FIRE investigates firing of ASL instructor Peter Quint

7/11/2011 Update: These two Daily Emerald stories, and especially the comments, are worth reading. Two sides to every story. Everyone agrees Dean Bullis botched it though.

7/8/2011: From Lyzi Diamond in the Oregon Commentator:

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) has launched an investigation into the termination of University of Oregon American Sign Language professor Peter Quint after he made what was perceived to be an off-color comment to a student in his ASL 203 class. A letter was sent from FIRE to University President Richard Lariviere on June 27 insisting that Quint be reinstated for the 2011-12 academic year. … 
“The rights of UO faculty are very fragile indeed if the university believes it can dismiss its instructors for their classroom comments without even presenting any formal charges against them, much less allowing them the opportunity to address and rebut such charges.”

More on the FIRE page, here. It will be interesting to see if the AAUP/AAU faculty union people pick up on this as an issue for their fall recruiting push.

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11 Responses to FIRE investigates firing of ASL instructor Peter Quint

  1. Anonymous says:

    Dog says really? really?

    Wow – this is incredible. If you can’t tell your students to fuck off and get serious in your class, then you can’t teach anymore.

    I imagine in a class of say 30+ students its possible to say something, unintended, which could be taken by one student as being offensive. Hell, I think (hope) this happens to me every class period that I teach (but I am an equal opportunity offender – no race, religion, ethnicity, etc, is spared); none of this is intentional at all but will come out unless you teach robotically without opinions. To then suspend an instructor for an off hand remark certainly would then make the UO classroom seem more like
    the Inquisition than a free and safe place to express something!

  2. Anonymous says:

    Well, if a student in class asked if he needed to shoot me or someone else, I would want that student outta there fast.

    FIRE is really stretching to make this a free/speech academic/freedom issue.

    If the criterion for unacceptable classroom behavior is criminality, then we are really in a bad way.

    Perhaps UO overreacted, perhaps not, but I don’t see this as a case for FIRE.

    As a former contributor to that organization, I am less and less sympathetic to the directions they are going.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Dog responds

    geez
    context is everything ya know.

    In response to various questions I get in
    some of my classes regarding the US political situation and sensible public policy my usual response is

    “Just fuckin’ shoot me please”

    its an expression. Period.

    Equating this with “criminality” is nonsense.

  4. Anonymous says:

    In March, the UO Senate approved a policy proposal on Academic Freedom and Freedom of Speech. Included in the proposal is the paragraph:

    “… Faculty members must be able ,,, to train students to think about these results for themselves, often in an atmosphere of controversy that, so long as it remains in a broad sense educationally relevant, actively assists students in mastering the subject and appreciating its significance.”

    and the paragraph:

    “This policy, when approved by the UO Senate and the President, shall be incorporated into the Faculty Handbook, the UO University Policy Library and shall be incorporated in letters of appointment or other contractual agreements.”

    Of central importance is the proposal that academic freedom and freedom of speech at UO be guaranteed in letters of appointment or other contractual agreements. Contracts are much harder to violate than are Faculty Handbooks. To my knowledge, the Senate has not heard whether Prexy will adopt the proposed policy. He should. It could go a long way to restoring some luster to this campus.

    The policy proposal may be viewed in entirety at http://senate.uoregon.edu/content/adoption-academic-freedom-and-freedom-speech-policy

  5. Anonymous says:

    Yeah, context is everything. Threatening to shoot the students is different from asking them to put you out of your own misery!

    By the way, using the f-word in class is not such a great idea. What a crude society we’ve become that professors would think that is OK. When I was a student — back when — professors wouldn’t have thought of talking like that in class.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Offensive speech is the only kind that really needs protecting. But yeah, just because you can say fuck or “Do you want me to take a gun out and shoot you in the head so you understand what I am talking about?” doesn’t mean you should.

    I don’t know any more than what’s in the story, but is sure sounds like Mike Bullis blew a chance to use this as a teachable moment for the instructor and for his students.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Not all offensive speech needs protecting, not even in the classroom. Just because it is legal to say “Fuck you” doesn’t mean it’s OK for students or professors to do it in the classroom. I’m actually not even sure how legal it is, in all situations. Can I go to a funeral and legally say “Fuck this dead guy, he was a fucking asshole”? I kind of hope not.

    Can a student come to my class and say “Fuck you professor, I hope your face turns to pus” and have that be considered academic freedom? I hope not.

  8. John G. Roberts says:

    Yes, the first amendment protects your right to say that at a funeral:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/03/us/03scotus.html?pagewanted=all

  9. Jeff says:

    Well it surely seems to me that Peter Quints rights were violated in this case. I can understand where he was coming from in order to get a point across to those trying to understand a scenario regarding the situation he was in.

    The student that also made the mistake of disregarding the class policy also made the mistake of misunderstanding Quint was coming from.

    Now, as for the UO – what the hell were they thinking? Breaking the law without due process is something they should know better and if they’re in the business of teaching, they should respect the views and rights of their students and teachers before jumping to conclusions.

    I’m pretty sure and hope the UO has a damn good excuse to explain this one in court if not, than they shouldn’t be in the business of disrespecting their teachers and students rights to due process.

  10. Anonymous says:

    The professor shouldn’t have been fired.

  11. Anonymous says:

    The comment was said in anger and this particular instructor had past complaints about not being able to handle his emotions. I would be curious as to his past employment history and if this was a problem before.

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