Patterico's Pontifications


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?


A Reason Not to Worry That Amy Coney Barrett Will Recuse Herself in Abortion Cases

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 7:44 am

With Judge Amy Coney Barrett looking like a “top contender” to replace Justice Ginsburg, it may be worth revisiting what would likely be the main controversy with a Barrett nomination: whether her Catholic religion would interfere with her judging.

It is fashionable for those on the right who have not looked into the issue to dismiss this as “bigotry” but there is more to it than that. Over two years ago I wrote a post titled Would a Justice Amy Barrett Recuse Herself in Abortion Cases? Plenty of judges and politicians (including Joe Biden) are Catholic, including Justice Scalia, for whom Judge Barrett was a clerk. But not every judge has written something like this:

[W]e believe that Catholic judges (if they are faithful to the teachings of their church) are morally precluded from enforcing the death penalty. This means that they can neither themselves sentence criminals to death nor enforce jury recommendations of death. Whether they may affirm lower court orders of either kind is a question we have the most difficulty in resolving.

(My emphasis.)

But Barrett has. In my 2018 post, I noted that the issue of abortion is also fraught with baggage for the sincere Catholic, and that a judge who had expressed misgivings about ruling on death penalty cases as an appellate judge might have similar misgivings about abortion cases. I concluded: “It would be ironic indeed if conservatives supported Barrett because they thought her Catholic faith would make her a certain vote to overturn Roe v. Wade — only to see her recuse herself from any such case because of that same faith.”

Fortunately, we now have two more years of Barrett’s track record as a judge to consult, and I updated the post yesterday after a Twitter interchange with Ed Whelan in which he pointed out that Judge Barrett joined a panel decision in July vacating an injunction against an execution. Here is that update, which I thought should be highlighted in a new post given its relevance to current events:

UPDATE 9-20-20: Ed Whelan points me to the fact that Barrett has since ruled on a death penalty case, which certainly lessens the concerns raised in this post:

I’m no longer concerned about Barrett recusing herself from death cases or abortion cases.

A track record is a nice thing to have. Trump was correct to forego nominating Judge Barrett before she built one. Two years is not a particularly long track record, but it’s better than virtually nothing. Keep this one in your back pocket if she should become the nominee.

P.S. Ed Whelan was kind enough to inquire on my behalf what Justice Scalia’s favorite opera was, so I could listen to it, as RBG’s death and their friendship was making me nostalgic. He told me he had learned indirectly from Mrs. Scalia that it was Cavalleria Rusticana by Mascagni — also an RBG favorite. Press play and remember a day when people who disagreed could get along:

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