Thursday, April 20, 2006


Moral Dilemma

I’m up against a moral dilemma. I know which way I’m leaning, but vox blogosphere, vox dei, so I’ll put it out there and see if there’s something good I haven’t thought of yet.

Some local homeschoolers have banded together to rent a room in a church for occasional group classes in subjects the parents aren’t capable of teaching themselves. This group’s bond is an extremely conservative brand of Protestantism. The students are high school aged, so their parents still have tremendous sway over what goes on in the ‘classroom’ they’ve rented. For the sake of simple verbiage, and in honor of Bitch, Ph.D., I’ll call this group The Peeps.

Anyway, The Peeps have contacted the college to have us teach a few classes to the high school kids this Fall, at their facility. Since we occasionally teach classes at other high schools, this is not out of the question. While we’ve had some give-and-take over which subjects would be appropriate – Calculus is fine, but they’re not entirely comfortable with General Psychology since it addresses sexuality – we’ve pretty much settled on some courses that they can accept without any watering-down on our part. (To our credit, I think, we have insisted that anything we teach will be taught the way we normally would. No alternate assignments for delicate sensibilities.)

One of the courses we’ve settled on – I’ll call it Plain Vanilla 101 – is usually taught by any of a half-dozen faculty. All of the faculty who teach it are highly capable instructors, with years of experience teaching diverse groups of students. No problem there.

Here’s the catch. One of the relevant faculty – I’ll call her Jen – is, um, very conspicuously committed to some lifestyle choices that this group would believe would land her in Hell in short order. Really, really conspicuously. If you met her, you would pick up on it before she said a word.

On campus, the reaction to Jen has been remarkably (and creditably) blasé. She’s an excellent teacher, and she has been accepted as such. There may be an offended student here or there, but any student who takes offense is free to drop the class. Very few have, and none have given her lifestyle as a reason (not that they would).

Based on what I know of The Peeps, though, they would blow some cerebral fuses if Jen showed up to teach their section of Plain Vanilla 101. Even if the students accepted her, the parents wouldn’t. (In my experience, parents are usually much less tolerant than students.) It could quickly escalate into a major public brouhaha, and what was supposed to be a bridge-building exercise in the community would become yet another casualty of the culture wars. Since the county as a whole is pretty conservative, the college would wind up getting punished for it. In that circumstance, nobody wins.

Yet, if I pre-emptively rule Jen out of consideration, how is that different from discriminating against her? A church group is free to set its own boundaries, but the college isn’t governed by a church. It’s a public institution.

It’s not a given that Jen would even want the class. There are several other instructors who teach the course, none of whom would raise the red flags that she would. But she might, and I’m not thrilled with either ruling her out or starting a stupid political fight that the college would lose.

My leaning is to tell the department of the opportunity, and of the nature of The Peeps, and then to ask for a volunteer. If Jen steps forward and nobody else does, I’d give her the course, but I’d also meet with the Chief Peep in advance to give a heads-up, and essentially give an ultimatum: either take the course with Jen, or don’t take the course. If Jen is a deal-breaker, I’d rather find out in May than in September.

Loyal readers – is there a better way that I haven’t figured out? If neither ‘cater to the most intolerant’ nor ‘go down in a blaze of glory’ is an option, and we actually do want to serve this underserved (and rapidly growing) part of the community, what to do?

"Discretion is the better part of valor"

MSN had an article this AM (4/20) about how and when to pick a fight at work, which may help you decide. Do you really want to fight this battle with the parents of the peeps? Personally, I'd find another instructor, perhaps an adjunct, who can give the peeps the added attention they want/need.
I think the approach you outlined (being up front about the nature of the group and asking for faculty volunteers) is a good one on the face of it. And make sure you tell EVERY unit the exact same information about this group, because you may not be aware that person X in another teaching area may not want to participate knowing that.

I assume you have (as my school does) an algorhythm for deciding who gets a given opportunity (such as teaching a summer class)? (Ours involves a combination of interest, most recent opportunity, time of service, retirement considerations)

What will you do if Jen is one of several volunteers and comes up first in your algorhythm? (Because if she volunteers and there's no way she gets to really compete for the opportunity, then you're not actually being honest nor fair with your faculty, and that's an ethical breech, I think.)

