• August 28, 2015

President of Kaplan College Campus Is Fired Over 'English Only' Dispute

The president of Kaplan College's campus in Chula Vista, Calif., was fired this month over his handling of an incident in which students were told they could face academic sanctions if they spoke Spanish in class, according to sources involved with the case.

Dennis Manzo had been president since the campus, located just seven miles from the Mexican border, opened in December.

All calls to the campus were referred to Ron Iori, spokesman for the college's for-profit corporate parent, Kaplan Higher Education, in Chicago. He would not confirm that the president had been fired, or provide information on how to reach him, but he said Mr. Manzo is no longer working for Kaplan. "We all agreed that it was best if we parted ways," he said.

Angel Roman, now president of Kaplan's Beaumont, Tex., campus, will take over as president of the Chula Vista campus this week.

Jonathan Cedeño, the student whose complaint triggered the investigation that led to the president's dismissal, said an Anglo woman in his medical-assistant course had been complaining that he and his friends, who started the class after she did, weren't keeping up.

"She had been giving us a hard time and insulted me in front of the class, and we had had enough, so we were talking about her," he said. The conversation took place on May 3 during a break in the class, he said. After the class, "she complained to the president that we were talking about her in Spanish and that she didn't understand what we were saying," Mr. Cedeño said.

He said Patricia Dussett, program director for allied health, came in to two of his classes the following day and told students that campus policy forbade the use of any language other than English in class, even in side conversations. "I told her I didn't think that was fair and that that violated my rights," Mr. Cedeño said. He said Ms. Dussett responded that if he continued speaking in Spanish, his grades could suffer and he could face other academic sanctions, including expulsion.

A Relative's Intervention

Mr. Cedeño e-mailed his aunt, Leticia Maldonado, a college-programs coordinator at the University of California at Santa Cruz. Ms. Maldonado, who has been involved in campus diversity issues, e-mailed Kaplan administrators demanding an immediate conference call with the president and any other officials involved in the incident, she said in an interview on Friday.

Kaplan was sending a troubling message to its multicultural student body, she wrote in the e-mail, and creating doubts about its commitment to provide students "with the tools to become engaged citizens in the diverse communities that California has to offer." She threatened to contact the news media and parents of Chula Vista students, and to seek legal advice if the matter was not resolved.

Within the week, Ms. Maldonado said, administrators and college lawyers had apologized to students and the president had been dismissed.

None of the administrators e-mailed at Kaplan's Chula Vista campus over the weekend responded.

Mr. Iori, the corporate spokesman, said he could not discuss the incident or allow a reporter to talk to other campus officials, but he clarified the college's language policy, which he said had been misstated to students. "Our policy is that instruction is in English but conversations can take place in any language. We don't discipline students for speaking other languages in class."

Ms. Maldonado said she flew from Santa Cruz to San Diego to meet with campus administrators because she was not convinced they were taking the matter seriously enough. She said she believed that Ms. Dussett was following the directions of the president when she addressed her nephew's class.

A Question of Professionalism

Ms. Maldonado said that while the president never said he favored academic sanctions against students who converse in Spanish, he told her that he wanted to make sure that students were held to the highest levels of professionalism and that having a side conversation in Spanish was unprofessional.

"I was outraged that he would make a correlation between being bilingual and being unprofessional," she said.

Ms. Maldonado contacted one of her former instructors at the University of California at San Diego, Patrick Velasquez, who also served as co-chair of the San Diego Chicano/Latino Concilio, a coalition of alumni, faculty and staff members, and students from higher-education institutions in San Diego County. The group wrote a letter to Kaplan officials saying that threatening students who speak Spanish on campus was "unethical, insensitive, and smacks of blatant racism."

Officials at a handful of other border campuses said they did not have English-only policies

The National Association of College and University Attorneys referred calls to James F. Shekleton, general counsel for the South Dakota Board of Regents. He said he would be surprised if other colleges banned the speaking of Spanish on their campuses. "Language can both facilitate and obstruct communication. It's very central to people's dignity and sense of self-worth," he said. "If you start legislating language, you're going to end up with a mess."


1. your_rights - June 01, 2010 at 05:58 am

What is next? Another revolution? If the language of instruction is English, then students raise their hand and wait to be called upon. If called upon, they MUST respond in English. If any student is having a private conversation in any language during the professor's lecture he/she may be asked to leave the room. It is consider rude in EVERY culture to speak in a foreign language while in the presence of a person who does not speak that language.

The students are rude and the national lynch mob that rallied around these students are inciting a riot for their own personal gain.

2. eelalien - June 01, 2010 at 06:34 am

Kaplan is a for-profit, PRIVATE college, is it not? If they are not accepting any federal or state funds, they can pretty much set any rules they want - including discriminatory practices based on religion, gender, or sexual preferences, as evidenced in much higher-profile incidents.
Besides all that, the students were rude and demonstrated unprofessional behavior in class, whatever language was spoken. In most universities, such conduct is targeted in syllabi as well as program and department level guidelines and policies. But Kaplan is FOR-PROFIT - so why should they start imposing higher academic standards just because their competitor publicly-funded institutions do so...? If the bottom line is solely the money, well then, hey - tolerate whatever behavior so long as the over-priced tuition is paid.

3. bphil - June 01, 2010 at 06:38 am

The last time I remember being told it was rude to speak in a foreign language while in the presence of a person who does not speak that language was on a street in Paris by a frenchman who did not want to tell me how to find the Louvre. That I was standing next to the Louvre is not immaterial.

The point is that I have no idea where you get your anthropological apercu. It is often not only not rude but necessary to speak a foreign language (English, for example) in the presence of a person who does not speak that language. I've done it all my life.

