babble-intro-img
babble is rabble.ca's discussion board but it's much more than that: it's an online community for folks who just won't shut up. It's a place to tell each other — and the world — what's up with our work and campaigns.

U of C censures students for criticizing prof on Facebook, runs into Charter challenge

75 replies [Last post]

Comments

Sven
Offline
Joined: Jul 22 2005

 

Catchfire wrote:

...a failure of the employer to protect women of colour who are subject to undue harrassment in the classroom.

So, what is "undue" harrassment?


Catchfire
Offline
Joined: Apr 16 2003

 

 

Catchfire wrote:

...a failure of the employer to protect women of colour who are subject to undue harrassment in the classroom.

OMIT NEEDLESS WORDS


Sven
Offline
Joined: Jul 22 2005

Catchfire wrote:

Catchfire wrote:

...a failure of the employer to protect women of colour who are subject to undue harrassment in the classroom.

OMIT NEEDLESS WORDS

Is it "harrassment" to say that a professor is "lazy and incompetent"?


Catchfire
Offline
Joined: Apr 16 2003

In what circumstances? On facebook? To your fellow student? In the church bulletin? I don't understand the question.

ETA j/k, I do. I made a general statement about the treatment of faculty who beling to marginalized groups and you are trying to trick me into applying that general observation to one isolated, uncontextualized statement (which has not been supported by evidence not circumstantial). It won't work.


Slumberjack
Offline
Joined: Aug 8 2005

Couldn't it be said that slander, harassment, and commentary based on a particular bias is one thing, with arguably sufficient enough laws to make a determination of fact in a legal proceeding, and criticism in a social context of faculty members, based on nothing other than the curriculum and style of delivery is quite another?  We'd have to examine the entire context at least.  On the face of it, which is all we're really looking at for the moment, the issue of free speech in itself appears to have the upper hand, until other information comes to light.


kropotkin1951
Offline
Joined: Jun 6 2002

torontoprofessor wrote:

Maybe I'm wrong -- maybe it's perfectly reasonable for an educational institution to punish students for remarks made, or actions undertaken, beyond its immediate jurisdiction. There's some similarity here to Fanshawe College's suspension of eight students who participated in the riots in London, Ontario, recently. On the one hand, we already have authorities under whose jurisdiction these actions fall. On the other hand, students do implicitly agree to an institution's code of conduct when they sign up: Under Fanshawe's code of conduct, the school can impose academic penalties on students whose off-campus actions could affect the health and safety of others in the community. Thoughts?

 

I completely disagree with a university disciplining students for attending protests during which police might riot. 

Catchfire while systemic discrimination is rampant in our Canadian institutions the posts in this case did not use the race card.  If they had then I would have agreed with the university in trying to discipline them. The problem with combating systemic discrimination is that sophisticated bigots don't openly tip their hands.  In a human rights case these posts are not examples of a poisoned atmosphere.  Now if these two students had posted disparaging things about every professor that was not an able bodied white male then there would be a pattern to point to.


Unionist
Online
Joined: Dec 11 2005

Hey Catchfire, I remember the Avenir cheating thread very well!

Your claim then, as now, is that "Universities seem to have no idea how to deal with social media". Yet the facts in the Avenir case (not talking about Avenir himself, because there was precious little evidence that he did anything wrong) showed that it was the students who were so clueless that they didn't realize anyone can read an unprotected Facebook page. I said at the time that I could show them how to set up a password protected chat room in two seconds flat. They thought they could shout out their answers to exam questions, which they had been instructed to complete independently, in a publicly accessible forum, then play the injured victim when someone heard them cheating out loud. Duh.

In that case, there could be no doubt that they were violating legitimate rules against cheating. In the present case, it is difficult to see what they're doing wrong, rather than expressing an opinion about the quality of teaching they are receiving.

As for the problems relating to women of colour in academia, the information and experience you have to offer merits a thread, I think. I could talk about similar experiences in the workplace and in the union structures. But without some actual, like, you know, further evidence, I can't for the life of me see why you would raise that in this very individual context.

Going back to what I said earlier about sexual harassment - if a student or colleague or anyone were harassing or abusing a member of the university community on the basis of race or gender or sexual orientation etc., then that behaviour - even if wholly off-campus - would be the proper subject of scrutiny by the university in order to fulfill its obligation to protect the climate and the community, and could very well result in discipline or dismissal/expulsion. In that respect, as I said in my exchange with torontoprofessor, I see no immunity based on Facebook or the grocery store. The determining issue is not where the abuse takes place - it is rather, what spillover effect does it have on university life.

