Thursday, April 10, 2008

Crime and Race in Marquette Philosophy Class: Student Defends Cops, Forced to “Apologize”

That there is a racial double standard in academia is not news, so when a student who is a police intern defends cops against charges that they are racist, what would we expect to happen?

Exactly what happened last Thursday in Marquette’s Philosophy 151 (“History and Philosophy of Crime and Punishment”) class: the professor (one Nancy Snow) “suggested” that he apologize. Coming from an authority figure who has the power to determine your grade, such a “suggestion” is more than just a casual piece of advice.

The whole exchange got started with a class discussion of supposed “over criminalization,” the notion that government outlaws too many things, resulting in a lack of respect for the law. It then moved to a discussion of how police supposedly abuse their powers, using traffic laws as a “pretext” to stop drivers in order to, for example, search for drugs.

At this point the student, Greg Karge, chimed in to point out that police often bear the brunt of this disrespect for the law, mentioning an incident he had seen. An Hispanic who was pulled over proceeded to abuse the cops, calling them “racist.”

In spite of the fact that race was explicitly part of the context of the discussion, Snow objected to the mention of the driver’s ethnicity trying to, according to Karge, “stop me in the middle of my comment, trying to give me a wave” and then saying “why did you bring that up?” Another student remembers Snow saying “Greg, this is offensive, we have a diverse group in the room.” Another student said of Snow’s response “it surprised me because I personally didn’t find his response offensive.”

Karge also pointed out that “if you are polite and respectful to cops they are likely to cut you a break,” the implication being that truculent attitudes of many minorities are part of the problem. He also defended using traffic laws to stop people who are suspected of carrying drugs, saying there is “no other way.”

A vigorous discussion ensued. There is, of course, nothing wrong with a vigorous discussion, but a large part of it involved Karge being berated by a handful of liberal students who were “offended.” Two of the blacks in class complained about how they had been stopped because of their race (although they had not been asked to get out of their cars, had not been ticketed and their cars had not been searched). A liberal student told Karge “you have no right to look at something from one side,” a hugely ironic statement, given that the class had been looking at the issue only from the side of aggrieved minorities.

After class Snow took Karge aside and told him that his comments “could have been interpreted as offensive,” mentioning especially offense to black students. She “suggested” to him that he should write an apology to the black students. Instead, he wrote the apology to the entire class. It read as follows:
I would just like to apologize for any of my comments that I said today that may have offended anyone, that was not my intention by any means. I did not articulate my argument the way that I wanted to, but that is no excuse if I did accidentally offend anyone I would like to explain myself [and] deeply apologize.
It is obvious from several accounts of the incident that Karge articulated his position in a perfectly reasonable way, but then caved to pressure from the professor. A student in the class told us “Since Greg wants to be a police officer one day, he’s been working closely with other officers. He was simply relaying these experiences to us in class, and telling us what he saw and heard during these experiences.”

In the wake of this apology, two students from the class e-mailed him to insist that he had nothing for which to apologize. Other students, responding to our e-mails, said they saw nothing offensive in his comments, one saying “I personally didn’t consider the comments offensive. I could possibly see that some might be offended at the example he chose, but the point he was trying to convey is what I was focusing on.” And another: “From my perspective, when Greg was called upon, he was explaining that it is not as though the police officers are the bad guys, but that they are only doing their jobs.”

Thus looking at police/community relations from a “minority” point of view is perfectly alright, but looking at it from a cop’s point of view is not. And saying that minorities often show hostility toward the cops is also out of bounds. As another student in the class put it:
Everything that Greg said could be considered an observation. He mentioned something about how he had tended to see more African Americans and other minorities with a distaste for police officers. This directly correlated to what Husak, the author we are reading, mentioned in his article in terms of the cycle of overcriminalization. For some reason when Husak said it, this statement was not offensive, but when Greg said it the class overreacted a lot.

Chilling Effect?

While Snow’s response was not appropriate, it is obvious that a small handful of liberal students has, in this class at least, been able to stifle discussion. Any politically incorrect comments are met with moans, tapping of pencils and ostentatious disrespect. It is not clear to us that liberal students are in the majority, but there are enough to chill viewpoints they don’t like.

Karge told us that, when the notion of “driving while black” came up in class, “I thought about going against that, but dropped the idea, knowing where it would go.” And further he has “talked to students who have said they don’t raise issues that are controversial, because they know they will be shouted down.”

Another student said the class has a “very liberal air,” and that “anybody who feels otherwise is jumped on immediately.”

Students, for example, are required to read a “fact sheet” from the liberal Death Penalty Information Center which is rife with inaccuracies and slanted data -- for example, the claim that over 120 people have gotten off death row because of evidence of their innocence. In reality, only a minority of people on the list have gotten off because of actual evidence of innocence, as opposed to procedural issues. A clear majority actually committed the murders for which they were sentenced.

