Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Come On, Come On, Emmanuel . . .

Last Friday, an adjunct professor at Emmanuel College in Boston, Massachusetts was fired for an in-class dramatization of the Virginia Tech shootings. In a statement released yesterday, school officials said that Professor Nicholas Winset was terminated for violating the college’s standards of civility and conduct.

This one genuinely surprised me, and not just because I’d never heard of Emmanuel College despite having gone to law school in the Boston area. (This is by no means a knock against the institution, I just often get the impression that there are almost as many colleges and universities in Boston as there are students.)

No, I was surprised that a liberal arts institution would fire a professor for discussing this issue.

I find it ironic that Emmanuel College's administration had this sort of knee-jerk reaction. The purpose of a liberal arts education is to help students develop and use their intellectual resources. The free exchange of ideas is essential to this.

I don’t agree with the point Professor Winset was (apparently) trying to make. I don’t think that last week’s tragic events speak to the need for more guns in our society. Unless college students and faculty members have changed significantly in the decade plus since I graduated college, I can envision many scenarios in which more firearms in the hands of students and faculty members might have exacerbated the situation. I can envision very few scenarios in which the presence of more firearms would have saved lives.

I do, however, support his right to make that point, particularly in the setting in which he made it. I’m sure that the discussion left many students upset. Discussions about sensitive subjects often have that effect on people. The fact that strong feelings are aroused is part of what makes them so valuable. Part of developing analytical skills and intellectual agility is developing the ability to think critically about these types of issues.

In its attempt to enforce institutional standards regarding conduct, I hope that Emmanuel College is not ignoring its educational mission.


Fired Professor Speaks Out

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

oba, oba, oba. do you really think after four years at a new england liberal arts college in the early 1990s that any comparable institution really has an "educational" mission that is its primary focus anymore ? come on now, the only educating (or should i say "indoctrinating" ?) that goes on in places like that nowadays is to produce new members of the Democrat Party (as our current president likes to reference it). students attending such schools are taught first and foremost to not offend anyone under any circumstances whatsoever (which in itself stifles discussion), second to defer their intellect to anyone on a soapbox (which stifles learning), third to give a soapbox to anyone who looks like they might not otherwise be able to secure one (which does nothing to prepare anyone for the realities of life outside of an ivory tower), and fourth that they aren't communists or socialists but that republicans are the next worst thing thereto (god bless).

the end result is a place like tiny Williams College being subjected to a hunger strike because it's not the bastion of Latio Studies that it should be. i'm still waiting for some up and coming history major to go on his own hunger strike because there aren't enough Medieval History classes being offered. on that day, i'll fly back to New York City, put on a dress, and personally campaign for Hillary For President in the middle of Broadway.

so there you have it - your mission if you choose to accept it. find me such an aspiring history major, present to me the news article covering his poor plight (the student needs to either pass out from lack of nourishment after at least 14 days or secure a tenure position in the History Dept for a Medievalist professor), and line up the camera crews in Times Square !

- chadwin, who is still held back in life because he was not able to learn enough about the Middle Ages in college...