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Pumps and Circumstance

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



1. griblets - May 18, 2010 at 04:14 pm

not only is this inane (and probably unconstitutional), but it is hypocritical in the extreme. are the same standards applied to administrators and faculty? as a 30 year college administrator, i don't believe for a second they are. or could be. you would lose half of your staff. at least....

2. mkaranja - May 18, 2010 at 04:18 pm

I think that higher education institutions SHOULD be able to expect that their faculty, staff, and students watch their language while on campus. Imagine how horrible it would be if on a typical day, your professor could come to class and curse you until he/she was blue in the face. Most workplaces expect clean language. Why shouldn't schools?

3. 11236504 - May 18, 2010 at 04:23 pm

And if the institution said nothing, and the 'student' did this perhaps after an interview and lost the opportunity for employment, would the student then say the institution had not prepared him well, had not taught him both in and out of class? The educational environment does not end at the door to the classroom, does it?

4. 11299051 - May 18, 2010 at 04:24 pm

Could someone define the faculty member's "screaming fit?" I know I'm old but I remember when faculty didn't engage with students using a screaming fit. It that now considered professional? Or just the better method of speech for effect?

5. lawarren67 - May 18, 2010 at 04:27 pm

Yes mkaranja it is nice when people watch their language but this professor should have just LOOKED at him and said, "Mr. Rosenbloom, I do NOT tolerate bad language or bad behavior in my room so kindly leave or you will find demerits on your file."

She came off as a bad substitute teacher from high school...

6. lee77 - May 18, 2010 at 04:30 pm

The instructor overheard a comment not directed to her and goes into a screaming fit? Sounds like she overreacted.

7. wanderer_01 - May 18, 2010 at 04:37 pm

He didn't say it to her or about her - he made a remark to another student not during class time and she melts down? If that's truly the way this happened, it seems to be an excessive response on the part of the instructor. I've seen faculty stand up in meetings and address other faculty members using the F-word and nothing happens.

8. 11152886 - May 18, 2010 at 04:42 pm

If this is what the professor is focused on she clearly has a problem. Eavesdropping on a conversation not meant for her, then challenging it, will certainly not place her on a list of those commanding respect in my book and I taught successfully for 42 years.

9. grumpygradstudent - May 18, 2010 at 04:44 pm

I don't see any level of disrespect on the part of the student. He directed his comment analytically at one of his peers, and used the f-bomb to describe the effect of the grade on his GPA, not the teacher. On the other hand, the teacher, eavesdropping on a private conversation, responded with what sounds like verbal abuse directed AT the student. Perhaps Ms. Pyle needs some anger management classes and some time away from teaching.

And it sounds like Hines CC is still living in the 1950's. As a community college, they receive state and federal funds which means the Constitutional rights to free speech still apply. The F word has at least 25 connotations in modern colloquial usage, and while it may not be professional, most of the connotations do not count as "cursing", especially in this case. "To curse" has specific meaning and simply using an expletive does not necessarily ratchet a phrase to the level of a curse.

10. lslerner - May 18, 2010 at 04:49 pm

Holy cow! Demerits at a community college?

11. lsalin - May 18, 2010 at 04:53 pm

It sounds like Hinds C.C. has a distance to go in professionalism. Given the instructor's remark about sending the student to detention, I would assume that this she is either a high school teacher during the day, or a burned-out former high school teacher. While classroom civility should be expected, use of the word "fuck" outside of class is certainly none of the instructor's business in this case.

12. handley - May 18, 2010 at 04:56 pm

It is reasonable to prohibit profanity on campus, as long as students are made aware of the policy in advance. Like other rules, this one will get broken from time to time, which is a nice opportunity to remind the student of the rule. I do this all the time on my campus, and most students respond with some version of "Oh, sorry."

Certain uses of profanity (probably not this one) can rise to the level of harassment via hostile environment, exposing both student and school to liability. We have a responsibility to address that when it happens.

