Patterico's Pontifications

9/21/2020

Survey of Professors Summed Up: ‘Scared To Death To Teach’

Filed under: General — Dana @ 1:49 pm



[guest post by Dana]

Following the story of USC Professor Greg Patton, who was suspended for accurately quoting a Mandarin filler word during his class, an anonymous survey was sent out to professors at the Marshall School of Business and produced the exact kind of responses one would expect:

An anonymous survey of 105 professors at the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business suggests that many of them have lost confidence in the dean, and that they feel “livid,” “betrayed,” and “scared of students” after a fellow faculty member was “thrown under the bus,” as several of them described it, following a controversy over his use of a Chinese word.

While the summary revealed strong reactions to the school’s treatment of Prof. Patton, the general reactions fell short when compared to the more detailed “scathing” comments:

…noted the “anger, disappointment, betrayal, and outrage” felt by professors.

[The comments] provide a portrait of a business school in which professors are now convinced that a single student complaint, even a questionable one, could upend their careers, and that the school’s leadership, as one professor put it, “doesn’t have our back”:

“I’m scared to death to teach in this environment. Any innocent phrase can be turned around on you.”

“Faculty will have to walk on egg shells all the time – anyone can be accused of being a racist, bigoted, insensitive, biased, etc.”

“[I] fear that if things are left as they stand now, this will have a very chilling effect on the faculty.”

“Makes me not want to teach.”

And who can blame them, given how Prof. Patton was immediately removed from the classroom by Dean Garrett and replaced with another instructor. The surveyed professors, feeling betrayed by the administration, also took Dean Garrett to task for his support of “offended” students and lack of support for Prof. Patton:

A number of professors condemned Garrett’s email to students, in which he said that it was “simply unacceptable for faculty to use words in class that can marginalize, hurt and harm the psychological safety of our students.”

“The Dean did such a disservice to faculty, but especially to Greg Patton, by sending a memo that was highly judgmental and injurious.”

“Shocked, saddened, pissed off and betrayed by Dean Garrett and the Marshall Administration.”

“It makes me feel like the dean’s office is willing to throw faculty under the bus in order [to] preserve the appearance of diversity and inclusion instead of opening up dialogues on both sides.”

“For the Dean to put his signature to a letter with such obviously untrue implication … is chicken shit.”

Anyway, the unintended consequence of Dean Garrett’s actions will be manifested in the classroom as professors, now walking on eggshells, are planning to adjust their teaching to minimize any possibility of being accused of causing offense:

“It will make me even more conservative and guarded than I already am.”

“I will avoid any diversity and inclusion topics and will strictly stick to safe topics, devoid of any potential land mines.”

“I may cut sessions on culture.”

“I plan to be aware and on the lookout for situations that might be misinterpreted, but am concerned that if I start looking over my shoulder and second guessing myself that I might be more inclined to actually make a mistake.”

What else can they do but this?

–Dana

48 Responses to “Survey of Professors Summed Up: ‘Scared To Death To Teach’”

  1. Really a sign of the times. This sort of fear is not just a figment of people’s imaginations. It’s very real, and is not just found in the halls of academia. It is pervasive, and a lot of innocent people are going to continue getting snared by these insane reactions of overcorrection – or in the case of Prof. Patton, a plainly insane reaction to what was really…nothing.

    Dana (292df6)

  2. This is exactly the outcome the left wants.

    Just as with SC nominations, it’s the left that escalates and it’s the responsibility of everyone else to play nice.

    beer ‘n pretzels (8e0f93)

  3. Survey of Professors Summed Up: Frankenstein who?

    frosty (f27e97)

  4. Dana, as I have discussed with Patterico, this is a very real concern. I recommend the following essay.

    https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/09/academics-are-really-really-worried-about-their-freedom/615724/

    Dr. McWhorter is by no means right of center, and he is currently writing a book about this bizarre mindset has become a religion of sorts. Because it has.

    I am thinking of retiring. It’s gotten far too strange on campus.

    If you care about this topic, please consider contributing to the Foundations of Individual Rights in Education.

    Truthfully, this is a nonpartisan problem.

    Simon Jester (41c481)

  5. I thought you might chime in, SJ. Given the current, and increasingly worse conditions, I can easily see where retirement would be the most viable option if one can do it.

    Dana (292df6)

  6. What else can they do but this?

    They could take a public stand together in defense of their colleague rather than wringing their hands in an anonymous survey.

    The Dean of their school is not some inaccessible, faceless entity on high. He’s someone they all know and have interacted with personally in the past.

