Hate Speech and the Classroom

An Indiana University professors’ racist, sexist, and homophobic comments throughout the years recently came to light via Twitter account SheRatesDogs, but the University provost stated that it was not enough to fire him (though she did denunciate him and his actions).

The quote I find most troubling about provost Professor Robel’s statement, however, is this: “Somebody with his views – should that person be teaching students? If that was the only question we had to answer, the answer in my mind would be pretty clear.”

So then why is this man not only allowed, but needed to teach at this university? Unfortunately, these opinions he has posted were on his own time, not on campus. However, these biases must absolutely affect Rasmusen’s ability to teach and grade students effectively – so, the university has decided to make him grade student assignments without knowing who they are. But if the university is in fact altering its policies so that students are allowed to transfer out of his class, as well as not be required to take it at all, then why is he still needed at the university?

Professor Rasmusen responded to criticisms as well as the provost’s statement on his website, stating that he believes in economics classes “setting aside their moral objectives,” and that he does not believe all that the provost said of him.

This isn’t the first time he’s been called out for his behavior online either, however. In 2003 the university removed his blog after he made homophobic comments. So why wasn’t there more of a punishment then? I understand wanting to respect this man’s First Amendment rights – he has the right to say what he wants in a public forum. However, does he deserve a job teaching young people?

I understand that even making such a statement like this as the provost of a university is bold, and spits in Rasmusen’s face for being so callous and cruel in his opinions. But I just don’t think it is enough. I cannot help but think, how will this affect Indiana University’s incoming student population, knowing that they allow such bigotry in the classroom?

One thought on “Hate Speech and the Classroom

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  1. There are contractual issues involved in this case. He is a tenured professor and thus has greater legal protections. In order to fire him, the University would need to show cause. Writing hateful things on your own time is not grounds for dismissal. The provost did several things. She put into place protections for students around grading and opportunities for them to take classes with another professor. She also directed people to report if they have had negative interactions with him in the classroom. If reports come in that show a pattern of his beliefs actually translating into his behavior in the classroom, then the University will be on more solid ground to terminate him for cause. Without action on his part however, the University would be punishing him for his speech/thought alone.

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