13. playbyplay - May 18, 2010 at 04:57 pm

First of all, the teacher wasn't eavesdropping. The student stayed after class to have a conversation about grades with the instructor, along with some other students. His reaction to his grade, granted to another student and not to the teacher directly, was to use a profanity. However, because this was a conversation with the teacher, the comment was out of place, to be sure. However, let's drop this eavesdropping nonsense. Read the article folks.

Second, the "screaming fit" is the description that comes from the student's testimony, not an objective, outside source. One thing I have learned over several years of teaching is this: students upset about a grade are not necessarily the most objective evaluators of the discussions they have with their instructors. As such, I don't place much credence with this description of the instructor's reaction, at least until it has been substantiated by a disinterested observer. Again, read the article.

I find it interesting that so many are willing to side with a student, based solely on his side of the story, than with a fellow instructor. After teaching at both public and private institutions, I have heard the same horror stories about student reactions and misrepresentations from faculty in both settings. I also wonder if this reaction would be different if it were not over the issue of profanity. Again, from experience, I know many faculty members can be as salty as sailors. Strange that the most educated among us live up to Twain's observation: "Profanity is the attempt of a lazy and feeble mind to express itself forcefully."

14. haohtt - May 18, 2010 at 05:05 pm

Would FIRE and Mr. Shibley have come to Mr. Rosenbloom's aid if he had used, say the N-word, or maybe a term that gay people find offensive? Would we see commentors defending "free speech" in those cases? Of course not. Why sould the F-word (equally offensive to a large percentage of the population) be given a free pass when these other unacceptable words are not?

15. swish - May 18, 2010 at 05:10 pm

FIRE might have.

16. professor_e - May 18, 2010 at 05:20 pm

She overreacted, to be sure, if we can believe this student's testimony; but some correction should have been applied, if only verbally. A demerit system at a community college does not seem reasonable, but neither does the behavior of many folks these days. This FIRE organization is not the Supreme Court and cannot selectively interpret the Constitution. They should definitely stay out of it. It seems that there are more noble causes in the world than defending foul language.

17. garysneide - May 18, 2010 at 05:23 pm

I agree, the instructor may have over-reacted, but at some point, these students have to know that that kind of coarse language is not acceptable in the workplace. I have watched students curse like sailors in meetings with administrators and faculty, and have had to admonish them for it! what amazed me about it all is that I had to do so. The students didn't seem to understand the impropriety of their language in those situations, since no one taught them. Sad, but true!

18. renprof - May 18, 2010 at 05:43 pm

I'd want some corroberation about what constituted said "screaming fit." I've definitely known some students who would construe the most controlled correction as a "screaming fit."

Also, this college has "demerits?" If this college has demerits, it IS more like a high school than a university, and the student's age may have no relation to his maturity.

19. phacker - May 18, 2010 at 05:45 pm

When I first read this I thought I was reading an article from the 50's. Hind's Community College has some serious free speech issues. Using the F word in conversation is not hate speech and in this case was not directed at anyone. Hind's college does not supersede the constitution regarding free speech. Demerits? Seriously? We are talking about a 29 year old man at college not a teenager in high school. This whole story sounds like something out of the Twilight Zone. What happened to the day when colleges fostered freedom of expression? I personally do not like to hear profanity but in an adult world it exists and if a community college wants to be taken seriously, fining students for profanity should be abolished. Who decides what constitutes profanity.

As a community college instructor and university administrator, in my eyes, the value of a Hinds Community College degree has just been nullified. Mr. Rosenbloom should transfer out immediately.

20. _perplexed_ - May 18, 2010 at 05:49 pm

Gee, I wish I could assign demerits...just think of the fun one could have with that! If profanity earns 12 demerits, how many can be awarded for sullen insolence? For tardiness...does Hinds have a list online? You bet...see p. 57 at My favorite is "Loitering which includes but is not limited to standing, sitting or blocking of steps, doorways, and walkways; sitting on the Cafeteria porch walls; or sitting at the Cafeteria tables and not eating during serving hours. (1st offense $25 fine, 2nd offense $50 fine plus demerits: 10 minimum - 15 maximum, 3rd offense suspension from college).