I support these students and Ms. Maldonado, but I do not "rally" around them. I support them because they are right: speaking a language--any language--should not alone be cause for sanction. If rudeness were the issue here, the president would have stopped by the class the next day to give a lecture on rudeness and to threaten sanctions for being rude. He did not. He instead said that speaking in a language other than English was cause for sanction. Unbelievable.

4. mrmars - June 01, 2010 at 06:59 am

There are many points in this decidedly trivial controversy where it might have been handled in a more appropriate manner, such that the various parties could have been satisfied without it becoming yet another example of PC oversensitivity going nuclear. The original point of whether the offended parties were or were not slowing down the class becomes a non-issue, as does the right of a professor to exert some degree of class room management, while a well-connected off-campus individual turns the issue into one of racist insensitivity, and an otherwise competent individual (there was no information offered to the contrary) loses his job.

And we wonder why so many today view academia with scorn, and why we have so much trouble convincing the tax-paying public that the high costs of higher education are justified. The fact that this particular tragic comedy played out in a for-profit setting matters little; there are plenty of similar examples one could site within the sphere of publicly-funded higher education as well. As long as we continue to allow the PC tail to wag the dog, the fight to have the difficulties of present-day academia taken seriously by the general public will continue to be a hard sell.

5. bdbailey - June 01, 2010 at 07:42 am

#1, You are assuming that the unhappy Anglo lady who made the accusations is telling the truth.

#2, For profit private colleges depend hevily on federal financial aid.

Side conversations in class (regardless of language), should not be tolerated. Conversations in the hall, between students are...between students.

6. juanitamwoods - June 01, 2010 at 07:53 am

For-profit institution or not, this is by far one of the dumbest responses by a university administrator that I have ever heard. According to the article "The conversation took place on May 3 during a break in the class" and NOT during class. Therefore, the students were not being rude because they were speaking among themselves. The person least competent in this drama was the professor who obviously does not have the skills to work within a multi-cultural setting. The next dumbest person was the program director for allied health, Patricia Dussett, when she announced that "campus policy forbade the use of any language other than English in class, even in side conversations. " If I had been a student, I would have asked to see the policy in writing. So Dussett beomes the "water girl" of the president, neither of whom exhibiting knowledge about the institutional policy. In the end, not worth but firing but apologies all around "big time" were in order. And yes, the student was correct in calling his aunt because there was no way he would get a reprieve when it is with the President's blessing that Dussett iterated such a wrong, dumb policy.

7. kamoshika - June 01, 2010 at 08:26 am

A few points:

Tens of thousands of classes are being conducted today with English-only rules in their syllabi. They are called English as a Second Language classes. However, most ESL teachers -unless involved in high-stakes immersion programs - would consider it impractical, insensitive, and even counter-productive to enforce such rules on breaks, when by definition students should relax and be free to associate with who they wish to and speak with them in any manner they are comfortable with. For class time, students can and should be told in syllabi that using a first language another student may not share can exclude and isolate that student - and will slow down learning English for everyone. As was pointed out, disruptive side conversations in any language should not be tolerated.

What prompted this university policy? Is the percentage of Kaplan's Spanish -speaking students so high as to leave students like the disgruntled "Anglo" here an uncomfortable minority? Given Kaplan's location on the front lines of the Hispanic invasion, the English-only policy may be a well-intentioned if naive effort to help them assimilate. I would suggest another, more profitable direction for Kaplan: Lead the way and open Spanish-only campuses, no doubt to the cheers of "diversity" advocates.

Dumb question, but how did this woman know what the Spanish-speakers were saying about her if she did not understand Spanish? They might have been saying something highly complimentary.

People may feel less left out when languages they don't understand are used if a) they understand the situation requires it b) the speakers excuse themselves before proceeding. (A good example of this is the restaurant scene in Godfather I.)

Speaking of cross-cultural rudeness: Thanks for the comic relief, and vive the legendary rude Frenchman! May he be force-fed Freedom Fries until his beret pops off!

8. cdburns123 - June 01, 2010 at 08:30 am

Once again students show disrespect and once again, when corrected, it is called racism. Personally, I wouldn't care what the 'kids' were talking about. Obviously they would rather talk and laugh about an instructor than to do their work.
Why would I care if they liked me or not. I am not here to be liked.
President 'let go' because of this is ridiculous.

9. nominalize - June 01, 2010 at 08:47 am

Punishing students for speaking their native language, even outside of instruction, has a long history in this country. For decades, it was official U.S. policy to corporally punish Native American children who dared to speak their native language in class. Deept down, it's not a language issue, it's a power issue-- one that shows deep ignorance about how language actually works. It is a black mark on the history of our country, and it would be a further black mark to see it rear its ugly head again.

This whole incident stems from an insecure and paranoid teacher trying to silence any criticism of her. Schools aren't like a poker table, where secret conversations are verboten. As for unprofessional... if you're in negotiations with a Chinese firm, and they deliberate amongst themselves in Chinese, are you going to call them unprofessional?

10. sweetbitterbeast - June 01, 2010 at 09:04 am

If the Spanish speaking students were being rude then so was the Anglo student.

"an Anglo woman in his medical-assistant course had been complaining that he and his friends, who started the class after she did, weren't keeping up."

She also apparently insulted them in front of the class. I'd say that what she did was about as rude AND as disruptive to the class as holding a conversation in a foreign language in front of someone who doesn't know the language. Not to mention that their conversation took place while the class was ON BREAK so it was not really a distraction to the class. It seems absurd to me to even complain that their speaking in a foreign language in the presence of someone who only speaks English is rude. To say that they should not be able to use their first language during their own time is ridiculous and does seem pretty racist to me. The situation, which was rather petty, should not have been handled the way that it was. Also, I wonder why the Anglo woman's rudeness was not reprimanded by the professor?

