Monday, March 14, 2005

while you complain about how sociology can't make a difference, others complain about how sociology can kill

From someone I know who is in a faculty position at an out-of-the-way school somewhere in Red State America:
A professor in the DISCIPLINE department here at COLLEGE has sent a letter to the chair of our department, the dean of the college, the university president, and the university legal counsel expressing his concern with the content of sociology courses taught at this university, specifically TOPIC but other classes as well. COLLEAGUE, who teaches TOPIC, does a lecture on SUBJECT THAT WOULD MAKE THIS RELEVANT--you know, like how words like "bitch" in some contexts can be powerful and in others nearly meaningless, or how groups may try to make them positive and empowering. One of his students was very offended and went to this DISCIPLINE prof and complained. The DISCIPLINE prof is now accusing us of using "emotionally traumatizing" teaching methods that are "outside the norm" of academia. He claims that the content of our courses, as well as specific teaching methods, could cause students to suffer post-traumatic stress disorder, could lead to long-term damage to those with mood disorders and could (and I quote), "be the final impetus for students with suicidal tendencies." Because we deal with such "explosive" material, he is proposing that our classes no longer be open enrollment. Instead, he says all students wishing to enroll in certain sociology courses (not yet determined) would have to be psychologically evaluated to be sure they were emotionally stable enough to withstand our classes, and only then could they enroll. In addition, they would need to sign a written consent form stating that they are aware of the nature of the course and that the material could be emotionally damaging. As an added precaution, the consent form should be redistributed before potentially upsetting lectures, explain the day's topic, and ask them to sign again. And finally, we should institute some policy to monitor our students during the semester to catch any emotional or psychological trauma that might occur and to get them the appropriate help.
(email reproduced here, under the cone of anonymity, with permission)

11 comments:

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Anonymous said...

I wouldn't mind if Jeremy were to switch his editorial policy, and begin erasing irrelevant and/or insulting posts at will. Perhaps the ocassional poem could be spared -- LDM seems harmless enough. But adopting this new policy might make JFW, which is already a really outstanding blog, more conducive for genuine discussion and sincere, constructive comments. Whatever Jeremy wants to do, that's fine and I totally support that (it's his blog, after all); but if he has the time and inclination, I think it would be totally justified to start deleting this pretentious and annoying drivel.

Anonymous said...
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jeremy said...

The swath of deletions above should give some idea of my current attitude toward some of the participation on my blog.

james said...

personally, i have no problem with requiring a consent form for all soc classes. and after the students sign it, we can serve juice and cookies.

Chip said...

Juice and cookies? What we wouldn't give for some juice and cookies. In the b-school we just got a memo from the Assoc. Dean strongly discouraging distribution of all foodstuffs in class. He said we shouldn't need "bait."

And - straying back on topic - I choose not to contemplate what a student consent form in the business school would look like.

Aster said...

No bait? Then how are you supposed to get the grad students to show up to anything?

That letter reminds me of a something a friend of mine told me a few months ago. A younger acquaintance of hers met with her college advisor to talk about declaring a major, and said that she wanted to major in sociology. The advisor replied, "Don't. Sociology messes you up in the head."

Anonymous said...

What I find most fascinating about this is that rather than just outright railing against having the teaching content and methods themselves removed, that the opposition has become so creative in their startegies and arguments. I am in no way surprised by the warped road from conciousness-raising lecture = disturbedness = PTSD = Suicide. Why naturally, ofcourse. Perhaps it is progress that this guy proposes to let us mess with anyone's head at all(psych evals and consent forms pending). And yet WE are the radical intellectual eltist nuts. Interesting. -Elizabeth