21. rustyo - May 18, 2010 at 06:23 pm

According to (V) on page are not allowed to "pull a fire alarm in any building." I wonder why they bothered installing them if you are not allowed to use them.

22. 7738373863 - May 18, 2010 at 06:34 pm

It is one thing to view two-year colleges as having a mission of teaching students what they should have been taught in high school, another entirely to treat those students as though they were still in high school. The notion that demerits or invasive comments on a transcript are an appropriate disciplinary response to perceived infractions in a college setting is utterly without merit. Moreover, the notion that the event described is worthy of disciplinary action is ludicrous, since the student was engaged not in hate speech but indirect discourse, overheard by but not directed at the instructor, who has some explaining to do as to her motives in this instance.

In addition to being both big brotherish and over the top, the very idea that the student's transcript record will note the demerits and contain the administration's description of the incident is one that must be challenged in court, and accompanied by a lawsuit for emotional pain and suffering. Such information on a transcript can seriously impact the student's ability to move on to a four-year school, especially if the four-year institution requests and/or screens data on previous academic and legal difficulties. And judging from the student's statement as to the grade's effect on his GPA, he is someone who may very well intend to go to a four-year school after finishing at Hinds CC.

23. jblair1970 - May 18, 2010 at 06:58 pm

Barbara-and I thought IIIIIII was uptight :))

24. fullprof99 - May 18, 2010 at 07:53 pm

Geeze (to use a term that probably won't get me too many demerits) did the instructor never learn the value of selective deafness? The student is frustrated, she overhears something not meant for her and . . . if she had any sense she wouldn't have "heard" it then but perhaps would have discussed it with the student at a later time.

Of course the student is somewhat out of line, but we're in this profession to help students, not to make life more frustrating for them. As the person in the position of power, she has a responsibility to give the student lessons in appropriate behavior, but not in overreaction.

25. tac3017874742 - May 18, 2010 at 09:03 pm

It appears that the student and the instructor may both have over reacted for different reasons. This should have been settled in a professional manner instead of the power display that the college indulged in. Student success is what the Community College is about and this is not what I see at the top of the priority list in this little college. I have enforced the student conduct code at several colleges and I am not interested in the punitive approach when a diplomatic slant will fill the bill. Where was the Dean of Students in this process and why didn't he/she step up and help solve the problem. The Dean of Academic Affairs should also have worked with the instructor as well. The end result is that the college has more "dirty laundry" on the line than is should have and the student will only resent the sanction approach which may not have been needed at all. Let me know if you need some help with this and I'll be glad to do so!!!!!!!

26. patmoran - May 18, 2010 at 09:14 pm

Like "lslerner" I'm still reeling from DEMERITS!!!! Although an ardent F-bomb user, (as well as a 2 year college administrator and instructor) I do respect that other people may not appreciate the extrordinary range of expression inherent to "the F word", and, if requested, I will certainly not use it. If the instructor had poliltely told the student not to drop the F-bomb, he probably would have apologized - all's good. But, to ban the student from the classroom, to give demerits (the very word makes me giggle), to place all this on the student's permanent record....just a tad "over-kill" don't you think? What, is Hinds the only college in the country NOT dealing with suicide, alcohol abuse, violence, guns and other mayhem on campus? Maybe these administrators don't have enough to do? And, directly to "playbyplay", get off your high horse - I deal with college students everyday, too, and have experienced gross incivility, but, this is just way over the top. If all I had to deala with each day is a student saying a choice 4-letter word, bring it on!