IF you don't already have an algorhythm for making these decisions, then have each unit create one that works fairly for them and use it. Or if you have to create it, make sure you make it fair up front because otherwise you'll permanently discriminate against this faculty member.

(What are you going to do if they object to a Jew or Muslim teaching? How would you treat a group that insisted on only white instructors?)
Hi, I am currently in a course on public personnel administration. And we just covered discrimination. Ruling out "Jen" preemptively is unlawful discrimination, hands down. Don't expose yourself to the liability.

And it's bad policy, on top of it. After all, you describe this as a bridge building exercise. Let's see some bridges actually built.

But before you even get there, I have some questions. For instance, you mention that some classes are taught at local high schools. Are any of those schools private? You may wish to establish minimum standards a school must present before they are eligble for this. Personally, I would set it that they must be public. Isn't there an accrediting body for private high schools? That could be a standard. Otherwise, I don't understand why the group of students can't just enroll together.
Hmmm.. .I have a few questions here.

First, have the parents already expressed reservations, or criteria, about the backgrounds of the faculty that would teach the courses? If they have not, isn't your assumption simply a pre-judging of the parents, and in a rather condescending way? (Condescending, since the tone seems to be that you view the parents as not as enlightened and accepting as your academic community.)

Second, what would be the reaction of your faculty to this type of work? I suspect you may actually have some faculty that feel an affinity with these parents, and have felt it necessary in academia to perhaps suppress those views when around campus. These faculty may step up, whole-heartedly, and the problem may simply resolve itself in a most satisfactory manner.

Finally, (on a broader scale) to what extent should we, as faculty, be willing to change to ensure that the message of the course content is not obscured by other irrelevant aspects? These can include appearance (clothing, piercings, hygiene) but also use of profanity in the classroom (yes we have "academic freedom" but must some faculty swear in every other sentence?) Essentially, do we have a responsibility to the students that may at times require us to supress our stronger personalities/natures to not hinder the message?
Bardiac's slippery slope is precisely what I'm worried about. If we start catering to the closed-minded, where does it end? If that community grows even more, would we eventually have to start hiring to satisfy their tastes? I don't like where that leads.

Am I being condescending? It's true that I haven't yet asked the chief Peep about this particular faculty member, but that's because I don't think a hypothetical conversation along those lines would be productive. (And we've never -- never -- had conversations like that with any other group, ever.)

'Algorithm' is probably too high-falutin' a word to capture the process of staffing. After content competence, logistics are usually the deciding factor. (Everybody gets one prep day, for example, and nobody should have to teach a morning and an evening class on the same day.) This is an unusual case.
Logistics may bail me out here, but that's an evasion, rather than a policy.

Homeschoolers aren't accredited.

In response to The Professor's underlying point, yes, there are certain values I consider both right and necessary for the successful functioning of a college. Among those is non-discrimination based on irrelevant factors. I agree that not everybody defines 'irrelevant' the same way, but I don't think I should have to cater to the most exclusionary. If anything, I prefer to err in the opposite direction. Yes, that's a value judgment, and a damn good one. Either we stand for something or we fall for anything.

Are there some conservative faculty who feel oppressed by the liberal groupthink of academia? Probably. But to me, there's a world of difference between being vaguely uncomfortable at your job and not being able to get a job in the first place. I'm vaguely uncomfortable being a generation younger than almost everybody I manage, but I suck it up. It's called being a grownup. If I deny Jen the opportunity, that's much worse than some tenured Republican wincing at the occasional Bush joke.
With regard to staffing, I understand the complexities. I would simply handle it as any other opportunity. If the faculty member in question is interested, then cross that bridge and have that conversation about what she is in for, and explain your perspective. If I was in her shoes, I'd appreciate that you are sharing your perspective and consideration for both her and the mission of your CC.

This situation is ironic (to me). Not quite relevant to your dilemma, but I'll share it anyway.

We are a homeschooling family, and belong to a similar homeschooling co-operative like what you describe. Our "group politics" are a total opposite to your "Peeps."

After a couple of years of meeting, we were "asked to leave" by the church that hosted us. They said they had other programming, but word-of-mouth told us that they didn't like our bumperstickers in their parking lot.