11. jch942 - June 01, 2010 at 09:14 am

How many of you anti-pc'ers even read the article? Talk about knee-jerk reactions.

Why are you criticizing the instructor? The instructor is never mentioned in the article. The dispute was between two students. Then an administrator came into classes the next day.

The instructor didn't reprimand anyone because it occurred during a break in the class.

I feel like these comments were hijacked by Drudge report readers...did he link this article?

Banning the speaking of a language other than English on a college campus... it amazes me that some of you are arguing for that. We are moving backward as a nation.

12. leethomas14 - June 01, 2010 at 09:19 am

Thank you Ms. Maldonado for taking serious action on linguistic racism. It's crucial that all of our students learn to function in bi-and multilingual situations, they will be doing so for the rest of their lives if they are successful in their careers. I am surprised that Kaplan hired a monolingual to teach in that setting. It reminds me of colonial times. The famous linguist, Joshua Fishman pointed out years ago that the type of behavior demonstrated by the teacher in this incident can only lead to division within a society ... and ultimately violence between two competing groups. One only needs to follow James Crawford's website to see some of the outcomes of English Only laws.

13. lcrandal - June 01, 2010 at 09:21 am

eelailien - I think if you will check the law you will find that the Civil Rights Act restricts the right of private enterprise to discriminate. (You might have noticed that restaurants and motels are no longer allowed to have "white clentele only" signs.) I guess you and Rand Paul are among the last Americans who are unaware of this!

14. ucscareer - June 01, 2010 at 09:23 am

#11: Amen.

15. jffoster - June 01, 2010 at 09:32 am

"Your_Rights" in (1) writes, among other things I largely agree with, this which I do not.

"It is consider rude in EVERY culture to speak in a foreign language while in the presence of a person who does not speak that language."

The ethnographic facts do not support this. If it were in fact true, much anthropological ethnographic field work could simply not have been done, and until the ethnographer living with the people learned the language, they would have had to remain silent. But if they remained silent, the ethnographer could not have learned the language.

But it is not even true in all societies where nearly everybody speaking the native language also speaks the foreign one most likely spoken by those who don't speak the native one. In Wales nearly everybody speaks English but in primarily Welsh speaking areas, if a you are a monolingual anglophone and you come into a shop, or say, the post office, they will deal with you politely in English. But conversations with each other in Welsh will not suddenly switch to English. This bothers some Englishmen but it is not considered rude in Wales. Indeed, it is considered rude and unreasonable that the Sais, 'Englishman', should expect that Welsh should suddenly cease because the Sais happens to be present.
That's one of the reasons that Welsh, alone among the Celtic languages, isn't dying but is very much alive.

16. witten0214 - June 01, 2010 at 09:57 am

this is ridiculous, the spanish speaking students were clearly disruptive and should have been punished for that.

17. schafwr1 - June 01, 2010 at 10:02 am

#15, Thank you, well said.

Cymru am Byth!

(Since that's in Welsh, I hope it will not be seen as rude. For those who do not know, Google is always available.)

18. kirsten777 - June 01, 2010 at 10:23 am

It saddens me deeply to see the racist and narrow-minded posts in response to this article. "Hispanic Invasion?" I do believe this country is what it is because of the "invasion" of peoples from around the world - Asian, Spanish, Japanese, Europeans, etc., the only people who can truly say they were invaded, are the First Nations.

I went to a high school where the population of students was about 80% Asian (I'm Caucasian) - which of course means that most of the students in my classes were also Asian. During a break in class, or in the hallways, friends would often speak in their native chinese and not once did I find it rude or disruptive. Nor did I ever think that they might be talking about me. Had they been looking in my direction and pointing, I could have safely assumed they were talking about me.

Back to the present discussion, what would have happened if these students had merely whispered in English, low enough for her not to hear them? Would whispering amongst themselves (during a break in the class - as stated in the article) be against university policy? Not hearing someone, and not understanding a language produce essentially the same result. Someone is excluded from the conversation.

It's 2010, tolerance and acceptance of multiculturalism should no longer be an issue (it never should have been a issue to begin with.)

19. winonaww - June 01, 2010 at 10:31 am

Kaplan undoubtedly *does* take Federal monies, even though it is a private, for-profit institution; I can't imagine any way that the institution could survive, otherwise. The central problem, here, is not one of not speaking English, certainly not under the circumstances this student describes. The underlying problem is that several students were admitted so far into the semester (or quarter), that they faced a "catch-up" challenge and were lagging behind without support. If a student is unhappy when other students are admitted late enough to be disruptive to the class, then s/he should lodge a complaint with the department chair or dean, requesting a review of school policies so that late-comers were either tutored or required to wait for another cycle. However, this would be an expensive adjustment for Kaplan. The incident would not have occurred in the first place had Kaplan been more concerned about the classroom successes of their students and less about profits. The president was wrong on just about every front. But he was undoubtedly doing what he was charged to do.

20. notusip - June 01, 2010 at 10:36 am

"Private, " not-for-profit colleges would not exist without federal loans, from which most derive close to 90% of their revenues. Given the higher default rate of these colleges, you and I (and Hispanic-Americans) are a major supporter of them.

One might have more concern about the amount of loans these students are taking on, given that they are in a training course for medical assistants (there is no requirement that medical assistants have any more than on-the-job training) where the salaries are low. " According to Salary.com, human resource data in March 2009 indicated that the middle 50 percent of medical assistants earn between $26,129 and $30,980.