ETA: Cross-posted with kropotkin1951, and I share his view.


Slumberjack
Offline
Joined: Aug 8 2005

Reading the transcript, it appears that anecdotally, at least from the evidence submitted, relaying to students that the Magna Carta was a document crafted with North American indigenous people in mind, and that the notwithstanding clause was never used in Canada, and telling her students she was tenured instead of part time, seemed to have formed part of the basis for their FB discussions.


Slumberjack
Offline
Joined: Aug 8 2005

pookie wrote:
But I am wary of the argument that the university is performing a "government function" when it delivers post-secondary education. 

Ok..this caught my eye. As the majority of the funding for post-secondary education comes from provincial government sources along with the federal government, mainly in the latter case in the form of research grants and such, I think it's safe to say that universities were never intended to perform anti-government functions. Universities perform the functions entrusted to them by society, which is regulated in every conceivable way by government, which in turn is regulated in its actions by the exigencies of the economy, which as we know couldn't be made any clearer today. Having said that, there are circumstances whereby institutions and groups receive public funding, or public subsidies, but are not subjected to comport themselves internally according to the Charter. Religious organizations, the military, and police forces come most immediately to mind.


Catchfire
Offline
Joined: Apr 16 2003

Unionist wrote:
They thought they could shout out their answers to exam questions, which they had been instructed to complete independently, in a publicly accessible forum, then play the injured victim when someone heard them cheating out loud. Duh.

Then, as now, I saw public space differently. Just because the state sets up surveillance cameras does not, in my opinion, mean that they are justified in or ethically grounded in using that information to prosecute people who violate laws that can't be enforced by non-invasive means. Your argument makes no distinction between policing and the law, which it should. The connection I see here is that these students--all of them, not the two "innocuous comments,"--are taking part in behaviour which fits a certain repeating form of bullying, pile-on and harrassment that would constitute harrassment if it took place in the classroom, in a prof's office, and arguably elsewhere. The University, like you in the Avenir case, is making no distinction between what constitutes University property and what does not.

As for other comments in this thead, I am not saying, nor have I said, that the students made offensive comments about Mitra's race or perveived race (I don't know what it is in any case). I am saying that the University in general (at least in my experience) does a terrible job of establishing a safe pedagogical space for students and teachers who belong to marginalized groups. As a result, many privileged students feel further enabled to make gratuitous criticism about a prof (one student spent a class counting how many times Dr. Mitra said 'um', for example) in increasingly irresponsible ways (which could, of course, in turn exacerbate existing insecurities or anxieties of an adjunct prof in a precarious employment situation). Does it need pointing out (again) that we actually don't have much proof as to whether Dr. Mitra is actually a "lazy and incompetent" employee?

When I talk about protecting its employees, I mean that the University missed their shot long before these students started a facebook group. I have never supported the University's actions--on the contrary, I believed from the start they were rather flailing to make up for yet another lapse in the way University fails its marginalized members and instead, further entrenches existing race, class and gender privilege.


Sven
Offline
Joined: Jul 22 2005

 

Catchfire wrote:

I made a general statement about the treatment of faculty who [belong] to marginalized groups and you are trying to trick me into applying that general observation to one isolated, uncontextualized statement (which has not been supported by evidence not circumstantial). It won't work.

CF, I'm not trying to "trick" you into anything (besides, you're too smart for that).

If one wants to punish students for criticizing faculty when such criticism crosses the boundary and becomes "harassment," then it would be nice to see a clear (contextualized, if you wish) definition.

So, we have two hypothetical examples:

(1) White male prof. where students lambast him for being "lazy, stupid, and incompetent".

(2)  Black female prof. where students lambast her for being "lazy, stupid, and incompetent".

Now, whether the charges are (A) completely accurate, (B) debatable, or (C) unfounded, would you use a different standard assessing (1) than when assessing (2)?  If so, what would that standard be?  In other words, what clear guidance would you give to students before they open their mouths (or type on their keyboards)?

It's really not a trick question!!


Sven
Offline
Joined: Jul 22 2005

Slumberjack wrote:

pookie wrote:
But I am wary of the argument that the university is performing a "government function" when it delivers post-secondary education. 

