University Professor Removed After Asking Students To Agree To Use Of Profanity In Class

220px-Michael_PersingerLaurentian University Professor Dr. Michael Persinger has been removed from his class for confirming that students understand that profane language is used and discussed as part of his class. That would seem a basic exercise of academic freedom since Persinger was seeking to use the language as part of his introductory psychology course. Yet, the university declared him in violation of workplace policies.

Persinger is a cognitive neuroscience researcher and university professor with an extensive list of publications, particularly in experimental work in the field of neurotheology.

Persinger has students sign a “Statement of Understanding” during the first lecture that lists a sample of words that might be used during class, and includes the F-word, homophobic slurs and offensive slang for genitalia. He explains that “One of my techniques is to expose people to all types of different words. Silly words, complex words, emotional words, profane words. Because they influence how you make decisions and how you think.” The words were used to show students how such words affect the brain’s rational processes. The use of the words would seem to serve an obvious purpose of warning students and gaining their consent in dealing with material or words that could be disturbing. More importantly, the language has a clear pedagogical purpose. You can read the whole “Statement of Understanding” here.

The Statement of Understanding (which appears under a “R” rating warning) includes the following statement:


Statement of Understanding
I understand that the Professor in this course, Dr. M. A. Persinger, employs techniques intended to challenge my beliefs and to develop my skills as an independent thinker who employs data and methods rather than social consensus or verbal emotionality for decision• making. I realize that the methods are not intended to embarrass or to demean but to encourage development of strategies so I will be minimally influenced by unpleasant experiences. If I require special needs I will not approach the professor in order to maintain my anonymity but instead arrange a convenient meeting with the professor and the Special Needs Office.
I understand that the language ( examples attached) employed within this course and the examinations (examples attached) will contain frank expressions and creative metaphors that reflect everyday life. This course will focus upon the practical and most important principles of human behavior. I realize that I can ask any question in this classroom and employ creative metaphors regardless if they are or are not “politically correct”. The course professor promises to teach me the most advanced methods of problem solving so I will not be duped by social-political agendas. The professor has informed me that if the course content might be offensive to me I. can transfer to another section as early as possible.

What follows is list of words that will be referenced in the course for the purposes of full disclosure.

None of that mattered in the end. Two months into the course, Persinger was called into the office of the university provost and told he would no longer be teaching the class. This action was done without any complaint for years of his using this practice. Moreover, students were given the option of changing to a different section of the course if they didn’t like the practice.

The university issued a statement that “It was recently brought to the Dean’s attention that a Statement of Understanding issued to students by Dr. Persinger was not in compliance with Laurentian University policies. Dr. Persinger was removed from teaching this course pending an investigation.”

I fail to see how this action does not violate core academic freedom principles, which are stated clearly in the Canadian Association of University Teachers:

CAUT actively defends academic freedom as the the right to teach, learn, study and publish free of orthodoxy or threat of reprisal and discrimination. Academic freedom includes the right to criticize the university and the right to participate in its governance. Tenure provides a foundation for academic freedom by ensuring that academic staff cannot be dismissed without just cause and rigorous due process.

The faculty appears to have rallied behind Persinger as it should. It should not stop with contesting this action but look closely at who took this action in the first place. If universities are going to micromanage such courses to sanitize material or teaching techniques, there is little hope for academic freedom. What is particularly chilling is that this action is occurring at a time when free speech is under attack on college and university campuses. From the growing free speech regulations on campuses to the demands for the expansion of hate crimes, we are seeing the early signs of the taste for censorship as well as double standards. The intrusion into the classroom takes these concerns to an even greater level.

Source: CBC

62 thoughts on “University Professor Removed After Asking Students To Agree To Use Of Profanity In Class”

  1. @Joan, Thanks for pointing that out. I hadn´t read the word list. They´re hilarious!

