Professor makes point with four-letter words

November 8, 2012 6:00 AMComments Off

The chances of overhearing a profanity or two exchanged between students at Drake University campus is rather good. Occasionally the generally accepted choice words in the English language even make their way into the classroom. Some professors may refrain from utilizing such colloquial language in the classroom, it is nonetheless a choice left up to them.

According to the Drake University of the Statement of Principles, “While cherishing and defending freedom of speech to the full extent protected by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, Drake University declares its abhorrence of statements that demean, denigrate, humiliate, or express hatred toward members of the university community.  Words do indeed have consequences.  Words may be hurtful.  Speech should be a thoughtful process.  Speaking irresponsibly can negatively affect morale, motivation, and community. Responsibility calls us to be sensitive to the harmful effects of hostile speech and to refrain from speaking in demeaning and discriminatory ways.”

At Drake students and professors alike are invited to vocalize their ideas and opinions using terminology they see fit, provided that the favorite four letter term is not used to intentionally offend.

Todd Evans of the School of Journalism and Mass Communication has earned a reputation his tendency to use profanities amongst his students.

“He utilizes ‘f–k’ all the time,  sometimes when he really wants to emphasis how strongly he feels about whatever he’s telling us about, but mostly to get our attention, I think,” said senior broadcasting major Nicole Ervin.

“In our industry, we have to be used to cursing because everyone in broadcast curses like sailors.”

Professor Evans utilizes four letter words in his classroom for a variety of reasons.

“If I were trying to make a point in a ‘what the f–k situation’ if I am pointing at a video that is really horribly produced or an ad that makes no sense to really grab someone’s attention and say ‘what the fuck were they thinking. Part of that is just getting attention,” said Evans. “Most of my students think of it as part of my animated style.”

With different classroom atmospheres and teaching styles across campus the chance of hearing profanity mid-lecture is altered.

When asked about swearing by professors in the School of Health Sciences junior BCMB and history major Mallory Bonstrom said, “Hmm not that I can ever recall. The science professors seem to be pretty reserved.”

Professors in the School of Education also appear to censor their swearing in the classroom.

“I think in the five classes I have taken in the school of education one professor swore and it was a one-time thing,” said sophomore history and secondary education major Brianna Leinon. “It like never happens.”

Even though few professors chose to swear in the classroom, all should rest assured their classroom is their domain.

“I’ve heard some faculty indicating that they felt that freedom to express themselves that way is important to their teaching,” said Deputy Provost Susan Wright.

Professor Todd Evans agrees with this sentiment.

“One of the most highest held ideals of higher education is that professors have control of their classroom. And while we have ethical and moral responsibilities to avoid things like political persuasion, freedom of speech is way to powerful and important. I would much rather have the conversation with a student that wants to challenge why a college professor and supposedly intelligent individual would talk like that [than to be censored by policy],” said Evans.

“But I cannot stress enough that if saying shit or fuck is going to offend someone similar to a racial or gender slur would then I am going to do my very best to censor myself.” In the case that a student does feel significantly offended by any professors choice of words. Drake encourages students made uncomfortable to address it in an attempt to hold true to the stated principles.

“As a basic routing for any complaint, appeal or concern students would be ideally to go to the instructor first. Sometimes it may be an instance where the instructor may not even be aware there is concern,” said Deputy Provost Susan Wright.

“The next step would be to go to the department chair or in the cases where there are no department chair, mainly journalism and law, the associate dean. Each school does have a complaint procedure and I think it’s important that any student doing that should know they would need to have some clear examples.

They cannot just say ‘I don’t like what my instructor is saying.’ They should be able to say the instructor is using these kinds of words, and I find this objectionable,” Wright said.

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