Ok..this caught my eye. As the majority of the funding for post-secondary education comes from provincial government sources along with the federal government, mainly in the latter case in the form of research grants and such, I think it's safe to say that universities were never intended to perform anti-government functions. Universities perform the functions entrusted to them by society, which is regulated in every conceivable way by government, which in turn is regulated in its actions by the exigencies of the economy, which as we know couldn't be made any clearer today. Having said that, there are circumstances whereby institutions and groups receive public funding, or public subsidies, but are not subjected to comport themselves internally according to the Charter. Religious organizations, the military, and police forces come most immediately to mind.

Why, pookie, are you wary of calling publicly-funded education a "government function"?  What's wrong with such education being a "government function"?


Catchfire
Offline
Joined: Apr 16 2003

Sven wrote:
If so, what would that standard be?  In other words, what clear guidance would you give to students before they open their mouths (or type on their keyboards)?

Are these students saying this to each other? Of course not. At least, probably not. To the teacher in class? Yes, probably, if it was persistent and concerted. Here's what UBC says about personal harassment:

Quote:
Personal harassment is behaviour that humiliates, intimidates, excludes, and isolates an individual or group, but is not based on one of the BC Human Rights Code’s thirteen grounds of prohibited discrimination.

Most institutions, including UBC, don't do very well in following this statement's aims (likely because of its admittedly large mandate, but mostly because people in power just don't take it seriously). I know this because I recently supported a student in a clear case of personal harassment from a faculty member. I am saying that personal harrassment is more likely to happen to Dr. Mitra than to me, and that the university usually doesn't care enough to do something about that.


Slumberjack
Offline
Joined: Aug 8 2005

Sven wrote:
Why, pookie, are you wary of calling publicly-funded education a "government function"?  What's wrong with such education being a "government function"?

I would guess in general that the connections and by extention the implications, are not immediately evident, which I would contend is a guess supported in part by your second question.


Sven
Offline
Joined: Jul 22 2005

Catchfire wrote:

Quote:
Personal harassment is behaviour that humiliates, intimidates, excludes, and isolates an individual or group, but is not based on one of the BC Human Rights Code’s thirteen grounds of prohibited discrimination.

If I were in your class and you said something that was, indeed, the stupidest thing I'd ever heard and if the issue was important enough to me, I might just say, in front of everyone in the class, "Well, that was the stupidest thing I have ever heard."  And, if you felt humiliated, intimidated, excluded, and isolated by my comments, then presumably that is speech that you would ban.


Slumberjack
Offline
Joined: Aug 8 2005

I think that situaiton would fall under the auspices of some academic code of conduct.


Unionist
Online
Joined: Dec 11 2005

Catchfire wrote:

As for other comments in this thead, I am not saying, nor have I said, that the students made offensive comments about Mitra's race or perveived race (I don't know what it is in any case).

No, but pookie said this:

pookie wrote:
I think the students' treatment of this professor reflects profound gendered racism and bullying.

And Michelle praised that statement.

Surely there's nothing whatsoever in the evidence we've seen that would lend support to that? I think it's just a misunderstanding of the facts.

 

 


Sven
Offline
Joined: Jul 22 2005

Slumberjack wrote:

I think that situaiton would fall under the auspices of some academic code of conduct.

Actually, it would fit squarely within the scope of the "personal harassment" code because the speech "humiliate[d], intimidate[d], exclude[d], and isolate[d] an individual" (i.e., the prof.).


Catchfire
Offline
Joined: Apr 16 2003

What is with you free speech fetishists and banning speech? Who said anything about banning anything? I'm talking about being responsible for the things you say. I can say that if anyone said such a thing to me in my class, I wouldn't, personally take it to some form of institutional greivance, but I would try to teach that petulant child how adults interact with each other in public (I have a better chance and record of doing that in a classroom than I do at babble, but different standards for different folk and all that). And if he kept it up, I would ask him to leave the class for disrupting it. If he refused--I would seek intstitutional support.


Sven
Offline
Joined: Jul 22 2005

Catchfire wrote:

What is with you free speech fetishists and banning speech? Who said anything about banning anything?

Well, of course you couldn't literally ban it.  But, presumably, you would be seeking punishment or some type of sanction for any speech that "humiliated, intimidated, excluded, and isolated" someone, no?

 


pookie
Offline
Joined: Dec 13 2005

Hi Sven (long time!)

My concerns about the "state actor" doctrine (to use the US term) are set out in post #2 above. Interestingly, the one appellate judge who found that the Charter did apply did not do so mainly on the basis of the government function test but on a separate strand of the case law based on an entity being entrusted with coercive statutory powers.