27. kenn12 - May 18, 2010 at 09:51 pm

I've got to think that the details arent all in this article. Did the student say it loud enough for the class, Was there eavesdropping or not being able to shut it out? I know how students are when they get a grade that disappoints them. They lash out at the teachers indirectly and usually are saying the wrong things. They also accuse teachers of throwing a fit when in actuality a teacher has to settle the student down as to maintain classroom control. If the student says an expletive in a school where the rules prevent it, then yes, he deserves punishment as does any faculty member. I for one think it is a profanity and find it offensive. Usually, I feel sorry for the person who utters the word. It is a sure sign that 74 in speech was a mercy grade for a limited vocabulary.

28. recurver - May 18, 2010 at 11:29 pm

Occasional profanity, which seemed warranted for the situation, is the birthright of adults. Flagrant profanity is improper for specific situations, however that is simply a social convention, an outcropping of what might be called the civilizing process, or code switching, or hidden transcript, etc.
Uptight folks who have a problem with the 30 YEAR OLD ADULT who chooses to drop an F-bomb in that situation needs to loosen up and recognize that their social conventions are their own and not everyone's.

29. recurver - May 18, 2010 at 11:34 pm

Also, "fuck" is part of the language and has been sense before Shakespeare.
Making evaluations of merit based upon a persons vocabulary/language use is perhaps the worst form of bigotry there is.
Sadly, there are many such bigots in positions of authority, like university professors.

30. recurver - May 18, 2010 at 11:34 pm


31. newyorkyankees - May 19, 2010 at 12:24 am

I think that both individuals are equally at fault here. I certainly agree that a 30 year old college student should not be treated like an unruly high school kid. I would also agree, that a professor has the right to expect professional decorum in the classroom as well. I think she overreacted, but he could have used a better choice of words also.

32. joneseagle - May 19, 2010 at 06:05 am

Interesting - according to page 59 of the 2009-10 Student Handbook this would have been his second offense in order to receive demerits. 1st offense is a $25 fine - no mention of demerits.
But then some of the student DISCIPLINARY REGULATIONS AND PROCEDURES do appear to be from the early 20th century - even high schools would have a difficult time enforcing most of the criteria as specified in the handbook. [Yes I wtill work at a high school even though I am in grad school]
We will be discussing the article today - maybe I can find insight into this article not mentioned by fellow commentators here.

33. amnirov - May 19, 2010 at 06:38 am

Thank the non-existent god(s) for FIRE.

34. your_rights - May 19, 2010 at 08:02 am

If J.B.can say "This is a @@ing big deal." then its good enough for the rest of us.

35. rbader - May 19, 2010 at 08:36 am

There are so many responses to offer, but time prevents them, so I'll keep it brief.

1. Getting demertis from Hinds CC on your transcript is like getting a ticket for J-Walking in NYC. I would display a copy proudly on my wall, and be happy to explain the circumstances under which they were earned to anyone interested in knowing.

2. I've known and respected many sailors, and their use of language is no worse than, say construction workers, or some professors. Why don't we pick on someone else for a change?

36. drj50 - May 19, 2010 at 09:18 am

The constitution only guarantees that "Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press." It does not guarantee that your employer, social club, church, school, parents, etc. may not determined that certain speech is not appropriate in some setting.

The school's rules may or may not be smart and may or may not have been enforced appropriately, but the issue here is not constitutional.

37. glomzx - May 19, 2010 at 09:42 am

WTF? (That's worth at least 10 demerits!). I went to Hinds in the mid-60s and received an excellent learning experience. But I did see it as decades behind in many ways, particularly its very conservative policies and expectations, e.g., racial segregation, femals weren't permitted to sit on the grass (really!!--never understood that one), "girls'" dorms lock-in at night, autocratic pedagogy. It smacked of the 1930s and sadly, it seems to have reached only the early 50s at this point. There are so many common sense ways of handling this situation, from the "selective deafness" as suggested to using it as a learning moment. But progress is slow and we will just have to watch what is otherwise a find institution continue to lag farther and farther behind. Sad.