    Dave (1bb933)

  7. OTOH, students who want to learn will seek knowledge and learn. Look at the resources at their fingertips today. It’s a marvel.

    DCSCA (797bc0)

  8. Dana, the stories I could tell. In a science department, no less.

    If you look at the kinds of things FIRE does to defend not just students, but professors, you’ll see how horrifying the New Crusade (because it is religious in so many ways) has become.

    And it does not matter that most students don’t really agree. All it takes is one student to outright lie. And then a professor is smeared forever. And the feckless administrations go along with it, hoping to be eaten last.

    Simon Jester (41c481)

  9. As I mentioned when we were first discussing this issue (or at least I think I mentioned it; I’m getting kind of Bidenesque about these sort of things), the only way to combat this absolutely thuggery in academia is for the administration to make it very clear that spurious and bratty complaints by students will not be tolerated. Anyone these days, whether a student or not, who is looking for a reason to be offended will find ample opportunities. If a college student — let alone a graduate student as in this case — is easily offended by a word from a foreign language which sounds like a slur in English or another language, that person needs to be counseled that perhaps they are simply not ready for adult life and should return to adolescence until they mature. If receiving criticism on your work from a professor of a different race triggers you, then you probably don’t belong in a higher education setting. If they are going to act childishly, then treat them as children and send them back to mommy and daddy where they no doubt belong.

    JVW (ee64e4)

  10. They could take a public stand together in defense of their colleague rather than wringing their hands in an anonymous survey.

    Hear, hear. The Kennedy family isn’t going to be bestowing their “Profile in Courage” award on any of these folks anytime soon.

    JVW (ee64e4)

  11. I’m getting kind of Bidenesque about these sort of things

    Person? Woman? Man? Ummm… Damn it!

    Dave (1bb933)

  12. You know, the thing.

    JVW (ee64e4)

  13. They could take a public stand together in defense of their colleague rather than wringing their hands in an anonymous survey.

    Are the non-tenured going to want to risk this?

    Dana (292df6)

  14. Are the non-tenured going to want to risk this?

    In most places, tenured faculty outnumber untenured by a considerable margin.

    At least at UC, deans aren’t very important in the tenure decision, either. USC, as a private school, could be different.

    It’s also worth asking what good tenure is if the administration can throw you under the bus for completely innocent speech.

    Dave (1bb933)

  15. Administrators have been throwing teachers under the bus for a long time.

    About 30 years ago, when my mother was a junior high school teacher, her principal went behind her back to change a student’s grade (to placate the parents, I’m sure). My mother discovered it post accompli. And, wouldn’t you know it, the principal went on to become the superintendent of the school district.

    After that, this clown ran for a seat in the Utah legislature. My mother made a Youtube video relating her experience. She wanted a fellow teacher who also had her grade changed by this guy to do a video as well, but she was afraid of losing her pension. Anyway, the clown actually ran twice, and lost both times.

    Like my mom says, the teachers are afraid of the students, the principal is afraid of the parents, the parents are afraid of the students, and the students aren’t afraid of anybody.

    The USC situation is what happens when misguided parenting collides with leftist ideology.

    norcal (a5428a)

  16. The take home, JVW, is simple and explains the problem succinctly: the administrators are concerned about who throws the biggest and most expensive fit. And the bow down to that.

    So even TENURED professors are not safe. Trust me on that. The ONLY thing that holds colleges and universities in check is a threat of a bad PR lawsuit. Nothing else. And even then, most universities and colleges have the equivalent of insurance. Most students and faculty do not have those resources.

    Tenured professors are not going to speak up. Nontenured professors? Absolutely not.

    And my favorite part is that current mentality that there is a power differential, which allows students to lie like Persian rugs without a single nanomole of accountability. It’s leaking into all walks of life now.

    Ick.

    Simon Jester (41c481)

  17. The Dean of the Trojies is a terrorist.

    Ed from SFV (f64387)

  18. What else can they do but this?

    They could start by voting Republican.

    Hoi Polloi (dc4124)

  19. @18

    I too liked the essay, as an informational point. But if what it represents is true, then academia is doomed. The students who were offended and felt “threatened” are making themselves unemployable.

    Bored Lawyer (7b72ec)

  20. This is USC. They all already have jobs lined up. For half of them it will be in daddy’s business, and for the other half it will be taking a peek at their trust fund once a month.

    nk (1d9030)

  21. @21

    Really? The black students too?

    And they better hope that Daddy’s business does not go under. Like because of, I don’t know, an international pandemic that happens to break out.