Professor Snow failed to respond to two e-mails and one voice mail asking for an interview.

It is important not to overstate this issue, since a fair number of students simply don’t want to get into any controversy, and don’t say things that other students or the professor might disagree with. This is doubtless true of our own classes, and of pretty much any class that debates controversial issues.

But the professor does play a key role. He or she can send the message that differing viewpoints are acceptable – even if they meet with vigorous disagreement – or, on the other hand, that “offensive” views (meaning conservative views) are to be avoided.

Too many professors – especially in the humanities and in education – do the latter. Pressuring a student to apologize for perfectly reasonable comments sends a strong message of politically correct intolerance.

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14 Comments:

Anonymous Devin said...

From my experience, this is fairly common at Marquette. I've seen it in many different classes I've taken and it typically involves one student speaking his mind and then being attacked by several other students for their views.

Dare I use the word "oppressed"?

I can honestly say that I've felt hesitant about revealing my political views many times around campus because when you have six or seven individuals arguing against one, it really just isn't a fair fight and they aren't going to stop until they feel as though they have humiliated you for your beliefs.

9:16 PM  
Blogger Republicrat said...

Suppression of dissenting voices, which, according to Devin, appear to be prevalent in this institution of liberal social justice, I mean, higher learning, are exactly why the Office of Student Development should have approved Students for Academic Freedom last year.

If there were adequate avenues for redress for students like Mr. Karge, as OSD claimed last year when it denied recognition of Students for Academic Freedom, one would not expect to find suppression of dissenting opinions in the classroom. Not that I didn't suspect it at the time, but Mr. Karge's case is further evidence that OSD's reasons for denying SAF were mere pretext. It seems OSD's decision was yet another example of suppression of dissenting [conservative] voices on campus.

10:02 PM  
Blogger Republicrat said...

Sorry for the second post, but I forgot to shamelessly offer a link to my letter to the Marquette Tribune from the previous school year, which I'm sure was read by about three students.

http://media.www.marquettetribune.org/media/storage/paper1130/news/2007/02/06/Viewpoints/Decision.Reflects.Poorly.On.Marquette-2696221.shtml

11:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I had one of Snow's classes recently, and saw the same general behavior. The liberals in the class dominated discussion, Snow generally supported and agreed with their comments, and then whenever any conservative remarks were made, Snow would give that confused, "how could you even think that" look while the rest of the liberals in the class got riled up and/or shot looks of death at the student. As for myself, a conservative, I realized that I wasn't going to change anyone's views, so I generally chose to stay out of the discussions of hot button issues. So I generally bit my tounge... and got an A. Worth it? I think so, but that doesn't mean it is something that should be allowed to carry on...

12:27 PM  
Blogger Social Worker said...

Although I am of liberal leanings, in my time at Marquette I felt that the classes I took were generally very open to discussions of different views. I was not in a class with Snow but I could think of quite of few other philosophy, theology, and liberal arts courses during which really good discussions of both sides of an issue took place. On the other hand, there were times when student organizations with which I was affiliated were stifled by the administration and/or the jesuits due to a difference of opinion on an issue. I don't think the student should have had to apologize and it's a shame that the prof. has chosen to use the institution as a place for personal bias and rhetoric.

2:44 PM  
Blogger John McAdams said...

Social Worker,

I certainly would not disagree with you. I don't think the typical or average Marquette class is nasty and repressive. On the other hand, quite a few are.

I asked Karge how many classes he had taken that were marked by oppressive political correctness. He thought very few.

Being a Criminal Justice major, he quickly mentioned three courss taught by people in the criminal justics system -- cops, prosecutors and defense attorneys.

On the other hand, there were times when student organizations with which I was affiliated were stifled by the administration and/or the jesuits due to a difference of opinion on an issue.

I don't doubt this for a moment.

I think the key is that liberals dominate the Office of Student Development, University Ministry, Manresa and the Mission Office.

But they are somewhat timid liberal bureaucrats.

When they do their own programming, it has a marked liberal bias. Back in the fall of 2006, pro-gay marriage advocates appeared on several of their programs. But zero gay marriage opponents were programmed by any of those folks.

They will never program anything on abortion. The reason is that they are liberals who are not willing to oppose abortion.

But actually programming something (or letting a student group program something) that is flatly pro-abortion would create flack for them.

I guess we should agree that I dislike these people because they are bent on liberal indoctrination, and we can both agree to dislike them because they are timid bureaucrats.

10:25 PM  
Blogger Milwaukee Social Worker said...

