[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?