38. tfiggatt - May 19, 2010 at 09:47 am

I'd like a suggest a Facebook group for Ms. Barabra Pyle to join:

"Intelligent, classy, well-educated women who say "F*ck" a lot".

Of course, Ms. Pyle might not make the cut on the "classy" dimension.

39. glomzx - May 19, 2010 at 09:51 am

Spell correction on #38 last sentence--Hinds is otherwise a fine institution, rather than "find".

40. isugeezer - May 19, 2010 at 10:11 am

I am awed at the power that "fuck" continues to wield, even these days, when it's employed so indiscriminately. Do we not discern a vast difference between "This grade is going to fuck up my entire GPA," and "Fuck you!" or even "What the fuck?" For a thoughtful defense of the use of profanity as a rhetorical strategy, watch David Milch's commentary about the dialogue in his HBO series, Deadwood (Season 1 Bonus Features DVD, available from Netflix).

41. 11135346 - May 19, 2010 at 10:28 am

Good grief! All this required was an "excuse me, but that was the grade that you EARNED" and a reminder of the school's policy on swearing, if the student continued to rant.

Perhaps we're missing part of the story?

42. rosmerta - May 19, 2010 at 10:35 am

I guess I'm in the minority, but I don't understand why asking people on a college campus to refrain from using the worst expletives is such a bad thing (at least in the classroom - truly private conversation is another matter). The "demerits" issue aside, I'd like to see colleges strive to teach (and practice) civility in discourse. My notion of "free speech" tends more toward the freedom to express opinions, not so much the freedom to coarsen the public forum.

43. rosmerta - May 19, 2010 at 10:37 am

To ponder: would we be so quick to defend this student if the word had been "cunt"?

44. sahara - May 19, 2010 at 11:02 am

Agree with no. 42 - the student was basically saying that he had f*ed himself with this grade. He didn't direct the expletive toward another person, if the story was correctly reported. It wasn't pretty language, and it could have been either overlooked or corrected (since the college strives to promote civil language).

It would be tempting to tell the student, "Just leave." The sad thing is that this community college may be this student's only opportunity for further learning, based on his location and other demands in his life; and in his attempt to accomplish something in life, he's stuck in an institution that is focused on antiquated student behavior rules instead of on the educational process.

45. haohtt - May 19, 2010 at 11:10 am

Profanity related to sexual intercourse, excrement, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, etc. are, as recurver states, "part of the language". I disagree that profanity is "the birthright of adults," since adolescents are some of the largest consumers of this type of "free speech". Trying to make profanity "cool" by couching it in euphemisms like "dropping the F-bomb" does not make it any less offensive. If indeed "Making evaluations of merit people based on a person's vocabularly/language is the worst form of bigotry there is," then laws restricting speech that offends particular groups of people should all be repealed. People lose their jobs, are called upon to resign their elected positions or are otherwise villified because they have used a word that some group find offensive. Eiterh "free speech" means that I can say whatever I want (no matter how offensive to someone else) or it does not. It does not matter is the word begins with "N" "S" or "F".

46. isugeezer - May 19, 2010 at 11:44 am

To rosmerta: Oh, my goodness! Have you never been to England?

47. rosmerta - May 19, 2010 at 12:00 pm

isugeezer: yes, but it's been years, and it was only a brief visit. So, the public forum there is a bit more robust, is it? :)

48. sdorley - May 19, 2010 at 12:59 pm

I think some of you are missing a second and perhaps more problematic point--that a 74 can f*** up a GPA. It's a perfectly good grade, especially with points taken off for being late. So while the student hadn't directed his cursing AT the teacher, he was saying it in her hearing. And we can wonder whether or not he was implying that HER grade had messed up his GPA or that HE had messed up his GPA. Either way, he's not blameless because he knew where he was--it says that they stayed around after class to talk with the teacher, so we can assume he was either still in the class, in a public hallway or in her office. It wasn't like he was standing on the quad shooting his mouth off.