I remain torn about the answer I would most like to see to this question.

My earlier comments about sexism and racism were based on my understanding that the professor in question in a racialized woman (who also is married to a woman).  They were systemic in nature and not tied to any individual student.  

That said, I believe this case is better dealt with under administrative law, and having read the record in this case and accepting it at face value i do think that U of C's discplinary decisions against THESE two students were misguided in their severity and failure to provide adequate reasons (as well as denying the internal right to an appeal).

 


abnormal
Offline
Joined: Aug 18 2001

For those of you that have never seen it you might want to check out

www.ratemyprofessors.com

You'll probably have to change the country to Canada but it's an easy enough matter to find the ratings on this prof.  Uniformly "the worst professor I've ever had" - while I don't agree with some of the reasons given it's pretty clear that students think this is not someone that you want to have teaching you.


Catchfire
Offline
Joined: Apr 16 2003

Yes, the 8 fastidious students who don't like getting bad marks using an anonymous website are pretty much a flawless benchmark by which to judge "this woman with roots in health care" who dared teach a course on law.

Professor deeply hurt by student's evaluation


abnormal
Offline
Joined: Aug 18 2001

Catchfire wrote:

Yes, the 8 fastidious students who don't like getting bad marks using an anonymous website are pretty much a flawless benchmark by which to judge "this woman with roots in health care" who dared teach a course on law.

Professor deeply hurt by student's evaluation

That's not the point - the fact is that this site exists as well and, if you're going to pick on students for criticisms on Facebook, you should go after this site as well and at least shut it down.


Catchfire
Offline
Joined: Apr 16 2003

I mentioned ratemyprofessors.com in my first post noting that curious choice. Of course, I see nothing of that argument in your last post--it reads like you want to establish once and for all that Dr. Mitra is a horrible teacher. As if it matters.


Sven
Offline
Joined: Jul 22 2005

The ratemyprofessors.com site appears to be not a whole lot different than many online rating sites.  If you open up a little restaurant or coffee shop or what-have-you, you are very likely going to get rated anonymously by patrons.  That's just the way it is in this information age.

Generally, however, most people are not going to take the time to write up bad reviews of someone that they think highly or have a neutral opinion of.

Teaching is different, though, in one critical aspect: Whereas an owner of a shop will want to make all customers happy, a teacher can't easily do that with students who are lazy and don't do the work and end up with poor grades.  At one time, students were probably more willling to say, "Yeah, I deserved the bad grade because I really didn't put any effort into the class."  Now, with everyone feeling entitled to good grades (along with everything else in life that requires work), you're probably going to get more students who feel angry for getting a bad grade even though they don't deserve a better grade.  This is one of the beautiful things about entitlement thinking today (all the goodies for none of the effort).


Catchfire
Offline
Joined: Apr 16 2003

Heh. I corrected your last sentence, Sven. Free of charge.

Sven wrote:
This is one of the beautiful things about entitlement neo-liberal thinking today (all the goodies for none of the effort).

Choice is a false prophet.


Sven
Offline
Joined: Jul 22 2005

Catchfire wrote:

Choice is a false prophet.

Autonomy is rooted in choice.  No choice?  No autonomy.


Catchfire
Offline
Joined: Apr 16 2003

It was really weird to read your post #56 and virtually completely agree with it. Until I got to the end and realized you were thinking in terms of social democratic entitlement and I was thinking in terms of neo-liberal ideology of choice. You were so close...


Sven
Offline
Joined: Jul 22 2005

 

Catchfire wrote:

It was really weird to read your post #56 and virtually completely agree with it. Until I got to the end and realized you were thinking in terms of social democratic entitlement and I was thinking in terms of neo-liberal ideology of choice. You were so close...

I'm not sure what having choices has to do with grade expectations.

Too many people look around and see others who have things they want (whether it's physical things or accomplishments) and think, "I want that, too!" - but they aren't willing to put in the requisite effort to earn them.  And that feeling is magnified by some people constantly telling them they are entitled to a broad array of things in life...just for "showing up" and being a warm body!!  But that has created a pervasive entitlement mentality that has bled into virtually all aspects of life.

So, naturally, many kids get to school and think, "I just have to show up and I am then entitled to an A!!" - and, if they don't get one, then it is someone else's fault, such as "the system" or the teachers.  It's not their fault - because personal responsibility is so passé.

I don't think any of that has to do with having choices.


Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
Login or register to post comments