May 18, 2010, 01:00 PM ET
An F (Bomb) in Oral Communications
Isaac Rosenbloom was among a small group of students who stuck around after speech class one day this spring at Hinds Community College to discuss their grades with the instructor.
After seeing that he had received a 74 on a late assignment, Mr. Rosenbloom testified in a recorded disciplinary hearing, he turned to one of his peers and said, "this grade is going to [expletive] up my entire GPA." He says the instructor, Barbara Pyle, heard him and "went into a screaming fit," telling him that she does not tolerate offensive language and threatening to send him to detention.
"I told her, 'This is college, and I'm 30 years old,'" Mr. Rosenbloom testified. "'There is no detention.'"
After being summoned to the dean's office, Mr. Rosenbloom sought the assistance of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, the free-speech advocacy group, which issued a statement defending the right of adults to use naughty words.
"It is quite absurd that a college has decided that a 29-year-old man who uses a four-letter word out of frustration after a class should be officially punished," FIRE Vice President Robert Shibley said in a statement. "College students don't lose their free speech rights when they arrive on campus. Will Hinds be sending its students to bed without supper next?"
While Mr. Rosenbloom is actually being disciplined for "flagrant disrespect," FIRE wrote President Clyde Muse to tell him that the college's speech policies are unconstitutional and were "applied unconstitutionally to punish Rosenbloom for his protected speech outside of class." The college bans "public profanity, cursing, and vulgarity." Violators can be fined $25 to $50 or, for a third offense, be suspended from college.
According to FIRE, Mr. Rosenbloom was banned from Ms. Pyle's course and given 12 demerits (three short of suspension). In addition, a description of the case is being placed on his permanent record.
An appeal to President Muse is pending. —Don Troop