Having said all that, it is still amazing that a college hands out demerits. Yikes. But a "no cursing" policy is standard in schools, particularly community colleges. It helps teachers who have students who "go off" on them. He's actually lucky to be taken from her class. Sounds like NO ONE would want to be in it.

49. gamine - May 19, 2010 at 01:10 pm

Read the handbook. Students must have a ID on them at all times they are out of their rooms; their rooms are inspected 2-3x a week. Fines and demerits are assessed if you don't put your lunch tray away. I'm not kidding.

Then remember - this aint' a military academy (in which a plethora of epithets and profanity is learned after hours, I assure you). This is a community college, supposedly for everyone. I feel very sorry for the kids who have no other option for learning; clearly this school believes they are in the business of educating high schoolers, and keeping them at that approximate maturity level.

50. willynilly - May 19, 2010 at 01:35 pm

The student should forget the appeal and get into a courtroom as quickly as possible. He will be awarded enough money in damages to complete his education at an institution that knows and respects the law. While the students'language might be regarded as impolite in a social setting, or even seen as inappropriate, it IS NOT ILLEGAL and it is PROTECTED. Punishment of any type, is a gross trampling of the students rights, and it is the college (the faculty person and the president in particular) who needs to be punished for their embarrassing breach of due process afforded to the student under the Constitution of the United States.

51. lizgibbons - May 19, 2010 at 01:52 pm

I feel it's my job to guide students in expanding and choosing, but not policing, their vocabulary. If everything can be described with a single four-letter word (which can be used as a noun, verb, adjective, etc), if students don't know how to choose a manner of speech according to the surroundings or circumstances, how well have we done our jobs?

Years ago my adolescent daughter and I were walking across campus behind a group of students whose conversation was peppered with such words. She looked at me and said, "I know not to use words like that, Mom, and I'm only 8." I said that they probably didn't have as extensive a vocabulary as she did.

Humor works best. I had a student use the word "shit" (as a noun) in class once and I requested he not use it. He asked if he should use another word such as "poop", "dooty", etc.; I smiled when I said that I'd prefer he just not refer to course content as excrement.

52. lapcas - May 19, 2010 at 02:59 pm

In my literature and writing courses, I tolerate some profanity as long as it is not used in a way that is derogatory or directed at someone. I'm not going to teach a Raymond Carver story and have my students referring to expletives in the text as "The 'F' word"; we're not five. I allow them to use profanity in their personal narratives if they can make the case in their learning letters why it is necessary and what the intended rhetorical/poetic effect is. When profanity has been used inappropriately (i.e. a student commenting in class to a friend that a movie clip was "fucking crazy"), a simple, "hey, guys, we're in class. Let's use rhetorically appropriate language" will do or I will use it as a chance to talk about the connection between language and ethos. The guy in the article is an adult; as long as he didn't direct it at the professor, I just don't see the problem, especially since it was after class. In any case, if the professor had just said something as simple as "Language!" the whole thing could have been avoided

53. ikerose - May 19, 2010 at 03:54 pm

Good afternoon everyone. I am the student in question, Isaac Rosenbloom. I am going to refrain from posting a self-serving rant on the situation, but if you have any questions I'll be happy to oblige.

54. nacrandell - May 19, 2010 at 04:26 pm

Who breaks a butterfly on a wheel?

55. agusti - May 19, 2010 at 04:26 pm

Hi Issac:

what do you think would have been an appropriate response from the instructor in this situation?


56. ikerose - May 19, 2010 at 04:34 pm

@55 I don't believe thats what I'm doing. This is a worthy cause.

@56 A more civil admonishment would have been fine. "Please don't use that language." Maybe,"Thats no appropriate in my presence." I would have apologised had she not flown off the handle at me.

