Since it’s attracted a lot of attention, even prompting the president of Washington State University to make a public statement against it, UD doesn’t know how long this syllabus will remain online. But for now you can feast your eyes on one of the strangest documents UD has seen in awhile. If you told me it was written by a bitter washed-up person who’d been the relentless object of her students’ contempt for decades, I’d say well okay… I can see how a lifetime of abuse would inspire this sort of long angry welcome to my classroom, assholes out to destroy me

But the instructor is a young person. A graduate student.

The part of the syllabus people are talking about and against which the university’s president is defending his school, is this:

Gross generalizations, stereotypes, and derogatory/oppressive language are not acceptable. Use of racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, xenophobic, classist, or generally offensive language in class or submission of such material will not be tolerated. (This includes “The Man,” “Colored People,” “Illegals/Illegal Aliens,” “Tranny” and so on – or referring to women/men as females or males.) If I see it or hear it, I will correct it in class since it can be a learning moment for many students. Repeated use of oppressive and hateful language will be handled accordingly – including but not limited to removal from the class without attendance or participation points, failure of the assignment, and – in extreme cases – failure for the semester.

This is the Kindergarten Teacher/Mao Zedong multiple personality type we do sometimes see in certain courses of study in American universities. The problem is that the professor wants to be nice but wants at the same time to subject her reactionary charges to the harsh re-education process the little fuckers deserve.

The results of this muddle are reliably funny, as when, at the end of this seven-page screed against students she hasn’t even met yet, the professor writes

No Class / Have a fantastic break!

It’s like the Alternately Rude and Polite Monty Python sketch.

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10 Responses to “The Paranoid Style in American Professors”

  1. Dr_Doctorstein Says:

    Wow. I thought this was also pretty weird:

    “Avoid using anecdotal evidence in any debate. Since identities, such as gender or race, cannot be generalized to your personal experience, anecdotal evidence must be kept to a minimum. Understand that we are not discussing nor attacking individual experience, but rather the institutionalized and systemic issues of discrimination and prejudice.”

    So, whatever happened to the idea that the personal is political? Shouldn’t we be discussing the relations between individual experience and the larger social structures that help determine them? It’s one thing to be wary of false generalizations, quite another to simply ban anecdotes.

  2. Derek Says:

    Especially since in history classes most one-off events can be derided as anecdotes. I actually think I get the point our wayward prof here is trying to make — the last thing any of us wants in class is the person who, in lieu of engaging with the material, and usually in the absence of having done the reading, uses their own personal experience — but this is so ham-handed that it deserves all of the derision coming its way.


  3. Margaret Soltan Says:

    Dr_, Derek: I also flagged that paragraph as weird. Not merely its content, but its placement in the context of a syllabus that is all about barking out orders as to what can and cannot be done. Or in her words: will not be tolerated. The suppressed rage in this syllabus (not all that well suppressed) could power Shanghai.

  4. charlie Says:

    For the professors out there, how well would something like this work if the student body weren’t made up of callow teenagers or very young adults? I went back for a second degree in my late 30’s, with a lot of non-traditional students, more than a few being combat vets. More than a few confrontations, and these were STEM classes, not usually considered emotionally incendiary….

  5. Contingent Cassandra Says:

    Given that she is a graduate student, it strikes me that this reflects as badly on her mentors (or, more precisely, those who should be mentoring her) as on her. Somebody should have read and helped her revise that syllabus long before it became available to students, let alone the web at large.

  6. Margaret Soltan Says:

    Contingent C: Agreed.

  7. Bill R Says:

    This is from the WSU statement.

    “Free speech and a constructive climate for learning are not incompatible. We aim to cultivate diversity of expression while protecting individual rights and safety.”

    Translating from Bureaucratese to English, that means.

    “The norms of political correctness are to be strictly enforced, but let’s not say so out loud, it’s embarrassing.”

  8. University Diaries » “The school also recently launched an internal investigation into whether it illegally used $5 million reserved for academic purposes to help pay for the football stadium. The University of Houston System’s auditor event Says:

    […] from academics to athletics, UH has a new football coach who’s kind of the equivalent of this chick — he issues threatening language to students who might be considering not going to a football […]

  9. enoriverbend Says:

    It appears to be gone now (for me, at least).

    If so, the Wayback Machine has it:

  10. Margaret Soltan Says:

    enoriverbend: Yes, I saw that it had been taken down. Thanks for the link to it. UD

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