden by federal law from talking about him in all but the vaguest terms.
Well they pretty much blew due process out of the water with the first letter (a private conversation results in expulsion at whim at LeMoyne), so I don't think they'd have much sweating to do over FERPA. It will definitely be amusing to see how this evolves (for all parties save McConnell and LeMoyne of course). If you were a conctract agent to LeMoyne, would you be secure in your agreements with them right now?
Bill, you're talking about something different, and due process has nothing to do with what I was talking about. Teachers and administrators may talk amongst themselves about student performance and attitudes, and in fact may be required to do so if the student exhibits behavior or attitudes that are problematic. (I'm saying nothing here about the merits of the case on either side.) They may not talk "out of school." The first letter you mentioned was a communication to the student, which he released to the public. LeMoyne still can't comment without violating federal law.
Yes, I'm quite familiar with FERPA and related matters, FIRE is also very much aware of that as it was integral in the Steve Hinkle case where the disciplining authority did not show intention to comply with FERPA in their 'sentencing.' LeMoyne should have used a far more diplomatic (and perhaps legalistic) response in which they could have said just about the same thing without sounding dismissive of Lukianoff's and Korr's group, especially given FIRE's increasingly public reputation.
Also having written "woodshed" letters myself, both letters seem to be written by people who haven't talked to the school lawyers. They're not as bad as the Indian River Comm Coll letters from a recent case, but still...
Bill, I think we agree on most things here. Lord knows I'm not impressed by LeMoyne's handling of this affair, and, yes, I'm understating it. I'm sure there's more to the story on both sides, and I'd be very interested in finding out the rest.
This looks like yet another instance of crushing opposing opinions at the institutions that are theoretically all about open discussion and pursuit of truth.
I'm waiting for the conservative kids to take their cue from the behavior of the now-administrators' actions as then-students in the 60's.
FIRE seems to have a love of people who advocate violence. First they defended John Banzhaf's "academic freedom" to use his classroom as a front for his various extortion rackets, and now they're crying over a student who was expelled for advocating physician violence against schoolchildren.
The more FIRE tries to make martyrs out of petty thugs, the more libertarians like myself will simply tune out FIRE's hyperbole.
Skip, regarding Prof. Banzhaf: what are you talking about? I can't find anything about him on FIRE's website, other than a couple of letters he wrote about GW's "informer's line" thing.
I've followed Kors, Silvergate et al since the Water Buffalo incident and Shadow University and FIRE's founding, and I don't recall them or their organization defending odious behavior from Banzhaf beyond chalenging the creative use of an anonymous hotline which blows due process out the door (how can you face an phantom accuser? Georgetown clearly came up with a way!).
As far as defending thugs (and I mean the real kind), get real. The most controversial "thug" they've stood behind was Al-Arain and they properly stood aside when the federal and state charges came around. And they were right to defend him before the state took formal action.
I would certainly like to see the details of this "violence" and "Extortion" by Banzhaf. It ain't on Fire's case log. Afterall - I do send them a check each year... Unless of course you define violence "postmodernly" the same way CalPoly and other institutions do.
So, Skip, do you think Ward Churchill should be canned? He's an open and unapologetic advocate of violence, right down to posing with automatic weapons ala the Black Panthers.
In fact, I understand that he's written tracts in praise of the Black Panthers.
What about the teachers who gave McConnell a cumulative 3.78 and an A- on the offending paper?
And where is the MSM in covering this story?
To pick up a theme from Feb 7:
This wasn't [merely] ironic. This was a consciously contrived paradox. There was no way the school was ever going to honor its own policy, and no way this student (or any other that took the school's policy at face value) was ever going to survive there.
The only question I have for Le Moyne is whether it will make a hasty change to the statutory regs in order to bring them into compliance with the prevailing ad hoc law in effect, or simply leave the regs in place and continue propagating the lie. I guess it depends on how many 'troublemakers' write unacceptable papers in the classroom. Or whether it enjoys expelling 'unruly' students more than it enjoys keeping them in line. (Some see their academic mission differently from others I imagine.)
Rules are written on academic freedom that can't possibly be honored, given the academic climate in effect, and students who trust these rules are subsequently betrayed by the authorities in charge of applying them. Sounds familiar; this is but an extreme case. It's a shame the student wasn't a Marxist or America hater; he'd still have his "job".