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

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

  1. I disagree. There really is no place for profanity anywhere. This person is probably very foul. And he thought he could get away with it because he is a college professor.

  2. he could just take a field trip to some downtown street corner and have the students listen and observe some half baked bible-thumper

    besides, it’s Canada – they’re still part of the Realm

  3. Intro to Psych and he wanted to teach students how the use of certain words affects the brain’s rational thought processes? Now he will have plenty of time to devote to pondering the age-old question–what are the predictable consequences when one flagrantly violates his employer’s policies? Don’t need an advanced degree to call this one.

  4. >when one flagrantly violates his employer’s policies
    Well, it took his employer several years to get aware of said violations, so it may not have been that flagrant.

  5. 18 up and out.
    Jane Peters: You need a last name change. “Peters” is plural for several male genitalia. The rest of you on the blog should examine your own names. Guys like Jack Mehoff should change his first name. Harry Rectum needs to reconsider and go to something like Harry Rear. HumpinDog is another.
    Then we need to put this “university” on the itShay list. Fly over and flush. What is going on in Canada these days?
    Of course the nature of the course itself needs to be questioned. All this neuropathy apCray needs to be wiped from the Rear.

  6. It seems to me the use of profanity is a reasonable subject of study. Further, the more objectionable it is then the more important it is to understand how it is used and what effect it has on people.

    It seems to me that to claim that something is objectionable is to suggest that it, at least, has the potential for a significant effect in our lives. How could it possibly make sense to ignore something that has real effects on people’s lives?

  7. Ohhh, Canada. If it was a class of 5th graders I could understand, but college psych students. The language police at Laurentian are full of BS.

  8. It seems that the recently festering administrative paranoia for some sort of correctness has drifted across the border. Ah, for the good old days when it was all about the Quebec identity and other problems of the sort. We need these big brains to keep us straight.

  9. I went to law school after working in a steel mill for 3 years. There was no differential between the language used, and in fact no one cared in either place – because the use was honest.
    Too bad that the Dean is silly about this (either that or his/her lawyers are silly about it).

  10. OMG, I am so disappointed in the responses to JT’s article. Where are all the fuggin firebrands!??
    Some of you here are actually defending the policy of firing a psychologist who is teaching the normal verbiage of human beings, who is actually going to include actual words that actual human beings use, actually.
    In an institution of learning about people, where future psychologists will be exposed to abnormal psychology and, damn, normal psychology. The job demands that, WTF??
    This is not only pathological PC, it is as JT points out academical standards hypocritical and likely a civil rights violation.
    What kind of uber-PC mamby pamby world do they think we live in? A place where no one swears, like in Demolition Man?

  11. Firstly, The list of words is not that bad. Of course, it’s all relative, but if one lives in the real world, not a cloistered academic environment, these words are fairly tame in comparison to the words students hear, and will continue to hear, in the real world. The “sin” this professor committed is trying to insert the real world into academia. The Education Industry pinheads loathe real world experiences. I have said here previously, what JT offers his students in the invaluable real world experience he brings to his classroom. It shows in this blog as well.

    Finally, Canada was not blessed w/ our 1st Amendment. They have blasphemy laws. We must make sure those do not seep into our great nation. Obama and Hillary support blasphemy laws. They’re all over Europe as well.

  12. Punta is a bad word? It means point. I think he meant PUTA, which is something like a whore or beyotch.
    I like that place in Dominican, Punta Cana, Cane Point; but I laughed the first time I heard it because I thought someone said Puta Cana, Sugar Bitch, kind of like, what did Mel Gibson call that copy lady, “sugar tits;” I also mispronounced it myself a few times and forgot a few times that Cana means cane, like sugar cane, and not Cana like Canis Lupus or Canis domesticus, ie, the genus name for wolves and dogs. I would love to talk to Dr Persinger about these associations if I had the chance. His wimpy students and lame administration are missing out.

    I applaud the good Dr on his kindness in asking them to agree instead of just letting it all hang out. He seems very careful and the adminstrators are the typical pencil pushing geeks, penny pinchers, and no brained dickless wimps that they usually tend to be.

  13. Nick

    These ‘blasphemy’ laws are already here. Kids get suspended for next to nothing. Professors get fired for speaking out their concepts. The US has these sacred ‘amendments’ and so called freedoms but perversely buries them under mountains of correctness dictated by universities and just about any elementary school. Say what you will about Canada but the common sense bar there is many meters higher than in the US, regardless of the sacred words. Read the papers. Even accounting for population difference, Canada is far more even tempered and devoid of nut cases than the US. The only truth here is that these idiots can be found just about anywhere in the world. Luckily for us, not so much in the West and we get to rant and rave. Our buddies in the sheets would have our heads lopped off. And, like the pirate captain said in ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ they’re more or less guidelines, whether you got them or not. It’s what really goes on.