Thanks for the response. I found it interesting in my time there that the Jesuits were "great" christians when it came to certain issues (ie: manresa, hunger clean up etc.) but were incredibly hypocritical in other instances. But I cam to realize that they are not just religious leaders, they are business men trying to make money. It's sad but true.... I will be paying my loans back for another 30 years so I'll have time to think about it :)

8:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dr. McAdams,

I know you sought out the opinion of students in the class but what you wrote is a gross misrepresentation of the events and order of events in the class. I really think that if you had been for the discussion you would have written the article a bit differently. No doubt you still would have defended Greg and his comments, but I'm a student in the class, who saw nothing wrong with what Greg said, but who knows that this article does not even come close to accurately characterizing what went on that day. For the average reader this looks like an astute representation of the liberal slant of academia, for the average person who actually witnessed the event, this looks like very very poor journalism. I won't beat a dead horse, but this just isn't how things transpired.

7:21 PM  
Blogger John McAdams said...

Anonymous said...
Dr. McAdams,

I know you sought out the opinion of students in the class but what you wrote is a gross misrepresentation of the events and order of events in the class. I really think that if you had been for the discussion you would have written the article a bit differently.


I know people perceive things differently, but I got six e-mails from students who were there and described what went on, and did three personal interviews (including that with Karge).

Of course there was variation around the edges (one student had Snow saying "there are people of color in the class" and another saying "this is a diverse class" before she told Karge he was being offensive).

I went with the latter, since the student in question claims a vivid memory of the exact wording. But essentially the two were identical.

I also sent a draft of the article to five or six of the students with whom I had contact. They approved it.

I'm a student in the class, who saw nothing wrong with what Greg said,

Then it seems you agree with the fundamental point of the article.

That being the case, what salient points do you think I got wrong?

10:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

But student groups have organized events about abortion, and OSD approved them. I can remember two that occurred while I was a student. Students for Life hosted a pro-life speaker, and then a forum discussed abortion afterwards. And another event had a panel of women discussing the effects of abortion psychologically on women.

At least get your facts right.

9:12 AM  
Blogger John McAdams said...

But student groups have organized events about abortion, and OSD approved them.

Right, but I was talking about programming organized by OSD staffers.

That is the indicator of where their heads are.

They can hardly turn down anti-abortion programming mounted by somebody else.

But they won't program on it themselves. The reason: they don't want to support the Chruch's position, and they would get into trouble if they outright opposed the Church's position.

12:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually, the suppression of speech in academe is a form of intellectual cowardice. When a professor is unable to deal with the facts and resorts to the imposition of political correctness, it is an admission of base incompetence or, worse, an attempt to indoctrinate rather than educate.

Professor Snow owes an apology to Mr. Karge and to all her students for what she has done. However, I doubt that she has the personal courage or professional integrity to admit her failure.

9:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dr. McAdams,
I am a New York City police Detective with more than 10years of police experiance. I have read your article and as I agree with some points, I do disagree with others. Most officers today will tell you that there are certain over critical police practices with alot of emphasis on minor offenses. This is known as the broken window theory, i.e. fix the small problem before it gets bigger. I personaly do not agree with this practice but I must admit that it has proven effective and does reduce crime in many ways.
What I do not agree with is so called doctors and authors who have the luxory of sitting in conference rooms and classrooms and think that gives them the right to speakout on police policies. That to me is outrageous, if you want to learn about what police oficers do than go and do a ride along in a squad car. Go with them when they are doing a traffic stop and the driver may seem to be acting a little suspicously, because until that day comes you will never know what that police officer is thinking.... I have worked in some of the most violent areas of Brooklyn N.Y. and have arrested over one hundred people who were carrying illegal firearms, I have done this without being shot myself or ever having to shoot anybody. But "DR" snow would never understand that for she is a woman who would rather preech what she feels is right and wrong and make it a race related issue. It is not about race for police officers, we simply arrest the bad guys who ever they may be and as a result of the have to deal with idiotic commets from a "DR" who has no clue.
As for Mr. Karge i say bravo for trying to make a point and spark a debate ( it is my understanding that is what universities do ) maybe he chose his words poorly and may not articulated himself in the proper way. But I see no reason why should have to apologize for participating in an open forum.

10:41 AM  
Anonymous Tim said...

The teacher and some students were offended? To quote Charlie Sykes: So what? No, really...So what? Where is it written that there shall be no offense given? I've checked my Bible and it's not one of the Ten Commandments, and it's not in the Bill of Rights or the rest of the Constitution. It's strange to me that nobody has mentioned caring about Mr. Karge's feelings. What if he is offended at having been bullied into toeing the line? (I would guess that it isn't that much of an issue, but that's beside the point) It's funny that those in the poistion of 'power'-the vocal liberal majority on campus-should resort to playing the offended victim, when it's clear to most that the conservative element is in fact most often the oppressed minority. What strange times we live in.

10:34 PM  

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