    Bored Lawyer (7b72ec)

  22. Meanwhile, the media covers for academic fraud that they hope to push on American schoolchildren:

    Phil Magness
    @PhilWMagness
    ·
    Can the @nytimes’s #1619project get any more dishonest? They appear to have edited their own website to remove the claim that 1619 was America’s “true founding” some time between August 2019 and @nhannahjones’s denial today that she ever intended to claim that.
    __ _

    Jeffrey Davison
    @JeffreyDaviso13
    ·
    It was hurting Kamala in the polls. She supported this garbage.
    __ _

    Nancy
    @Nancy90324264
    ·
    This is not the first time liberal papers have been caught doing that. Oh well, at least it’s not a FISA warrant.

    __ _

    harkin (96a159)

  23. Don’t tell anybody, but there are black rich people in America. Some of them even own cars, and have more than one pair of bluejeans, can you believe it?

    nk (1d9030)

  24. Thanks for your clarification @ 16, Simon Jester. If you do retire soon, I’m convinced that you will revel in being at home, spending more with the Mrs., and working on projects that have long interested you but have been put on the back burner because of work. That’s my hope for you, anyway.

    Dana (292df6)

  25. This survey saddens me greatly, but doesn’t surprise me at all.

    Gawain's Ghost (b25cd1)

  26. @25

    I am well aware of that. I just did not know their children attend USC business school.

    So no one there, black or white, comes from a middle class or poor family.

    Bored Lawyer (7b72ec)

  27. So its a children of the damned1966 version , or that twilight zone sketch with bill mumy

    Bolivar di griz (7404b5)

  28. So no one there, black or white, comes from a middle class or poor family.

    Poor? In the business school? I doubt it very much.
    Middle class? Sure, why not? Somebody has to take over the realty office when daddy retires.

    nk (1d9030)

  29. Middle class? Sure, why not? Somebody has to take over the realty office when daddy retires.

    You are either being facetious, or have no clue about life. There are lots of middle class (and even upper class) people who do not have a “daddy’s business” to go into.

    Bored Lawyer (7b72ec)

  30. @31

    To quote Justice Kennedy:

    These matters, involving the most intimate and personal choices a person may make in a lifetime, choices central to personal dignity and autonomy, are central to the liberty protected by the Fourteenth Amendment. At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life. Beliefs about these matters could not define the attributes of personhood were they formed under compulsion of the State.

    Bored Lawyer (7b72ec)

  31. Net flix is quickly becoming? ‘a den of scum a villainy’

    Bolivar di griz (7404b5)

  32. @31 and @34

    The question is, what was the age of the octopus in the film? And do we count in human years or octopus years, since this is a union between, umm, a human and a mollusk?

    (I agree, every time it seems we have hit bottom, someone opens a trap door and we go further down.)

    Bored Lawyer (7b72ec)

  33. Of course python warned us about this, i. Their documentary on mollusks.

    Bolivar di griz (7404b5)

  34. You are either being facetious, or have no clue about life.

    Be that as it may, I maintain that my flippant and naive observations are more nearly true than your observation that “the students who were offended and felt ‘threatened’ are making themselves unemployable”.

    nk (1d9030)

  35. 34, re Netflix, one does wonder how our resident NASAphile/Roger Sterling would take the new Challenger documentary.

    urbanleftbehind (2641dd)

  36. Poor? In the business school? I doubt it very much.
    Middle class? Sure, why not? Somebody has to take over the realty office when daddy retires.

    I confess I do not know enough about business schools in this day and age to gauge whether or not this is true. One the one hand, nk accurately pegs the business students of my day who by and large came from well-off families and could afford to take a couple of years away from work in their mid-20s in order to pursue their MBA, or else they had an employer who helped subsidize or even pay for their course. I have a friend who referred to his time at Harvard Business School as “a two-year cocktail party.”

    But I am wondering if in these woke days if the elite business schools aren’t now trying to take that kid who graduated with a Feminist Studies degree or an Education Degree and spent two or three years working at a nonprofit or else teaching in an inner-city school and convince them to attend business school. I’m sure they were receiving the same complaints as other higher education institutions about the lack of diversity and such. For all I know, maybe the Marshall School of Business is chock-full of people who received their undergraduate degree in 2015, worked for Hillary Clinton through the election, then farted around with some do-gooder nonprofit for a few years before winning some sort of generously-endowed scholarships given to MBA students. It’s a new world out there.

    JVW (ee64e4)

  37. They could take a public stand together in defense of their colleague rather than wringing their hands in an anonymous survey.

    The Dean of their school is not some inaccessible, faceless entity on high. He’s someone they all know and have interacted with personally in the past.

