Monday, September 21, 2020

Even More On Patton Controversy: Chronicle of Higher Education

The controversy concerning the suspension of Professor Greg Patton has exploded this evening.  The Chronicle of Higher Education published "An anonymous survey of 105 professors at the University of Southern California's Marshall School of Business [conducted by the business school's Faculty Council]."  A summary of the survey is here.


"An anonymous survey of 105 professors at the University of Southern California's Marshall School of Business [conducted by the business school's Faculty Council] suggests that many of them have lost confidence in the dean, and that they feel "livid," "betrayed," and "scared of students" after a fellow faculty member was "thrown under the bus," as several of them described it, following a controversy over his use of a Chinese word."

"Marshall faculty have expressed very strong emotions related to this event. Specifically, they reported being concerned for both Prof. Patton and the affected students. There was also an overwhelming sense of vulnerability, worry, insecurity, fear, and anxiety. Most faculty members felt like the same thing could happen to them any time due to a misunderstanding."

"Another theme that emerged was that they felt that Prof. Patton was not afforded due process, that harm was done to his reputation, and that he was not supported by the administration."

Sample comments from the survey:

"Marshall (or the university) made an unjust decision. I have little confidence in the fairness of the process. The incident shows that even in the face of clear evidence to the contrary, Marshall's leadership will make the cynical choice to preserve Marshall's own reputation. That's discouraging. Marshall is willingto sacrifice a faculty member's reputation and maybe his future rather than challenge the complaining students' mistaken view of Greg's filler-word example. I have learned that under some equally innocent circumstance, I too would be unsupported. That's both discouraging and frightening."

"There was no judge, jury, or anything, only cancellation.”

"That the school leadership doesn't have our back. My impression is that a small number of students were offended by remarks that were in no way meant to be offensive, and that the result was destroying the reputation of a valued colleague."

"Unsafe -a misunderstanding can't be corrected and could end my career."

" I feel fear for myself, for my colleagues, and frankly for students who run the risk of inadvertently trivializing the importance of the monumental reckoning on racial injustice that our country is, I hope, experiencing at long last."

"In my view, the risk is that here, a professor is being punished on the assumption that the words spoken in class were almost as deliberately racist as a knee on the neck. This is very troubling."

""It makes me frightened to teach students who can have a faculty member removed for giving an innocuous example in another language. It makes me feel like the dean's office is willing to throw faculty under the bus in order the preserve the appearance of diversity and inclusion instead of opening up dialogues on both sides."

"I think the way it was handled is offensive to Chinese faculty and students. Given that Prof. Patton is using it in a totally appropriate context, the way it was handled suggests that the school thinks all Chinese faculty and students using this Chinese phrase "marginalize, hurt and harm the psychological safety of our students."

""Like the school has let cancel culture get out of control. It was a Chinese word that sounds like a racial epithet -it is not one.”

"Now, I don't dare engage with students when it is so fraught with unknown ways of unintentionally causing harm."

"I will avoid any diversity and inclusion topics and will strictly stick to safe topics, devoid of any potential land mines."

"Scared of students. Thisis no longer an educational institution where students respect faculty at all."

The comments go on and on and in.

(Scott Fruehwald)

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