Want to trade groups?

I'm actually surprised that the homeschool group and your CC are both OK with you providing instructors on their site. In our state, if it smells like a "school" (often defined as people instructing for pay), the educrats are all over you.
You might be surprised... if "Jen" ended up with this course, maybe they would see this as an opportunity to engage with someone who needs to be saved.
Following up on Bardiac's comments, I think following s.o.p here is exactly the right way to go. And "logistics" doesn't strike me as an "evasion" so much as the way that all scheduling is normally accomplished.

So do what you would typically do, and if the Peeps object, then that's one less headache you'll need to deal with in the future. And if they don't object, then you can look forward to navigating this issue again another semester.
I agree that your thought process here is sound, Dean Dad. If Jen volunteers, knowing full well what the Peep's agenda is, she may see it as an opportunity to do a little heart-changing of her own, or she may be more inured to discrimination than you know. I have several friends who are gay/trans who teach in conservative environments, and most of them feel that, hey, at least the discrimination is out in the open instead of latently passive aggressive the way it is with liberals. As long as Jen is aware of the situation, I'd say let 'er rip, and don't set the Peeps up. Let them see her teach first.
There are numerous opportunities for homeschooling parents to find competent tutors/teachers for high-school subjects who come from a particular religious perspective. That they came to your CC is indicative of a willingness to sacrifice some of that independence for the instruction they would receive. I don't think, then, that they would be so opposed to Jen as you might imagine.
Liz here from I Speak of Dreams.

Veering somewhat away from CCDad's question here.

Anon. asked
"Are any of those schools private? You may wish to establish minimum standards a school must present before they are eligble for this. Personally, I would set it that they must be public. Isn't there an accrediting body for private high schools? That could be a standard. Otherwise, I don't understand why the group of students can't just enroll together."

I know a bit about the independent school universe, and the accreditation of same.

Private schools & accreditation is a maze. Some choose to be accreddited by the same body that accredits public schools--here in the West, it is the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC). Some do not, and choose to be accredited by another body, such as those serving the more doctrinally conservative Catholic schools, or the umbrella organization, National Council of Private School Accreditation.

Anon. seems to think it is a guarantee of high academic quality. It isn't. WASC, for example, does not pass judgment on the school's academic rigor, it just looks to see if the school is doing what they aim to do, and have marshalled the resources to keep doing so.

There are other, technical details, such as the requirement for the school to be in existence for five years before beginning the accreditation process, etc. etc. etc.

So don't rely upon accreditation as a measure of academic rigor.
One consideration I will add: you should strive to set up a framework (precedent) for future interactions, not just with this group but with other "bridges."

If you work to accommodate (either by avoiding Jen, working her into the situation or mitigating her reception with the client), then you will have the same issue occur the next year/time they want a course. You will also have this same issue when another group comes calling--either more or less conservative (you could, conceivably have the reverse--think Rush Limbaugh teaching Professor Staff's group).

So, as you negotiate this client relationship, there should be an accompanying set of expectations: they can choose the content, you choose the instructor. If they don't agree, then this particular arrangment, regrettably, just will not work.

I have a feeling that they will want the advanced content, even from a "sinner." Saying that, and coming from this type of group, they could just as well spite themselves into ingnorance.

Let us know how it goes.
I agree with the comments that ruling Jen out right off the bat is discriminatory. Your original plan is probably one of the better options in a situation full of few really good ones. Put out the call for volunteers, and explain to those who do what's going on.

I am currently teaching an English Comp class in which I have a openly lesbian student. Many of her classmates are openly anti-gay. This has caused *serious* problems this semester, and 've handled them as best I can. Oh, had I only known the problems this class would bring.

I feel for you. You have my empathy and best wishes as you try to sort things out.
One of the relevant faculty – I’ll call her Jen – is, um, very conspicuously committed to some lifestyle choices that this group would believe would land her in Hell in short order.

Given the name, I'm assuming she doesn't have crushed testicles, but I'm betting it's more of a wearing polyester _and_ cotton outfits. That or she likes eating shellfish.

