Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Marquette Professor Makes Flippant, Innocuous Comment in Class, Is Banned from Campus

Sometimes, of course, professors make comments in class that are out of bounds.  And sometimes students get upset about comments that are, in reality, fairly innocuous.  A little of the former and a lot of the latter happened a few weeks ago at Marquette.

According to Marquette Tribune:
According to a call received by the Tribune, a criminology professor was asked to leave his class after a student reported feeling uncomfortable.

The caller said criminology professor Richard Zevitz patted down students as part of a demonstration, and then, when talking about the concealed carry law in Wisconsin, said if an active shooter came into the classroom, he would shoot the shooter and possibly a few students he did not like. Some students reportedly felt uncomfortable enough to report it to the dean of the College of Arts & Sciences.
There was one clear error in what the caller reported. Zevitz did not pat down students. He had student volunteers pat down other students (males patting down males and females females). Quite obviously, in a Criminal Justice class, the proper procedures for a pat down are a legitimate subject. Further, that didn’t happen this semester.

More serious, potentially, was the talk about shooting people. If any student actually had cause to believe the instructor might shoot them, that would be a real cause for alarm.

But nobody could reasonably think that Zevitz might do that.

Bureaucrats often overreact to anything that even vaguely suggests firearms violence. Remember the case of the grade school kid who chewed a pop tart into the shape of a pistol and was expelled.

In this case, Zevitz’ last two classes were cancelled. He was put on paid administrative leave for the Spring semester, and he was banned from campus.  He was told he could not even visit his library carrel.

Most students, doubtless, put this in proper perspective.  According to the Tribune:
Keisha Harper, a senior in the College of Arts & Sciences, said although Zevitz might seem strange at first, he just has a dark sense of humor.

“I remember coming in freshmen year and thinking that this man is a little bit out there, kinda crazy, but then again, I was a freshman at Marquette, and I didn’t really understand the criminology department,” Harper said. “I came to the realization that (Zevitz) isn’t crazy, he just kind of has a sick sense of humor.”

Harper added that through working with police officers and those in the criminology field, she realized that a darker sense of humor is needed to be in that line of work.
Another issue here is the suspicion that the judgment of the Department of Social and Cultural Sciences might not be completely unbiased in dealing with this case.  Zevitz has been in conflict with some of the more politically correct members of the Department, and at least some of his “colleagues” might look favorably on tossing him out – or at least inducing him to leave.

Zevitz is certainly a leftist, but having been in law enforcement for several years, he simply doesn’t have the prissy sense of political correctness of many of his colleagues.

Indeed, one suspects that what they really didn’t like was his claim that he would be willing to shoot a maniac on a murderous rampage.  But in reality, since Marquette doesn’t allow guns on campus (except in the hands of Public Safety), his odds of being able to do that would be slim.

What combination of political bias, interpersonal conflict and bureaucratic timidity caused this fiasco is not entirely clear. But that this was an overreaction is entirely clear.

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