Indiana University Provost: The First Amendment says we can't fire our notorious bigot professor, so here's what we're doing instead

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2019/11/22/strong-medicine.html

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So basically, make it so people avoid all of his classes and later fire him for poor job performance.

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They’ve always been deadly serious. They just went quiet for a while after 1941.

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If his contract allows that sort of remedy, they might well have tried that already.

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I’m fairly impressed with how the provost Lauren Robel is handling this. The approach one normally sees is (a) U fires the professor for creating a hostile workplace environment; (b) professor sues U for wrongful termination, demanding to see de-anonymized complaints against him, © U settles, both because we always settle and to avoid releasing names of complainants, (d) professor leaves as part of settlement, and gets a new career on Intellectual Dark Web and writing for Quillette.

This solution is ultimately far harder on and less lucrative for the professor, will probably compel him to leave at some point anyway because he’s now walking a very visible tightrope, yet still preserves fundamental speech and tenure protection principles.

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This is good - all students are forewarned, his views are exposed, he’s prevented from acting on them at school, and he has to work in an environment where he’s exposed to ridicule and contempt for being an assh oleb - but he knows he will be fired if he brings those beliefs into his classrooms and teaches them as facts. White Straight Christian Male supremacists really don’t like those situations. They like to be in control, and he’s not.

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How does “double blind” grading work? In medicine that means neither the doctor nor patient knows whether they are taking the tested drug or the control (placebo, older drug, whatever). For test grading that means what? Simply taking names off work would be “anonymous” but not “double blind” - the students will know who grades the work, right?

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That’s a good question.

Is it this scheme?

Figure 1: Grading and Teaching Setup
Factors not under investigation were held constant. For instance, each of the two sections was taught by the same professor in lecture and the same Teaching Assistant (TA) in lab. To avoid bias, the grading was done double blind as explained by Figure 1. Two teaching assistants, labeled the “graders”, were randomly given 40 students to grade each week from both groups. After completing the grading, the graders submitted their grade book to the administrator, who posted the grades to the students. Any questions about individual grades were sent to the administrator to avoid contaminating the graders’ perception of a particular student. The administrator either forwarded the question on to the respective grader or answered it herself.

From http://jise.org/Volume26/n1/JISEv26n1p59.pdf
Frost, Raymond D.; Matta, Vic; MacIvor, Erin
Assessing the Efficacy of Incorporating Game Dynamics in a Learning Management System
Journal of Information Systems Education, v26 n1 p59-70 Win 2015

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Whelp, I made the mistake of skimming the rebuttal. While it is very true that you cannot reason someone out of a position that they have not reasoned themselves into, it is even more true when someone has build up grand palatial justifications for their positions and then cemented them into their core sense of being and paved over it with a sense of philosophical righteousness. If I were to apply his standard of reasoning to men like him, I might conclude that they’ve never progressed past the Freudian scatological phase of development and as such get a kick out of not only playing with, but also forcing everyone to see them playing with, their shit in public. They know it’s shit, they love that it’s shit because it’s irrevocably their shit but they happily eat it and grin away just because you had to smell it.

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As someone who didn’t grow up in the US this whole story seems profoundly absurd to me. But even if I accept the premise of not wanting to fire him for his views, wouldn’t the whole requirement of double blind grading etc. be proof enough that his view do affect his work and he is not able to deliver what he is supposed to do at his job? Like treading everyone fairly and judging on merit? Or did they forget to include that in his job description?

To me the whole procedure seems like a way to protect him from doing fireable offenses, not to help the students. I read it as “we found a way to keep him employed”.

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From Rasmusen’s response:

Is “slut” a slur against women? Not at all.

He also does his best to live up to Provost Robel’s characterization of him as “stunningly ignorant” in the rest of his response. It’s wild – yet clear – that he thinks he’s both clever and coherent, but has no sense of the nauseating self-righteousness.

UPDATE: Rasmusen’s response linked in the BB article is only partial! The full foolishness appears here: http://www.rasmusen.org/special/2019kerfuffle/provost1.htm

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Gods, I keep thinking about what this must be costing the university. (They need a duplicate professor to teach the same classes, another to oversee his classes, etc.) And wondering how many students went through his classes before they instituted these steps. And thinking about how many non- cis-het-white-male students over the years had teachers like him, but no recourse as their teachers blatantly discriminated against them. And wondering how many students are in that position in various schools now. (Because obviously it’s still happening, with various degrees of obviousness.)

Also: who the hell would take his classes? Some ideologically sympathetic right-wing cis het white male students who figure he’d give them good grades for fitting into his biases?

Well, it’s based on the presumption (even if based on his own words) that he can’t do his job. The problem is, to fire him, they’d have to prove he’s discriminating, and that would require a certain number of students to be academically screwed over by him to provide that proof, which is exactly what they’re trying to avoid with all this. It’s really not a good situation for the university.

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More like they found a way to keep themselves from being sued.

The actions being taken are meant to have a ‘chilling effect’; no telling if it will actually work.

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I read Rasmusen’s rebuttal. Quite the load of sophistic garbage.

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Sanity prevails.

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Also, the extension .htm indicates he uses a Windows webserver. As if the contents of the files were not enough to show he’s an idiot.

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(Rasmussen argued that the English Department was displaying lax standards by hiring MFAs instaead of PhDs. The anonymous writer observes that " in academia, Ph.D.s in creative writing do not exist," before going on to note that Rasmussen’s critique also betrays his racist motivations.).

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This is my worry, and I would hope that the university is keeping tabs on those who choose to attend his classes.

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Universities keep tabs on all students who take all classes, but if you mean for the sake of compiling some kind of watch list then I hope they’re not doing it.

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I agree, it does appear expensive at first glance. But then again, given what US post-secondary institutions spend on their athletics programs, the cost is likely minuscule by comparison

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