I come from an Australian perspective here, but as far as I understand it, only religious institutions and their affiliates/companies are able to discriminate against someone on ground of causing religious offence/not ascribing to same religious values. Even though this school may be paying the college (?), the staff would not be paid from the same fund, but rather from the public allocations. So to even adopt a procedure that would minimise the chance of Jen's selection is to discriminate against her in the carrying out of her duties and in the provision of an equitable, respectful work environment.
However, if she were selected, it would probably be fair to ask that she alter her consumption of shellfish or wear 100% cotton fibres, to present an appropriate impression, but to also make clear that in no way should she have to alter that quality (belief, essence, 'lifestyle' etc) to carry out her duites.
To do otherwise would be like not picking the african american staff member to teach mormon students before 1976 - it's an aquiescence as well as a subtle form of complicance in the practicing of at a base level illegal discrimination, and at another level, an improper academic act, in ethical terms, and at a managerial level, an engaging in bad practice that solidifies a precedent for future staff and supervisors.
I think you've hit the right approach; handle this like any other staff interaction by asking for volunteers, and handle the situation as it goes forward.

The last thing you want to do is act as a discriminatory gatekeeper for the Peeps. Taking a moment to accomodate their perspective by giving them a heads-up is just common courtesy. Letting them dictate hiring practices for the university is not.
I'd have to support the general thrust of this conversation, though with one exception. I see no need to give a particular heads-up to the Peeps. Assuming that Jen's lifestyle is irrelevant to the course, then, as an Administrator, you should leave it as such.

Who decides what is relevant? I'd suggest leaving it to the expert on the course's subject-- Jen. If she volunteers, talk to her about the situation. Does she want to give the heads-up? Will she mention her lifestyle as part of class (converstation outside of class is irrelevant)? The Dean's role, as I see it, would be to do as she asked (within reason).

If she isn't going to make it part of the class, leave it be. It will be awfully hard for the Peeps to make a stink over something they are infering from her appearance or from her honest answer to a student's question outside of class. As an administrator, I'd deal with any such conversation by focusing on classroom performance and refusing to discuss anything they think they might have picked up. (And perhaps make clear how this limit protects them. After all, they are minority too.)

In short, leave it to Jen to handle. My guess is this won't be the first time she's had to handle something like this.
What about laying it out to the "head peep"? It seems to me that there's an awful lot of deciding going on for them - what if you were to say "the person most qualified to teach this course is ___; do you have a problem with this?" They then assume some culpability with the situation.
I am finding it interesting that we are all making "assumptions" about the lifestyle of "Jen."

Hmmm.. Lesbian? Goth? "Heathen" (or the less descript, "pagan")

I find this sort of discourse enlightening, since we all actually bring prejudices to the table, as we all "assume" what she "is."
As a queer female academic I would be pissed if you took the suggestion offered above mine. I've learned to go into situations assuming that no-one will have a problem with me; people often rise to that occasion. Now, I have the advantage of not wearing my sexual orientation on my sleeve so to speak, but I've adopted this practice after observing my wife (who, as she says, "wears a big L on her forhead") do the same.

The idea of letting people know what they are in for and asking for volunteers means you are weeding Jen out to begin with: think about how difficult it is to offer to do something you want to do if the Dean has just said it will be very difficult (and that the CC might not have your back?). I would resent being placed in that position. Giving her a heads up after the fact about what she is walking into would probably be appreciated, except that then you have colored her perception of what might be a problem. I was awfully glad my mother had forgotten to tell me that my cousins are pretty homophobic before a family gathering at which I let slip that my partner and I were getting married. I would have been more self-conscious, and less myself, the whole night.

Jen, I'm sure, has full knowledge of the general community. Let her take this on if she wants to. Maybe talk to her about the political implications, but if you truly believe in your principles then I think that needs to come above the community building. Do you really want to cater to a community that is so opposed to those principles?
What I find most curious about this conversation is the fact that you are having it out here, in the public where Jen and the Peeps can read it and your "tone of voice." I wonder if that isn't a bit of an ethical breach, or just unwise.

I am certainly sympathetic to your plight and I understand your thought process. For example, not being Jewish and yet having directed our Jewish Studies Program for 6 years, I regularly had to deal with issues/concerns of students and faculty about whether I or other colleagues were truly qualified (not academically, of course!) to teach various courses. We consistently maintained that we are a secular school and judge our faculty and students upon rigorous academic standards, not faith or creed.