  2. Forum:

    Best described as a torrent of little children running around in a minefield (users), some armed with weapons (moderators), forums are the flagship of internet discussion, spam, and flame wars.
    Smaller forums tend to be more habitable, but the larger ones have many distinct and similar features. For example, within approximately seven seconds of the creation of a topic, you will have at least one reply, garunteed. Large forums also tend to spawn makeshift caste systems within themselves, and you’re automatically a malefactor in the forum until you have a 4-digit post count.
    A forum can sometimes be helpful, but normally they become a time consuming and frustrating thing if you pay too much attention to them.

  3. It’s shocking that the professor was removed from this class, and academic freedom surely applies. I hope he sues. This is a civil rights issue.

    1. lurkylurky – this is an academic freedom case. The AAUP should get involved.

  4. Look at his photo:

    He’a s fruit, he’s a fruit…
    He’s a fruit all the way.
    From his first trist with a priest ..
    To his last dying day!

  5. What’s reason and purpose for using Foul Language? Is Professor upset and pissed off at something? What’s his Moral/Character Fiber? Have a friend who collected Dictionary’s and purposely bought a Dictionary that had NO Profanity definitions. Reader’s Digest can’t recall the year believe early mid 80’s covered it well people who used the “F” word as in Time Magazine. This Professor ought to teach GREAT Grammar, Dialogue, Rhetoric and that Foul, Cussing NEVER need be used; now that would be Teaching instead of the “Dumbing Down of Our Kids by Sykes”. Rather this Professor is more of the Marketing of Evil/How Evil Works reads by David Kupelian and what’s covered in Battle Hymn by Scura/Phillips about Education System. Too bad he sold out and revealed his heart issues. Glad didn’t take his class and was defiled.
    Note: If swear, cuss because angry or deprivation of vocabulary, lessons in life and believe a lot of those lessons start in Great/Loving/Foundational Home Life.

  6. Dogs can pull the lever at the ballot box on election day in my state if they are giving guidance to a half blind guy pal. I vote. Early and often. When the polls close I vote often. My half blind guy pal is a voting office volunteer and helps with the yakking.

  7. If Ted Cruz hails from Texas and before that was born in Canada then I cannot vote for him.

  8. Did someone say Canada? Ted Cruz is not a natural born citizen and is not eligible to be POTUS. He’s a Canadian anchor baby.

  9. The kids in that so called University need a class in Pig Latin. What the ukFay did they think when they enrolled there? There is itShay all over that place. There is enough apCray on the wall that no astardBy or itchBay would go near. The professor is an etardRay.

  10. Is this how the university prepares future psychologists, counselors, and others in their profession? Because surely in the course of their careers, they will encounter course language, non PC remarks, offensive idioms, over generalizations, misogyny, chauvinism, racism, and crude manners. How will they learn how to conduct anger management counseling, for instance, if they freak out at offensive language?

  11. Nick

    Think rabid and your delusions that people go to jail in Canada for ‘spouting’ anything. You live in the illusion of America and ignore the reality. That is where the slippery slope starts. Good Canadians and Good Americans can recognize the difference between words and actions. Good Canadians and Good Americans are not delusional. Like I said, there are laws and there is the application of laws. The US is way ahead in the perversion of the application of laws, regardless of the laws. Good Americans recognize this and hate this, not America and certainly not Canada.

  12. I don’t think profanity or ethnic slurs have any place in an academic environment. The idea that saying the F-word is “Academic freedom” is absurd.

    Obviously, the punishment should fit the crime. This is entirely different from the discussion of controversial ideas or the desire of the Left to label non-profane speech as “Hate” and punish the transgressor.

  13. I marvel @ how convoluted and illogical liberals can be. We have a Canadian who is a rabid atheist and a hater of the USA. He blasts tGod, religion, etc. every chance he gets here in the great USA. He is able to do so because of our Constitution, and because we do not have blasphemy laws, as they violate the greatest constitution ever written. I point out that in his beloved Canada, there ARE LAWS that would put him in PRISON for saying the things he spouts here. But, his hatred of the great USA trumps any semblance of logic or reason as he rants about “tokers.” If only those required helmet rules were on the books when he played hockey. GOOD Canadians admit that their country is blatantly wrong following the lead of pandering Europeans w/ these blasphemy laws. GOOD Canadians want to abolish these fascist laws.

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