The top 10 percent of earners in the medical assistant field earn $33,335 or more."

How do you pay off a $20,000-30,000 loan on those salaries?

21. dallasprof - June 01, 2010 at 10:43 am

What invasion? Every year I have been a student or a teacher there have been non Anglo, usually Hispanic, students in my classes.
What rudeness? A colleague who is from Ethiopia and has a degree from a German university informs me that he and other Amharic speakers often did not speak German to one another between classes but in the presence of German students. When my Nepalese or Bengali students are ocnversing in the classroom before class should I require them to use English? If I'm on a train in Slovakia do my companion and I have to remain silent to avoid offending non-English speakers?

22. literaturejunkie - June 01, 2010 at 10:49 am

One has to wonder whether anyone would have threatened to expel students having a side conversation in French...or German...or Italian... or Japanese.
And as far as the discussion regarding it being rude to speak in one language in front of someone who doesn't speak that language, the point is moot. A college doesn't regulate manners between students--rude or not, it really isn't their business. Will they respond the same when a student comnplains that two classmates didn't offer to let him/her in to their after-class study group?
It's an attempt to disguise racism, and the disguise is weak. All the excuses and reasons are simply noise.

23. 7738373863 - June 01, 2010 at 10:51 am

@jch942: The reaction is more than merely "knee-jerk." It is complete jerk on the part of those who did not read the article carefully. One of the assumptions of the woman who provoked the incident is that she had the _right_ of surveillance, i.e., the _right_ to know what her hispanophone classmates were saying in an informal conversation not pertinent to or held in the class in question. In addition to any racist or discriminatory overtones, the woman's insistence on knowing what was said, though it was not said to her, compromises freedom of speech (First Amendment) and verges on unreasonable search and seizure (Fourth Amendment), as well as raising the issue of whether Mr. Cedeno's Fourteenth Amendment rights were violated.

24. abichel - June 01, 2010 at 10:52 am

Good thing this was in Texas and not Arizona; otherwise, the student might have been asked for proof of citizenship.

25. andreablob - June 01, 2010 at 10:56 am

Honestly, I think there had to have something done in this case. The Spanish-speaking students probably felt that the Anglo woman was rude to them in criticizing their late start date didn't lead to enough preparation. It is also the case that the Anglo woman was concerned that the Spanish men would create a rude climate for her -- by whispering behind her back and generally getting a number of people against her.
I have been that woman, though not in a multicultural environment. It was a workplace, and I expressed interest in some of the things some of the men did in the workplace and as a result was talked about and derided frequently by a group of people that for a while seemed to grow and grow. At one point the social group that went out of the way to make fun of me and treat me badly was almost half the 20-person company.
Now I work someplace else, which is a lot more fun.
Even if the Anglo woman did criticize the men for lack of preparation, she didn't need a horde of people making fun of her or otherwise making her uncomfortable.

Andrea Blob

26. roro1618 - June 01, 2010 at 11:58 am

@earlier poster-it happened in CA, not TX.
@your-rights must not have lived or traveled outside of the US much. Having lived in Africa for a few years and taught at the university level in Eastern Europe and having taught many a non-English speaking student in the US, it is perfectly appropriate for students to converse, on their "free time" no less, in their native tongue, even though I, the professor, did not speak their language. The President overreacted in what was essentially a student to student disagreement.

27. latino - June 01, 2010 at 12:01 pm

Fact or Fiction?: Class management starts this problem... some colleagues here think that this is related to business, "English only," etc., no. This is related to pedagogical formation; I fear most of those commenting against students lacking of.

"She had been giving us a hard time and insulted me in front of the class, and we had had enough, so we were talking about her," he said. The conversation took place on May 3 during a break in the class, he said. After the class, "she complained to the president that we were talking about her in Spanish and that she didn't understand what we were saying," Mr. Cedeño said.

He said Patricia Dussett, program director for allied health, came in to two of his classes the following day and told students that campus policy forbade the use of any language other than English in class, even in side conversations. "I told her I didn't think that was fair and that that violated my rights," Mr. Cedeño said. He said Ms. Dussett responded that if he continued speaking in Spanish, his grades could suffer and he could face other academic sanctions, including expulsion."

Also I see some comments here that reflect not only extremely intolerance but lack of pedagogical imagination to handle a problem like this.

Merci, obrigado ...

28. dowinter - June 01, 2010 at 12:33 pm

Our Intensive English Program took a group of non-native English speakers to Disneyland, not only as a fun activity, but an opportunity for them to use English in a non-academic setting and acquire more "social" English vocabulary.

The instruction was to "speak English" the entire day - a very difficult task. Teachers accompanied the students to help with comprehension and expression. One teacher overheard a few Asians speaking their native language and cheerfully said, "Remember, speak English!" When the group turned to look at her, she realized that they were not our students. She begged their pardon, and all went on with their day. Nobody called the “cops.”

I wonder why the instructor did not address the learning situation before it became incendiary. It seems to me that the underlying issue here is respect, not language.

29. rippleview80 - June 01, 2010 at 01:01 pm

Your_rights, if what you say is true, then gringos must be the rudest persons in the world since, wherever they go, they not only speak English loudly in front of those who don't, but also expect the natives to speak English. If it bothers you that you cannot understand what someone is saying, learn that language or lump it. Such arrogance!

30. butteredtoastcat - June 01, 2010 at 01:03 pm


You have two malicious gossips (in any language) creating a "civil rights" tempest-in-a-teapot because they were angry at being called out on their bad behavior by the President of a college. A UC employee insinuates herself into the mix, giving a bitchy, gossipy act the aura of an epic struggle and gets the President fired. The boys involved will now feel completely righteous in calling any white girl a "puta" behind her back since "linguistic racism" has been conquered.