    Yeah, they could. But I bet they know the guy is a vindictive weasel. The proper way to deal with this is tell the Board to get a new dean or a new faculty. I suspect that the bulk of the students are keeping their heads down, too, since the whole administration is probably full of little wormers by now.

    Kevin M (ab1c11)

  38. Maybe SC alumni are much different that before, but the ones I knew wouldn’t put up with this crap. All it takes is a Board of Trustees to start sacking people, and people will get their minds right. Those that aren’t sacked anyway.

    If you pay him the Danegeld, you never get rid of the Dane, as Kipling observed.

    Kevin M (ab1c11)

  39. But I am wondering if in these woke days if the elite business schools aren’t now trying to take that kid who graduated with a Feminist Studies degree or an Education Degree and spent two or three years working at a nonprofit or else teaching in an inner-city school and convince them to attend business school.

    B-school admissions are extremely competitive and over-subscribed. They don’t have go recruit people living under freeway overpasses…

    Dave (1bb933)

  40. Be that as it may, I maintain that my flippant and naive observations are more nearly true than your observation that “the students who were offended and felt ‘threatened’ are making themselves unemployable”.

    If you don’t think that this latest event will negatively affect the job prospects of USC’s business school graduates, then you are naive. This is all over the internet. Employers usually do their due diligence. If a black graduate from USC applies for a job, this will be in the back of the employer’s mind.

    If the student was this ridiculously sensitive at school, how is he or she going to be at work? It’s a lawsuit waiting to happen. If I am an employer, better to avoid the whole thing.

    Bored Lawyer (7b72ec)

  41. I wrote to USC voicing my criticism:
    “I hope it will not seem impertinent of me, as an outsider to you institution, to comment on a recent incident at your school that has become widely publicized. That incident is the treatment of Professor Greg Patton for correctly, accurately—and as far as I have been able to determine, relevantly—using a word in a lecture that certain people found objectionable.

    As both a speaker and a teacher of Mandarin, I can attest that the word nèige (literally “that”) is commonly used as a pause word, a “filler” word, as Professor Patton pointed out. That is merely a fact. That mentioning a fact should result even in anyone’s casual objection—much less in censure and punishment—is positively Stalinist. If anyone deserves reproof, it is the complainant, not Professor Patton. You say that USC is “committed to building a culture of respect and dignity where all members of our community can feel safe, supported, and can thrive.” That all sounds very laudable, but people who claim a need to be “safe” from facts do not belong in a university, and are not likely to “thrive” in any environment. Rather, they ought to be disabused of the notion that they have anything to be offended about. You should realize how ridiculous this makes the Marshall School appear in the eyes of the world…”
    A faculty member deputized by the Provost responded:
    “We appreciate your concerns and take them seriously. In this particular case at the Marshall School, the course was scheduled to run for three weeks and, after student complaints were lodged, the professor volunteered to step away for the final two weeks. He was not dismissed nor suspended nor was his status changed. We are required to investigate all complaints and have a thorough process for doing so which we began immediately.

    “The complaints occurred in a course in communication across cultural lines. Its purpose is to prepare students to be successful in business around the world. There is no intent to impose U.S. cultural norms on communications in other languages and cultures. Indeed, this situation arose when students questioned the polarizing example chosen to illustrate a reasonable and important point about communication and had nothing to do with the Mandarin language itself. As the professor said in his apology, the example used in this lecture could have been better chosen.

    “USC is a multicultural institution dedicated to providing the very best education that prepares our graduates for success in their chosen careers across the globe. We are committed to meeting this mission for our more than 45,000 students through robust debate of ideas across 8,000 classes every term. Occasionally, anomalies like this occur and we can assure you that our internal procedures are fair and appropriate.”

    This response was hardly satisfying. He says that they “are required to investigate all complaints,” apparently including those that are obviously without merit. And what did Professor Patton possibly have to apologize for? Did he do it under duress? And here I thought I was safe teaching a non-controversial subject (East Asian languages and cultures) I’m glad I’m close to retirement.

    Roger (a5bda3)

  42. We are required to investigate all complaints and have a thorough process for doing so which we began immediately.

    Occasionally, anomalies like this occur and we can assure you that our internal procedures are fair and appropriate.

    The answer of every bureaucrat everywhere. “We followed procedures, so we are ok.” Even though the result was a pig’s breakfast.

    Bored Lawyer (7b72ec)

  43. It is true that they are required to investigate all complaints. That’s the law.

    Dave (1bb933)

  44. They don’t have go recruit people living under freeway overpasses…

    Good Heavens! What a dreadful way to describe people who work for nonprofits or in innner-city schools!

    JVW (ee64e4)


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