  14. I agree with the above comment and would also call them brainless dickless wimps and no one who works there should have last name like Weeny, Dick or Peters. And no close in time names like Dix.

  15. This person is probably very foul

    Jane Peters, the leader of the perpetually offended Church Lady contingent. Finding evil everywher and sucking the fun out of Christmas.

    Could it be……..Satan?

  16. Ahem, The blasphemy laws in Canada are CRIMINAL laws CRIMINALIZING speech. There is an obvious and profound difference between PC on campus and CRIMINAL PENALTIES for speech in society. Duh!! Too many pucks to the head?

  17. The course should not be taught at the college level but in grade school.(OK parents would object, but still….) My highly educated MD dad cussed like a dock worker. It was because he was an immigrant and couldn’t think of the English word when angry or frustrated about something. He cussed in German and in English. As a child I was offended that he was doing that, but as an adult realized that cussing is not evil. It just reflects an inability to express oneself more articulately.

  18. Let’s see, kids arrested and suspended for bringing science projects to school, bringing an Oak Leaf to school, pointing a finger, etc.

    Nick, you take refuge in semantics. Laws are laws when they are applied. There are many laws in many countries that are discriminately applied, somehow ignored, and saved for special situations. The circus that is the US political system is a perfect example of how something intended to be so common sensical turned out to be a sewer controlled by money and special interests. Find yourself criminally charged because your adversary had the money, connections, and impetus and you find yourself reading the US papers. Canada may be a country without these sacred words most Americans revere, but in actuality the essence of these words is more revered in Canada through action and deed than in the US. Read the papers of both countries.

    This instance of perverse administration in Laurentian University is nothing compared to what goes on in the US education system from pre school all the way through a doctorate degree.

  19. Hell’s Bells (which comes right after Hell’s Angels in the dictionary). The administration at this university is $&@”#! up. I hope the professor teaches a new course designed to study the irrational fears held by college administrators when professors offer courses to study the real world effect of the use of profanity.

    Barkindog, you forgot to tell Dick Van Dyke that he has to change his name, too.

  20. I remember that Rice University bigwigs (I taught at Rice) once admonished the faculty to refrain from using profanities because the students might learn from us. Soon a student joke made the rounds according to which our students knew far more profanities (especially newer ones) than us. They were probably correct.

  21. This is consistent w/intellectuals lacking common sense. I presume this guy thought he was above having to read his employer’s policies.

    Management of all or most large government institutions are required to take classes wherein they lean their employer’s policies. Employees sign roll sheets which employers keep on file, sign documents agreeing to said policies, etc.

    I’m not thinking this guy goes very far with a defense of his actions.

    This would be like some anti-holocaust instructor displaying lamp shades allegedly made from human skin.

  22. Joseph Jones – there would be nothing wrong with instructor displaying lamp shades made from human skin. It would make for a great discussion.

  23. bam bam-

    It is most unfortunate that you fail to realize that your anti-Muslim rants are more profane than the language which which this professor would have used in his class.

  24. Let’s see, we have a society where those who provide the actual service and those that pay for the actual service have less say than those of political and/or economic positions of power. What kind of system could this possibly be?

  25. If I read this correctly, this is not the first time this course has been offered or having the students sign a statement acknowledging the content of the course. I seriously doubt any student registered for this class with this professor without having any idea of what was on the syllabus. I see this professor *secretly* cursing out this administration while openly doing the Chevy Chase rant:

  26. Clog in the Drain @12:37 pm

    Your perception of my opinions and views are of no value or significance to me. I am completely unconcerned with your take on what you consider to be rants. I am not beholden to you–you are not my employer, you do not pay my bills and, thank God, I am in no way related to you. You can find my opinions or beliefs as appalling as you wish–my life will not be impacted one iota. This professor, however, has to play by a different set of rules. While academics are given a long leash and a great deal of latitude, neither is infinite. Those in the teaching profession, whether at the elementary level or college level, must abide by whatever rules and regulations their respective employers dish out or they risk losing their positions. It’s as simple as that. Play by the rules or suffer the consequences.

    This professor is an employee. The university is the employer. The students, I would argue, are clients or customers of the university–the employer–not those of the professor–the employee. The employer has certain policies in effect for a multitude of reasons, and it is the employer–the university–which will assume the astronomical legal costs to defend against any possible lawsuits brought by clients–students–who claim that this professor created a hostile and intimidating atmosphere in his classroom. It is not up to a mere employee, without the express permission and consent of his employer, to give clients warnings about the services being offered at the employer’s university, advising them to opt out of a class if they didn’t approve of the content. That wasn’t a call for him to make, unilaterally. Teach using profanity, obscene photos, or even teach naked–just as long as the university is fully aware of the employee’s intention to bend the rules and has no objection to such antics. Given that this professor studies the brain, one would assume that he could grasp the notion that this bizarre contract, of sorts, that he passed out did not shield his employer from possible lawsuits directly attributable to his actions.

