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. 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?

  2. 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?

  3. 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.

  4. I had a good friend in France for many years, an American ex-pat who taught the local kids to recite: “Eat, Bite, Fu*k, Suck, Gobble, Nibble, Chew”. He was a refreshing sort.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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?

  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. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. No cursing or swearing needed. Watch Hillary Clinton blow up after student asks a question.

  13. 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?

  14. 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.

  15. I used to show R-rated films all the time. I figured we were all adults.

  16. >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.

  17. 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.

  18. 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

  19. 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.

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