Isn't that special.

31. scottpmuir - June 01, 2010 at 01:24 pm

It seems to me that the real issue here is the Presdient's handling of this situation. Univesity Presdient's make big salaries, in part, to undersand situations, use their wisdom to diffuse them and make them go away. A wiser more cavvy Presdient could have resolved this and it would have become a non-issue.

32. anonscribe - June 01, 2010 at 01:35 pm

First of all, Kaplan isn't UC Santa Cruz. Kaplan often gets the dregs who couldn't even make it through a CC medical assistant or nursing program because of gen ed requirements. not exactly a pleasant bunch. yes, it's a diverse campus, but a better term may be a hetergeneous campus, where students of each race create cliques that often devolve into the worst kind of racist stereotyping.

and let's take andreabob's cue and ask whether or not this "Anglo woman" may have had a legitimate concern for the climate being created by the men in question. instead of villainizing her at the expense of stereotyping her as yet another woman who's complaints are irrelevant in dealings with men, let's accept that there may have been many parties involved here that could have behaved more sensitively.

33. 11152886 - June 01, 2010 at 02:21 pm

What disgusting behavior all the way around. One, the woman's complaint ought to have been dealt with by the instructor, one way or another, to determine whether some students were holding the class back or not. Two, it isn't that difficult to tell someone is talking about you when speaking a foreign language because looks and gestures can convey lot of meaning. This needs clarification. Three, all special circumstances aside, it usually is considered rude when persons make aside comments, particularly in a class. This type of behavior was not permitted in my classes in 42 years. In class, comments must be addressed to everyone, or not made. A break, long or short, is still during class time and leaves too much to interpretation for asides, etc., a break is simply a break from instruction, not a free pass for bad behavior. The whole situation was badly dealt with from the onset. Teachers need to be better trained, and all students need to be considerate to each of his/her classmates for serious learning to occur. Dragging out this PC drama is absolutely outrageous in the name of education.

34. jffoster - June 01, 2010 at 03:44 pm

A Schafwr (17/dau ar bymtheg 'two on fifteen'), prynnawn da, a chroeso.


35. ellenhunt - June 01, 2010 at 03:58 pm

The spanish speaking students said that they talked about her. They obviously talked about her because they thought she was being a jerk. Doubtless, her radar was correct, and having listened to hispanic men (of all education levels) talk about gringas I can well imagine they salted their sentences.

I am guessing, from other experience, that the spanish speakers weren't following as quickly. They may not have been, but if they slowed the class down they were asking questions. They do have a right to do that, to a point, as paying students. The instructor should have stepped in to speed things up, and ask them to email or visit after class. Generally, it's not a big problem, because in most classes I have taught the problem is too few questions, not too many.

36. ellenhunt - June 01, 2010 at 03:59 pm

Firing the president over this is a bit much though.

37. rlewisf - June 01, 2010 at 04:24 pm

Perhaps firing the President would be a bit much at a not-for-profit institution, but at a for-profit institution insulting a core segment of your market in such a boneheaded, racist manner more than justifies firing.

38. brambeus - June 01, 2010 at 05:00 pm

@2 eelalien. Actually, there are certain provisions of the law that do apply even to private schools that do not accept any federal, state or municipal monies. Sorry, but you'll have to do your own research, as there's something else I want to address here.

I have reached the age and station where nothing surprises me.

How long must we witness or be subjected ourselves to the issues of second language use? Can we not behave as mature individuals who are aware of our responsibilities as well as our rights? Can we not discuss or bargain in good faith to resolve our differences? Whether we are Jewish or not, can we not follow Rabbi Hillel's maxim: "do not do do unto others what you would not have them do unto you"?

Yes, it is sometimes necessary to draw a line in the sand. But even that can be done gracefully. I haven't the attribution to hand, but here is another maxim that should be borne in mind: "Be careful when you make an enemy; you may need him as a friend someday."

39. supertatie - June 01, 2010 at 05:56 pm

I think this whole situation is asinine and PROOF of how our culture has declined. These Spanish speaking students WERE talking about the other student - they admitted that. And doing it in another language, which is rude. The professor and administration overreacted. The students start clamoring about their "rights" being violated, and calling administrators from other schools, who made equally absurd and inaccurate statements about how being bilingual is "unprofessional," which is not what the administrator said.

The only thing missing here is a protest march by Al Sharpton.

I've never heard such trumped-up indignation in my life.

40. seejay - June 01, 2010 at 06:11 pm

As given in the article, the facts in chronological order are:
1) An Anglo woman started taking a medical assistant course.
2) Some Hispanic students joined the course later.
3) The Anglo woman complained (publicly? in front of class members? to the teacher?) the Hispanics weren't keeping up in class.
4) The Anglo woman persisted in these complaints and insulted at least one Hispanic publicly.
5) The Hispanics began talking about the Anglo woman in Spanish.
6) The Anglo woman did not understand the remarks, but feared or assumed they were insulting to her.
7) This talk took place during a class break, not in class.
8) The Anglo woman complained to the president of the college.
9) Within a day, a high administrator came into classes and forbade the use of any language but English "in class," even in side conversations.
10) The administrator stated punishments for using a language other than English could include lowering grades, other academic sanctions and expulsion.

Repeated and persistent complaints and public insults in English are given special privilege over presumed insults and complaints, even if not publicly understood, in Spanish or other languages.

The college took speedy and extraordinary steps to enforce this privilege.

The college did not take any similar action regarding public insults in English.

