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Friday, December 30, 2011

Whackademia: Nutty Professors 4

Give 'Em Hell, Professor

     Southern Indiana University Theater Professor Robert Broadfoot yelled as some of his students, allegedly calling one of them the "B-word." (I presume that stands for bitch rather than butthead, bumpkin, or bastard.)  Frustrated that some of his students were lax about their assignments, and didn't seem to care about the course, Professor Broadfoot, according to a report in the school newspaper, "made aggressive gestures and used bad language." One of Broadfoot's students reportedly said, "I don't think it was necessary, I think everyone has their problems...but he shouldn't take it out on his students, it's not fair." Poor thing. Wait until you get into the real world. Perhaps the professor was taking out his problems on his students because they were his problem. Another theater student thought it was "inappropriate" for the professor to be singling out those who weren't performing (pun intended) in class. If this complaintant gets a job, he or she may be in for a shock. One way to avoid being singled out is to do your work.

     I taught 32 years, and had criminal justice majors who wanted to be police detectives and FBI agents complain that they couldn't find me when they needed something signed. I yelled at students, and rarely missed an opportunity to humiliate them. I didn't do this to prepare them for real life, I did this to prepare them for college. I also enjoyed it. (Just kidding, I think.) Unlike poor Professor Broadfoot, I managed not to get myself fired. Kids who want to be cops and kids who want to be on stage are obviously different. Had I been in the theater department, I wouldn't have lasted a week.

Dumbing Up

     Professors really don't like to be fired. It's undignified, and shatters their exhalted self images. As a result, in academia, wrongful terminations lawsuits are not uncommon. What is uncommon, however, is a plaintiff/professor who prevails in one of these cases.

     In November, former New York University Professor Jose Angel Santana sued the school after they denied him reappointment in August 2011. According to Santana, he had been fired because of his Cuban and African American heritage. Hired in September 2008 as an assistant visiting professor in the acting school with an annual salary of $70,000, Santana claims he was discriminated against because of his race and color. But the plaintiff didn't leave it at that. According to the suit, the straw that broke the camel's back involved the grade Santana had given to a student in his graduate class called, Directing the Actor II. It was this claim that brought Santana and his suit into the national news. The D-grade that sent Santana packing had been given to the famous actor, James D. Franco. Oh boy.

     According to Santana, Franco had only attended two of the courses' fourteen sessions. This gave the professor no choice but to give Franco, in the spring of 2010, the bad grade. Despite the D, Franco, the holder of a Master's Degree of Fine Arts from Columbia, earned his Master's Degree from NYU's Film Production Department. Currently pursuing a Ph.D in English at Yale, Franco is now on NYU's Tisch School faculty, teaching a course on adopting poetry into film. (Huh?) So, the student who got the D is teaching at the school that fired the professor who gave it to him. No wonder the ex-professor is in such a snit. But wait, in this academic drama, there is more.

     According to plaintiff Santana, Mr. Franco has rubbed salt into his wound by making disparaging remarks and inaccurate statements about him in public. For one thing, Franco has called Santana's course an "acting class" when it was in fact a directing class. Santana says he didn't give Franco a D for bad acting, but for missing class. In other words, Mr. Santana wasn't grading Mr. Franco's acting ability, he was grading his attendance ability. Mr. Franco wasn't a bad actor, he was just a bad attender.

     I'm lucky that before I retired none of the students I gave Ds to got rich and famous. I didn't have many bad actors, but I did have my share of bad attenders.

Contributing to What ?!

     In Menlo Park, California, Stanford University Professor Bill Burnett and his wife Cynthia hosted a party for their son and 44 high school students. (What were they thinking?) The kids were celebrating the last football game of the season. The parents had made it clear that alcoholic beverages were prohibited. Well, as you can imagine, booze found its way into the Burnett house. When the basement party got loud and a neighbor complained, police entered the house, found the alcohol, and hauled the professor and his wife off to jail in handcuffs. Charged with 44 counts of contributing to a minor's delinquency, Professor Burnett faces up to a year behind bars.

     While it is not unreasonable to assume that these 44 students are being taught or coached by at least one pedophile who will never see the inside of a jail cell, it's professor Burnett and his wife who have criminally endangered the welfare of these kids. If the Burnetts are guilty of anything, it's stupidity. If they hadn't hosted the party, the kids could have gotten drunk in a Walmart parking lot. In law enforcement it's not about arresting the right people, it's about arresting who you can.

Anger Mismanagement in High Education

     In 2007 police arrested a New Hampshire professor who threatened to kill a colleague for turning him in for a parking violation that resulted in a ticket. Because the university alerted its staff to report the threatening professor if he stepped on compus, he sued the scholl for defamation. The plaintiff lost his case at the trial level, and lost again on appeal. The court battle took two years to resolve. And it was all over a parking ticket. Welcome to academia.

     In 2010, a then professor of criminology and sociology at Anna Maria College in Paxton, Massachusetts, using a variety of Facebook usernames, threatened to kill a New Orleans police officer. The 58-year-old professor, in accusing the officer of raping his girlfriend in 2007, urged to officer to "own up to what you did," and hinted of having friends in a Hell's Angels biker gang pay him a visit. In December 2011, a federal judge, after the professor had pleaded guilty, fined him $5,000 and sentenced him to three years probabion.


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