57. deliajones - May 19, 2010 at 04:57 pm

I am certainly tired of those who imply that those who use vulgarisms have a limited vocabulary. With 800 verbal SATs and perfect verbal GREs AND a nearly perfect score on the Miller analogies test, I would hold my vocabulary up to anyone's (except William Buckley's!) I use the word fuck--and its derivatives-- not because I don't know other words but because sometimes it's the perfect word. (However, I have never abused my students by using it in the classroom.)

58. ikerose - May 19, 2010 at 04:58 pm


59. ikerose - May 19, 2010 at 05:00 pm

I finds it's a great way to emphasize a statment.

60. nacrandell - May 19, 2010 at 06:32 pm

ikerose -

I meant for Pope's line - "Who breaks a butterfly upon a wheel..." to refer to the communication instructor's reaction and not yours. Sorry for the confusion.

If the school has a demerit and fining system in place for infractions and if she felt that the behavior was beyond a curt reminder that she expected decorum in her classroom, then she should have handed out a $25.00 fine for the behavior she thought offensive.

Escalating it to classroom banishment tells more of her.

61. jffoster - May 19, 2010 at 09:16 pm

Gomer Pyle would have had more sense. One of the things we have to watch out for with "Community" Colleges is that they have a tendency to act like they are grades 13 and 14 of high school. Hinds is acting more like Junior High School.

62. louisie - May 20, 2010 at 09:38 am

But they have cheerleaders! (

How many publicly-funded community colleges have cheerleaders, "Hi-Steppers," an honors program, or international study abroad? Just curious.

63. louisie - May 20, 2010 at 09:41 am

Also, they have Homecoming, Spring Fever, and if you're in the student admissions/recruitment volunteer club, you get to go on an end-of-year cruise to the Bahamas! (

. . . . .

I hope sarcasm comes through the internet well ;-)

64. adamfire - May 20, 2010 at 09:42 am

For more FIRE commentary on this case, please see this post on our blog, The Torch:

65. louisie - May 20, 2010 at 09:53 am

Also, seriously? From the Hinds Community College Student Handbook:

"Violation of curfew (5 demerits)

No use of cell phones, PDA, Ipod, MP3 Players or any other communication devices in the
classroom, laboratory, clinical setting or during a campus program. (1st offense $25 fine, 2nd offense
$50 fine plus demerits: 10 minimum - 15 maximum, 3rd offense suspension from the College)"

66. wingedwarrior - May 20, 2010 at 12:38 pm

"Permanent record?" I recall the treat of something going on mine in elementary school. I yielded to the threat and believe I received only demerits instead. Of course, I have some students now (even at the graduate level) I'd like to issue demerits, but I thought that was passe in higer education. Sooner or later institutions have to join the '90s.

67. marka - May 20, 2010 at 02:15 pm

Hmm ... If all this is in a handbook, then the student is free to attend, and adhere to the rules, or go elsewhere. Last time I checked there are any number of other educational opportunities, including distance learning/online schools. So, regardless of whether a particular set of rules or consequences is 'wise' or not, there is no compulsion to go to any particular college. If you can't pay the fine or do the time, don't do the crime. If you are going to be disobedient, expect consequences, act like an adult, and take them.

Also, I'm still amazed, after all these years, that supposedly intelligent people actually believe what they read in the newspaper, or here, an online blurb. As a few others have noted, we have some he said/she said attributions, not a full record.

Language usage reflects on who you are & what culture you are from; and responses likewise reflect who one is & what culture one is from. If we want to encourage a common understanding of civility on campus, in the classroom, during class or afterwards, in the presense of an instructor or not, then I applaud this college for at least articulating some standards, and then enforcing them.

As to 'free speech,' I too wonder what the response would be if other terms -- including what some might call 'hate speech' - were used. I sincerely doubt the result would be the same for all but the most extreme libertarians (I count myself among this group). BTW/FWIW - the general rule of thumb is speech can be regulated as to reasonable time, place, and manner -- of course, the nub is what is 'reasonable.' And reasonable people can differ ...