This policy change did not address the matter of civility at all, but only the language in which remarks, presumably uncivil, were made. As such, it validates the complaining woman's insulting behavior and extends far beyond sanctioning uncivil remarks in Spanish and sanctions all conversation in Spanish, or any other language, whatever its content. The issue should be to enforce civil behavior among students in order to keep the educational enterprise on an even keel.

No wonder the president and college parted ways. Rash and thoughtless administrative action that fails to serve the institution are grounds for termination.

41. mishellay - June 01, 2010 at 06:28 pm

I wonder where some of the posters here work. I hope not teaching. Some posters seem to have a problem with reading comprehension. What the students were saying on their break is their business in any language.

42. mikey - June 01, 2010 at 06:34 pm

Side conversations about me are my business in whatever language and are insulting. The students should be disciplined.

43. garcia_m - June 01, 2010 at 11:25 pm

Given the negative backlash of this incident, Tia/Aunt Maldonado, I hope your nephew (the student)did not embellish the incident to gain similar attention to AZ.

I am employed at a college 30 miles from the Mexican border and because of the recent AZ demonstrations, our college is being challenged by ESL students who are taking similar spanish speaking stands as your nephew. The similar racism 'allegations' our students brought forward were overly embellished and proven false.

44. rufojr - June 02, 2010 at 07:38 am

First of all, I have a hard time believing that this article portrays the actual events as they ocurred. I am certain there is much more to this story than is being told. Unfortunately, many of you have jumped on the band wagon to criticize the anglo woman. Shame on you. There are two sides to every story and this is not the whole story!

Second, if any of you have taken an online class, you will understand the woman's frustration with the classmates. Often you will have one or more class members who do not pay attention and later ask questions about material that was already covered and answered. It is redundant and does take away from those who are following along throughout the session. I find it extremely frustrating when the instructor discusses the assignment details and answers questions only to have someone ask the same questions fifteen minutes later. It is very obvious to tell when someone is not paying attention.

Third, if you want to have a side conversation during class or breaks in any language, you have the option to im or text each other. It does not need to be in the classroom. In other words, I believe it was an antagonistic rebuttal for her complaint and it worked.

It's definitely time to grow up!

45. honore - June 02, 2010 at 09:34 am

Welcome to the future...this sordid, tacky orgy of academic and personal dysfunction is only a tip of what is coming to the academy and the country as a whole as illegal immigration continues to swallow entire regions of this country

This was mis-handled on so many levels.
1. students who can't respect the authority of the instructor do not belong in the class.
2. if they added the class late, it is THEIR responsibility to catch-up and not that of the rest of the class or the instructor
3. the president was inappropriate to interfere in what should have been an intra-class dynamic that should have been handled by the instructor and/or department officer.

This spectacle reminds me of my experience teaching a "Spanish for Civic Translators" course at a local community college. From the 1st day it was obvious that many of the "students" were enrolled ONLY so that they could "prove" to their social workers that they were really doing something contructive to furhter their education and thus be able to maintain their current status maintaining public assistance.

Every class was a true agony for the students who REALLY did want to learn and progress with their professional goal, that of become a certified translator and but NOT for those who were just "hanging-out" comparing their crop of last night's hickeys.

These maggots were all illegal whose "spanish" was atrociaious, but who were smart enough (with the help of community "activists") to milk the system and waste everyone else's time in the process.

I brought in guest speakers from local universities from social work, education and even physical therapy to spur motivation but NOTHING worked for these "students". The few serious ones excelled and were clearly proceeding to the next level.

By the end of mid-semester, these "students" were all failing and my grade report reflected their levels of "achievement".

The department "chair" called me in to discuss the "problem". I told him there was no "problem". My grade report very accurately reflected their PROFOUND lack of motivation, interest and dedication to the course. He demanded that I change their grades because as he put it..."we have to help my people overcome the oppression of the white man". I got up and walked out and told him that I would not participate in his stupid, racist political games at the expense of taxpayers and the other students who were TRULY participating and making every effort to learn.

Long story short...even though I had only signed on for 1 semester to teach this class, he fired me effective at the end of the semester and put a letter in my file which included language about how I was a racist and didn't believe in affirmative action (whatever that meant to this buffoon).

I can still recall this horrendous experience and can only recall a few highlights of this "learning experience"...that of, listening to these "students" chattering in Spanish (which is MY OWN first language) about what to name their litters of out-of-marriage babies. "Brit-Nee, Chonga-Maria and Brad-Jose" were the most popular ones that year.

In brief, conversations in ANY language are fine OUTSIDE of the class, but when the goal of the class is in English, THAT is the language for the class duration. To ignore this basic pedagological fact is just cheap, political wh*ring. Get real already!

46. dogsavr - June 02, 2010 at 09:57 am

I'm not surprised that so many find communication between students in class to be problematic, whether in English or another language. Clearly, this is the old model of education; you want the learning environment to be centered on you. Welcome to the new millenium, classrooms need to be student-centered, and the students should have been encouraged to communicate with this angry woman because she needed to understand why there was an issue with her behavior.

The real issue aside, students benefit from communicating in the classroom. Its not always unrelated talk. A class that communicates openly learns more because the content becomes contextual, an essential component of learning. Once students understand that communication is central to learning communities, and encouraged by the professor, the talk will focus on the subject-matter.

Wake up. We are a connected world, students are communicating constantly and new forms of literacy are emerging every day. To ban students from person-to-person communication in the classroom thwarts learning. We need to incorporate all forms of communication in the classroom so that students can form learning communities that become extensions of the classroom. Instead of banning foreign language, why not ask students to share their thoughts so that others can benefit, thereby extending the learning community further.