  27. It’s definitely too many hockey pucks to the head if one can’t understand the BASIC differences between stupid school rules, stupid cops, and CRIMINAL STATUTES ON THE BOOKS that can TAKE AWAY YOUR FREEDOM AND PUT YOU IN PRISON!! Blasphemy laws are antithetical to basic freedom of speech. Canada follows it’s former parents, Europe, like the sad little puppy it is.

  28. I disagree with the university. This is a psychology class specifically dealing with how our brains process stimulus, such as offensive words. It’s a science class. And it sounds like the professor made an effort to give students the ability to opt out.

    If the university had a professional conduct code that precluded the use of profanity in the classroom, then there should be some means to gain an exception if it is for scientific purposes.

    In a similar vein, I recall reading a study on psychopaths compared to other violent offenders in prison. They measured the blink reflex, I believe, while the subject viewed images of either pleasant family events like picnics and Thanksgiving, or kids playing, or bloody and macabre images, like torture or dead bodies. They did not share with the subject what they were measuring. It’s quite difficult to change your innate blink reflex. When you are relaxed, your blink reflex is slower. When you are agitated, it’s faster. Psychopaths were agitated when they viewed serene family pictures, and relaxed when they viewed blood and gore. Other violent offenders had a normal response, which was the complete reverse.

    Measuring or understanding how the brain reacts to emotional stimulus is just another scientific study. Could it be done without using profanity? Probably. But there should be some way for the professor to have a shot at approval. Everyone is supposed to be an adult at college, who shouldn’t get offended at every little thing.

    Come to think of it, I recall quite a few of my professors using the odd curse word here and there. For instance, when my physics professor accidentally gave himself a heck of a shock in lab.

  29. bam bam, It is good to see that you at least acknowledge that we live under a draconian form of authoritarian rule propagated and controlled by our fascist oligarchy.

  30. I think that Anthony Weiner should apply for a job at this so called University. They won’t know that the name means he hails from Wein as in Vienna.

  31. Karen, Interesting comment. The problem is the Education Industry is trying to erase all unpleasantries from campus. The special snowflakes cannot handle the harsh realities of the world. The flick, Demolition Man comes to mind.

  32. Nick

    You are the guy who screams out, “I got my rights, there’s no law against what I did, etc.” as they slam you to the ground. There are laws and then there are actions. Words and Laws don’t help much when you’re taking a bullet by mistake, or cuz the cop has finally flipped, or cuz a citizen ‘felt’ threatened, or cuz someone could so he did, etc. You can rant and rave all you want about the laws that protect and the sacred words that eclipse any and every other society but in the end it all comes down to actions. Overall, the US is not doing so well in this department, much better than most but not as good as some. It doesn’t much matter how an innocent person gets put in jail or how a toker goes away for decades, or how the color of the skin equates to decades in jail for the same offense a ‘white boy’ skates on. The statistics and facts are there, along with the laws.

  33. This just proves that we are losing our rights. We’ve lost the democracy, we’ve lost the republic, we’ve lost the 1st amendment, we’re losing the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th… Oh wait, I must be a terrorist for thinking such unapproved thoughts.

    Why F*ck became the most important word in the English language: Over 3,000,000 views. Don’t miss it.

  34. Isaac; ” Overall, the US is not doing so well in this department, much better than most but not as good as some….” We’ve dropped I think 13 places in the press freedom index. Not as good as some and progressively worse than others. ….speaking of Progressives.

  35. I disagree with the university. This is a psychology class specifically dealing with how our brains process stimulus, such as offensive words. It’s a science class. And it sounds like the professor made an effort to give students the ability to opt out.

    And I agree with Karen’s disagreement as well. It sound like a perfectly legitimate area of study for a psychology class and a topic that anyone who plans to enter that field and deal with actual living breathing people should be able to deal with.

    If you are such a special snowflake that you can’t hear “rough” language without fainting, how in the world do you expect to be able to deal with the realities of life outside of your special insulated bubble?

    Life is FULL of unpleasantness…….deal with it.

  36. 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.

  37. 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.

  38. 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.

  39. 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?

  40. 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.

  41. 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.

  42. 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.

  43. 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.

  44. 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!

  45. 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.

  46. Hey did anyone read the list of profanities? Most of the words just SOUND nasty to people with limited vocabularies: pusillanimous? solipsism? Fibonacci? It reminds me of when we were children and would tell our friends “Your phalanges (finger bones) are showing. Or when there was a hue and cry when someone on national television talked about the niggardly plans for something. (penurious)

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