Freedom of Speech

There is a tempest in a teapot swirling over some controversial posts made by a associate professor at Oberlin.  There are a number of facets of this exchange that are interesting.

I learned about it through an email from the alumni association that urged calm and professed trust in the administration to handle the situation.  Not having a clue what was going on (my first complaint — urging me to be calm without informing me what it is that I am thought to have become perturbed about) I had to research it.

I discovered that an associate professor had posted remarks on Facebook that were claimed to be anti-Semitic but could not find the post in question.  Apparently the blog repeated the tired old stuff that the US was in the pocket of the Israelis and together they had performed the 9/11 and Paris attacks.  As near as I can tell there was no evidence provided.

The quotations from the professor in question do seem to bring into doubt her qualifications to be an professor at Oberlin — imperfect language, diatribe rather than reason.  Her areas of study are alien to me and do not seem to have standard definitions when searched for on the internet (“black protest literacy,” for example).

However, her course blog seems to be well enough done — if a bit derivative (whole phrase of homework assignments can be found elsewhere, such as the rhetorical use of logos, pathos, etc.).  They are controversial, having to do with such topics as “Is ebonics a distinct language or a variant of English?”

Her critiques are not much better, tossing silly claims around, long on polemic and short on evidence.

All in all I am of the opinion that she is a weak addition to the faculty that I hope does not represent the current state of Oberlin academics (leaving aside what I consider to be the questionable elevation of some of her areas of interests to the status of “academic.”).  She is probably not as evil as portrayed (although it is hard to determine this since so few facts are available), but is also a lousy candidate to be embroiled in this sort of brouhaha.  She just plain cannot hold her own in this arena.  She will lose, Oberlin will lose, and no light will be shone on anything.