I suspect the issue isn't about communication at all. Its more about the multi-cultural environment that makes you uncomfortable, and given the new racism against Latinos, its no wonder there is anxiety around speaking Spanish.

Get over it, its a new world, retire already.

47. tyroneslothrop - June 02, 2010 at 10:11 am

One can only assume that post #45 is a parody. This line is particularly amusing:

"These maggots were all illegal whose "spanish" was atrociaious"

That the poster of #45 uses such shockingly atrocious "english" in their post seems a tell that the poster is engaged in parody. Also particularly amusing was the "letter...about how" they were "a racist." Followed then by a paragraph that dehumanizes others by positing that Spanish-speaking students' babies are, rather, "litters" (like animals, of course the poster has already aligned Spanish-speaking students with "maggots" as well). This is all over-the-top racism, with the usual disclaimers, here, "which is my own first language," (.e.g., they cannot be a racist if one's own first language is "Spanish", or more often, having lots of "black friends"). The absurd link to "community activists" is also quite amusing and again over-the-top.

The problem with parody on the internet is that someone will take it as literal, that is they will see their racist views confirmed in the parody--creating a sense that such extreme and vile views are actually normal. That is the danger of parody here, the misrecognition of the parody as a straightforward statement of belief and thus confirming and validating one's own racist views. The internet has a way of normalizing and validating extreme and marginal views, to make people feel that their extreme and marginal views are not so extreme or vile, that there are many people out there who share such views. Parody adds to that, because such people are often looking for validation and do not recognize parody (this is the reason some right wing ideologues think Stephen Colbert is actually one of them, they fundamentally miss the parody framing).

Anyway, much of the comments are interesting here for what they say about the "mainstream" language ideologies at play in the United States.

48. 11233028 - June 02, 2010 at 10:17 am

It's the rude remarks that were unprofessional. Even if you don't know a language, you can tell when someone is being insulting; listen for the laughter and watch the body language. Those male students should have been disciplined. Too bad profit is the motivating factor, along with bad publicity--well, it is a "for profit" school; profit trumps common sense and professional ethics. These schools are ruining the educational compass.

49. jffoster - June 02, 2010 at 01:03 pm

46 dogsavr says "classrooms need to be student-centered". No they don't. This is the kind of prattle that comes out of "Education" Colleges because they don't have any subject matter to teach, and it gets adopted by failed faculty, or nevereally-wanted-to-be-faculty faculty who become Assoicate Deans for Butts-in-Seats, First Year Experience Directors, and other such maggots and parasites.

Classrooms need to be subject-matter centered.

50. rlewisf - June 02, 2010 at 01:26 pm

I am really amazed at the level of racism and ignorance shown by some Chronicle of Higher Education readers.

We have no way of knowing whether the aricle is 100% accurate and fair. But, by the text of the article, a senior executive in an educational institution threatened students with academic penalties for speaking in their own language on breaks between clases.

On may quibble over whether the penalty imposed on the President was fair or exagerated, but what he did was clearly reprehesible to anyone not blinded by racism. This is made clear in the frequent, completely extraneous, references to "illegal aliens."

51. virtualworker - June 02, 2010 at 02:49 pm

All of the various readings and non-readings of this article reminded me of Raymond Queneau's Exercises in Style. 99 versions of one story. Take your pick. The butler did it.

One lesson I learned about casual speech in the classroom during breaks is that it is not normally protected. I had a student ask me about moving to a particular town during a break in class. The town was far from the location of the school where the class took place and would require the student to change jobs. Another student, employed at the same school as the first student, overheard the question, then brought it to the attention of the school's principal, who made the first student's work life unbearable knowing she would be leaving.

52. 11299051 - June 02, 2010 at 04:49 pm

In Maurice Chevalier's immortal words from the musical, "Gigi"--I'm glad that I'm not young anymore. Indeed speaking a foreign language among those who did not understand it was considered not only rude but perhaps a sign of one's boorishness as well. Today everything works as everyone wants it to or else we sue or become aggressive.I lost my way at the Miami airport and apparently wandered down the wrong corridor. The not too friendly offical spoke to me in Spanish. I am as Northern European in my physical aspect as you can possibly be so the assumption of my understanding Spanish fails on all counts, especially as Miami what ever its transitional characteristics is still a part of the USA. When I looked at her she repeated herself in Spanish albeit at a higher volume. We do have a tendency to shout at deaf people. Then I addressed her in German and guess what? She responded in flawless English. Perhaps that's because the time-honored tradition among speakers of foreign tongues is to use them to speak about others in their presence without having to take responsibiity for ill chosen words. I learned several foreign languages as a matter of my career and as a matter of ensuring my safety in foreign lands. Self protection is always in style.

53. filosoferx - June 02, 2010 at 06:40 pm

I'm not sure there is evidence in the article to suggest the instructor was discriminating, but rather following the view of the president at the time. However, there is clearly a language problem in America and just because other countires tolerate multi-lingual societies does not mean it is the best option. I assume a more appropriate term for language discrimination is forthcoming, as "racist" does fit really fit the bill.

Once during a work break, I went into the common area and someone was watching a non english program. When I took issue with it, the person watching respectfully agreed to change the station. But when an administrator got wind of the conversation, I was told "maybe you should learn the language". My immediate response, was "should I also learn Russian and Vietnamese and all the other languages of the staff that work here?" While I understand the medley of benefits by learning another language, overall it is a plundering waste of effort and resources and should be limited to humanistic pursuits. Because we are living in a more global world, effective communication is essential. Communicating with each other should not be a matter of whether one knows several languages, or have access to translators etc. but on the administration of a globally accepted language.

