Faculty Satire: Crossing a Line? · 08 December 2004

DECEMBER 8, 2004

Faculty Satire: Crossing a Line?

Stevens Point, WI - An assistant lecturer of English at the University of Wisconsin - Stevens Point outraged some students with violent statements made in a satirical column in the student newspaper.

In the November 4th post-election issue of The Pointer, Pat Rothfuss' article contained phrases such as "punching smug looking republicans in the mouth," "key every car you see with a Bush bumper sticker," and "[W]hy don't you go on a killing spree… you can take out fifteen or sixteen republicans before they gun you down." Students at Stevens Point understand free speech and satire, but the UWSP College Republicans started raising questions after discovering that Rothfuss is an associate lecturer of English.

"Imagine how Republican students feel in Rothfuss' classes. Diversity and freedom of expression are not promoted in an environment in which a teacher advocates the killing of those who vote differently," writes Aaron Michels in a letter to the editor of The Pointer. Michels, the vice-president of the College Republicans, added, "No matter which side of the political spectrum one is on, we should all be able to agree that more should be expected of our professors and lecturers."

Rothfuss was a student at UWSP and has written this column since his freshman year. He decided to continue writing once he became an English lecturer. Although the article is a satire, Michels thinks the comments were inappropriate and an example of a double standard. "Imagine the reaction if Rothfuss had substituted another campus minority group for 'Republicans' - gays, women, Jews, African-Americans, for example."

This instance, among others, raises questions with students about what is and is not appropriate conduct for their professors. A tension exists between free speech and academic professionalism, and some students are looking for action that will respect both. Other accounts of bias in the classroom led students to organize a local chapter of Students for Academic Freedom. SAF is a nationwide organization dedicated to protecting intellectual diversity and advocates the passage of the Academic Bill of Rights.

The College Republicans are meeting with a receptive UWSP administration and hope the issues of academic freedom, classroom bias, and faculty professionalism will be addressed.

For more information about SAF, access http://www.studentsforacademicfreedom.org/


Aaron Michels
Vice President
UWSP College Republicans