68. ikerose - May 20, 2010 at 05:28 pm

Well if you want, the recording of the hearing is at There you can hear the instructors side of the story.

Keep in mind though, I did not make the comment to her or about her in any way. All I did was use a four letter expletive to emphasize a statement to a peer. The instructor was not part of the coversation in any way.

She interjected herself into my private, after class conversation, and then chose to verbally berate and humiliate me in front of my peers. Then she went a step farther and brought disiplinary action against me.

All hypothetical "what ifs" aside; the question is whether what Ms. Pyle and HCC did was a violation of my rights. Of course I believe it was and thats why I'm fighting it.

69. firefly70 - May 20, 2010 at 06:10 pm

Wow. I purposely swear when I am teaching, and it is not due to a lack of vocabulary. I find it to be very helpful because it captures students' attention. Please note that I do not swear *at* them. I do not view it as disrespectful, and the students apparently do not either. In the 15 years that I have been teaching, my "potty mouth" has never once been mentioned on my teaching evaluations. In fact, some of my strongest ratings are on my respect for students.

I realize this was not the original intention of the article, but am responding to various comments.

Saying the f word does not physically harm anyone and is my constitutional right. People who are offended by it need to lighten up.

70. drmoby - May 20, 2010 at 10:48 pm

Once my head stopped spinning over the "demerits" idea, I was even more amazed that showing flagrant disrespect is worth 10-15 demerits; plagiarism can go as low as 5. It certainly seems that this system is more about keeping a certain kind of social order than about anything inherent to the academic mission of the college.

71. ikerose - May 21, 2010 at 09:26 am

I'm going to be discussing my case on "Fox and Friends" on the Fox News Network Sat. morning.

72. tdr75 - May 21, 2010 at 09:54 am

I recently moved from Mississippi, and the entire state is still 50 years behind the curve in pretty much every category. Don't get me wrong...I enjoyed living there for a variety of reasons and not all of the "backwardness" is without merit (not needing to be "connected" 24/7 was real nice), but it lags far behind most other states in many respects (health, education, open governance, etc).

Something many of you don't seem to understand is that the CC system in Mississippi is much like those in other southern states. They are partially residential in nature, have athletics (yes, including cheerleaders), and most students attending CCs are at the end of the eduational line. Add in the conservative nature of the establishment in the state, and you have a formula for the "high school-ization" of the CC system (and indeed...most CC athletic teams feature local high school athletic stars).

Just providing a little context.

This is definitely overkill, though. If colleges started suspending students for language used in coversations between students, we would have no students left to teach. A simple request to refrain from that language should have been adequate. I am all for civil discourse, but there IS a difference between speaking with a friend and debating ideas with someone you may not agree with.

@drmoby -- absolutely it's about keeping a certain social order. In my experience, appearances were often far more important than substance, and this idea permeates the culture from the top to the bottom.

73. stevedrake - May 21, 2010 at 04:11 pm

In a bizarre followup to this story, Vice President Biden, reading his Chronicle of Higher Education before a meeting with the President, was overheard by Supreme Court Justice nominee Elena Kagan saying he didn't understand "why this was such a big fu****g deal."

Articles of impeachment are pending . . .

74. ikerose - May 22, 2010 at 10:37 am

@74 LOL! Thats great.

Well the Fox interview went good I guess.
I really appreciate the support most of you have given me through this, and even my dissenters help by keeping me grounded and on track.
I want to thank all of you, especially Don Troop for opening this line of dialogue in the first place.

75. tbdiscovery - May 23, 2010 at 03:05 pm

The sad part about this story is that community colleges, although the foundation of remedial education in many states, are once again losing respect. They are such a crucial part of HE, and to have this make national news is just another blow to a struggling system. I definitely side with you, Isaac - especially since CCs are public institutions, but it's a shame that each step forward is followed by three steps back.

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