There are hundreds of languages spoken regularly by human beings, and it is obvious that people are so bound by it. However, in the modern world, it is ridiculous to try to accomodate everyone's language. Zamenhof had the right vision and insight by creating an effective international language, Esperanto. Ideally, everyone could know their native language and Esperanto. Consequently, being able to speak to everyone in the modern world. This is the best way to help create global citizenship and a more efficient world.

Languages developed and became infinitely diversified as a result of bands of groups exploring new territory etc. In classical mythology it became known as the curse of the "Tower of Babel". According to this myth, God caused the different languages to confuse and to keep the people in check, fearing that s/he would rise to be equal with God. Clearly it is time to resolve this issue and keep up with the times. Not to say that such a task would be easy.

Not that creating a global language would resolve the issue at hand, but there is a serious langauge problem. And I think the current approaches are only expensive band aides.

54. robweldon - June 02, 2010 at 07:39 pm

Although there is certainly the danger of a knee-jerk, PC backlash (Duke lacrosse team), this case does seem to be symptomatic of our nation's monolingual and mono-cultural ignorance. This ignorance, overwhelming in some regions of the country, often leads to arrogance, bigotry and, on some occasions(see above), sheer fu**ing idiocy. This generation of Americans is no longer afforded the luxury of of such ignorance, for their standard of living will depend to a large degree upon their ability to compete with the rest of the world. This competition will require knowledge of other cultures as well as the ability to communicate effectively with them. We do our students a tremendous disservice when we narrow our pedagogical focus to one culture and/or language. The protective, monolingual, American "womb" is a relict of post WWII America when Americans could afford to force the world to come to them. We need not agree with (or even like) all things foreign, but we must try to understand them, for our future will be determined by our multi-cultural knowledge, and the decisions we make based upon it.

55. your_rights - June 02, 2010 at 09:29 pm

In the decades that I have been teaching, I have never seen even one hispanic student in a university. The only hispanics I encounter are:
1. my maids (few were from Mexico, most came from other Latino countries)
2. my gardners (few were from Mexico, most came from other Latino countries)
3. the men begging for work in the Home Depot parking lot,
4. one roofing company I hired which appeared reputable with proper company documentation, etc. However, their work was so poor that the roof caved in and it cost 10s of thousands of dollars to have the damage undone by an Anglo company. I was lucky that the renters did not sue me.

Perhaps we should demand that our employers actually implement academic standards. If they refuse, their are many legal means of pressure which can be applied.

56. realist123 - June 03, 2010 at 07:02 am

What happened to free speech in the land of the free?
Judging by some of the posts here, free speech -- or Voltaire's good ol' "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it" -- does not apply if one speaks in a language other than English...

It's sad that some Anglo woman, working in a region full of Hispanics, is able to strip a couple Hispanics of their right to free speech... just because she hasn't bothered to learn their language. She'll make one hell of a medical assistant to be sure. I wonder to whom she will complain when some of her non-English patients talk to each other "about her" in some language she does not understand... I wonder if some hospital will then strip its patients of their rights to speak in a foreign language when recovering...

Glad to here that in this case though, the higher admin realizes that basic human rights still apply in the grand US of A, and that if presidents attempt to institutionalize a monolinguocracy, they should be fired.

57. rtyrrell - June 03, 2010 at 11:02 am

I have had an "English only" policy in my English class for years because I felt that students trying to learn English benefit from speaking English. I never considered it racist. This article has made me think about that policy and whether or not it is racist to include times when students are in the room, but class is not in session. It never even occurred to me that this might be seen as racism.

Whether or not this particular incident was right or wrong, I think it is an opportunity to think about how we approach diversity. I know that I will no longer ask students to speak English only when they are on a break. That does cross a line, I think. I never meant it to, but after reading this article and the comments, I see it differently.

We can learn something here, if we keep an open mind. We don't need to be "PC" nor do we need to be reactionist to reflect periodically on what we are doing and examine things we have "done for years."

58. erendira - June 03, 2010 at 01:48 pm

I know there are a few of us that read this article but let's just go ahead and clarify: the students were speaking Spanish during a class break. NOT during class so they were NOT being disruptive to the class.

Was it rude for them to talk about the other student? Yes, it's rude to talk about people behind there back and it doesn't matter if it is done in English, Spanish or Polish. However, the former President of Kaplan did indeed violate the rights of the students by threatening to expel them for speaking Spanish in class.

I'd like to ask the "Anglo" student --- how did she know the other students were talking about her if she didn't understand what they were saying?

59. mark_dc2 - June 03, 2010 at 04:52 pm

Thank you seejay for clearly sequencing the events as stated in the article. I am amazed at the poor reading comprehension skills of so many Chronicle readers. Maybe the "facts" reported are not all accurate, but they are the "facts" we've been given, not odd things about the wmoan being the professor or the conversation occurring in the middle of class.

And this seems to be the real "take away" too: Quoting seejay

"Repeated and persistent complaints and public insults in English are given special privilege over presumed insults and complaints, even if not publicly understood, in Spanish or other languages.

The college took speedy and extraordinary steps to enforce this privilege.

The college did not take any similar action regarding public insults in English.

This policy change did not address the matter of civility at all, but only the language in which remarks, presumably uncivil, were made."

60. mamab - June 04, 2010 at 03:50 pm

"The conversation took place on May 3 during a break in the class, he said."

Really, people! Yes, it was rude of them, but the point is, class was not in session, the student they were talking about was not hurt and there was no reason to sanction them. Had they been carrying on during class time, that would be a different story. I cannot believe how many racists there are in higher education these days!

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