December 14, 2013

Neglect of duty

Here's a story linked to by our old pal Michael E. Lopez at Joanne Jacobs' place: Boulder's Naropa suspends professor over alleged threats, silent protest in classes.

Naropa University administrators and religious studies professor Don Matthews are at odds about his suspension last week over complaints that he threatened students and refused to speak during classes.

Matthews was placed on paid suspension for the rest of the semester early last week.

He said the suspension was racially motivated and the university didn't grant him "due process" before suspending him. University officials, however, said Matthews' actions posed a threat to the Naropa community and warranted immediate action in the form of suspension.

Matthews was protesting "institutional racism" at the university, and had vowed to continue his classroom protest until "bias" was excised permanently from Naropa. He also filed a complaint at the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights regarding the college's "lack of diversity" and "racism." He claims the suspension is retaliation against him.

*Sigh* I'm constantly amazed at such complaints considering that colleges are, if anything, ridiculously overly conscious about racial and ethnic sensitivity. Diversity is essentially the official religion of the university community. Indeed, Naropa has a "Community of Color" group, the head of which is a big supporter of Matthews. Imagine the "institutional racism" which permitted a group like that to exist, eh?

Nevertheless, actions by guys like Matthews can only be experienced at a place like your typical American university. Frankly, I'm amazed he was suspended, and that Naropa took the sensible action that it did. A prof is basically free to engage in all the histrionics he wants, but if you're actually refusing to do that for which the college pays you -- namely, teach -- then there should be a problem. As Richard Aubrey says in the comments at Joanne's:

If I, a student, pay some hugely inflated price for four credits of, say, Reformation theology, I have contracted to get four credits of Reformation theology. I am owed it. I need it for the junior level class for which it is a prerequisite.

I did not pay a chunk of my parentsí savings, my summer job, or my future debt enslavement in order to watch a professor massage his ego in public. If I donít get my four credits of Reformation theology, the U is in breach of contract and must take action regarding its agent which put it in this position. Or refund my premium.

Now, I know this is harsh, but itís the way it works in the rest of the world. Like to apply it to academia.

As noted, Matthews is also accused of threatening and belittling students. He threatened to sue students on his Facebook page and via e-mail for "defamation," and told a student in class that he/she "needed therapy." Naropa President Charles Lief says that Matthews indeed is "passionate" and "teaches on the edge," which he claims is what makes the university "unique":

"He's provocative. He brings a different perspective, which is obviously unique to Naropa and unique to Boulder. He's an African American, Christian minister who comes to the university from an urban world that, frankly, many people here are not familiar with."

What does that mean, exactly -- "from an urban world"? Is this the same sort of "academic speak" that purports to exonerate Matthews for his actions because ... blacks are "[culturally] different"?

For the most part, the university is free to believe and apply such nonsense, and Matthews is free to believe as he wishes and to be as "provocative" as he pleases. However, some common cultural and societal norms have to be in place; penalties for refusing to actually teach and threatening/belittling students should be one of them, obviously.

Posted by Hube at December 14, 2013 11:27 AM | TrackBack

Comments  (We reserve the right to edit and/or delete any comments. If your comment is blocked or won't post, e-mail us and we'll post it for you.)

I really wish these professors would do what they're being paid to do- teach students- as opposed to mouthing off about politics during class. He crossed a line when he decided to belittle and threaten students. And he's bringing legal action? Sounds like our "pal" Dan "Set the Record Straight" Slott.

Posted by: Carl at December 16, 2013 01:47 PM

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