Within hours of issuing our press release yesterday, the local and national media were on the scene at Hinds Community College (HCC) in Mississippi to discuss the case of student Isaac Rosenbloom’s punishment for a single use of the word “fuck” outside of class.
Locally, Rosenbloom has given televised interviews to Fox40 News and ABC affiliate WAPT, which also covers the story here. FIRE’s Adam Kissel also discussed the case on The Gallo Show on the SuperTalk Mississippi radio network. Nationally, Rosenbloom’s case is the subject of entries at The Huffington Post as well as at The Washington Post and, in the higher education sphere, The Chronicle of Higher Education and Inside Higher Ed.
Adam also is scheduled to be on MSNBC tomorrow at 3:30 pm Eastern with host Jeff Rossen.
Writing for Inside Higher Ed, Scott Jaschik reports that “Several experts on student conduct toward faculty members said that they were surprised that a policy like Hinds’ existed at any public college or university–and that they agreed with FIRE’s analysis that it violates First Amendment rights.” Many of Jaschik’s readers—several college professors and administrators among them—seem to agree that HCC has crossed the line.
Here’s what “CC Prof” had to say on HCC:
I think that my CC has some sort of policy on swearing outside of the classroom, but I don’t bother with it. It seems unenforceable and perhaps unconstitutional …. This case seems quite ridiculous. The comment wasn’t aimed at anyone, and the instructor should have just ignored it. I’ve heard way worse from the students at my CC, including salacious details about sex lives. One can’t help but pay attention to that stuff, but I just keep walking. It’s not high school.
Others in the comment-verse happily admit to their own frequent use of profanity in class. One professor states that “I only WISH most of my students gave a damn about their education enough that they’d summon the emotion to actually swear in class.” (Rosenbloom’s case, it is important to remember, took place after class, and was said in conversation with another student, not the instructor.) Another professor, commenting on the Chronicle article, comments:
This whole story sounds like something out of the Twilight Zone. What happened to the day when colleges fostered freedom of expression? I personally do not like to hear profanity but in an adult world it exists and if a community college wants to be taken seriously, fining students for profanity should be abolished.
Watson Scott Swail, President of the Educational Policy Institute, comments on Inside Higher Ed:
This may seem like a nothing issue for some, but this is a dangerous precedent and the college should be reprimanded for their actions. Trying to encourage civility? Not a problem. That’s what they should do. But enforce it? Then what follows? [...] This is a case of a seemingly simple rule that most people understand. But at what future cost into unconstitutional territories?
And, if it is so important to them, they need to walk the halls of Congress. Profanity, whether you like it or not, is a standard part of business culture. No, not used all the time, but it is used by the highest officials and business people in the land. I sit in some of those rooms. It is the defacto [sic] method of trying to get a serious point across when the chips are down. Again, like it or not. Encourage prudent behavior—don’t legislate it. Because when things are legislated, they become the target for people to abuse. Case in point—with this enforcement, what is stopping students, en masse, from all wearing WTF t-shirts on campus. It just says WTF, although we all know what that means. I’d love to see that photo.
And here are some thoughts from a disappointed HCC alumnus in the Chronicle (and one of many to have fun with HCC’s idiosyncratic “demerits” system):
WTF? (That’s worth at least 10 demerits!). I went to Hinds in the mid-60s and received an excellent learning experience. But I did see it as decades behind in many ways …. It smacked of the 1930s and sadly, it seems to have reached only the early 50s at this point. … But progress is slow and we will just have to watch what is otherwise a fin[e] institution continue to lag farther and farther behind. Sad.
Sad indeed. Hopefully HCC President Clyde Muse will be quick to realize the college’s error and reverse HCC’s course. Everyone is watching to see what he will do.