Still... I wonder if a blog, and a fairly widely read on at that, is the place to have this conversation, at least before the final decisions and actions have taken place.

BTW - Many homeschool programs are accredited.
Asking for volunteers and then taking it from there does sound like the way to go. I'd just add that, as opposed to meeting with Chief Peep alone and laying down an ultimatum first thing, you might schedule a meeting with the three of you to discuss general course issues or curriculum, and leave it on Chief Peep's head to bring up the lifestyle issue if he/she has a problem with it. That way, you're demonstrating to CP that you don't see any reason, academic or otherwise, why they shouldn't have Jen as an instructor.

(And speaking to the professor's point above, who knows? "Jen" could also be a man, given that "she's" pseudonymous.)
Employers can discriminate all they want so long as it's in the job description. If it was illegal there wouldn't be any modeling agencies out there. I can see the equal rights opportunities people now, "yes I know your ad campaign is marketing this product specifically to rock climbing asian males in the 18-24 demographic, but, you must allow wheel chair bound 54 year old black females in the photo shoot"

This is contract work since the students aren't actually enrolling in your school. The Peeps get the final say in who and what can teach the courses. How about just being an adult about it and telling the head Peep that there are "certain instructors who, while highly qualified, have made life choices you may fundamentally disagree with". Then tell them if they balk at a given instructor they have to tell that instructor why and in person.

You're being a pansy and acting like a child sneaking candy from the cupboard.
I agree with someone who said that the same "warning" or "description" of the peep's school should be given to every discipline.

This should be done in a pretty neutral way, so as not to poison the well, but with sufficient information to allow those who may not want to support the peeps in that way to let you know they would like to decline the course should it be offered to them.

This is a different situaiton in that the nature and tone of the classroom must change with the location. When I decide to teach a course and write a syllabus, I have a general idea as to the nature of the class. This is not the case in the situation you describe above. I think your faculty deserves some notice.
As someone who grew up in a very strict Protestant household probably not much different from the ones you're describing, I thought I'd chime in..

In regards to how to deal with this situation with the Head Peep: Let this person know that whatever faculty is available and willing to take the assignment will do so and that you have full faith in all of them to teach the course. I wouldn't even broach the subject of the possibility of them being offended. If they think it's a possibility and that they might get somewhere by bugging you/Jen, the likelihood of them doing so skyrockets.

Actually, the only person who I think needs to be fully informed would be Jen. If she knows what she's getting into and knows she has your full support, let her at them.

I think you're correct that the parents are more likely to have a problem than the kids, but if you don't tell them there's a "problem," they may not get the news from the kids at all, actually.

Treat the Peeps just like any other client/institution, and let them know you're doing so. They'll know they aren't getting watered-down material, and you'll have the safety net of having followed your usual procedure, regardless of possible offense.
I concur with those who have said you should ask for volunteers with the same process across all depts. I also think you should have the same conversation with each volunteer about the nature of the assignment and the Peeps. Don't poison the well explicitly; they'll get the picture. Then it's up to them.

I think you have no obligation to the Head Peep. They signed on for your institutional services and you are providing them with the instructors that you have determined to be qualified and willing to teach the course. If they aren't happy about who you choose, that's their problem.
I'm an "un-peepish" homeschooling parent, with a different perspective.

Dean Dad, you've got some excellent teachers like "Jen," but you've also written in other posts about deadwood problem-professors at your institution.

So, what do you do if "Professor Deadwood" volunteers to teach this class? (Why would he do that? Who knows? Maybe the location is convenient to his home? Or he likes the time slot?)

Suppose, in the general scheme of the algorithm for allocating classes, his request to teach the class has priority (e.g., because of seniority.)

Do you give him the assignment?

Why or why not? After all, you have to do SOMETHING with him? So do you inflict him on the peep's kids? Or do you inflict him on the students in the regular classes?

My kids and their homeschooling friends took some good classes from some terrific faculty at our local community college during their high school years. It was a good experience for them--and a valuable part of the experience was mingling with the diverse cross-section of the county's population that attends the cc. (It was a far more diverse group than many of them would have encountered if they'd just attended their local suburban high schools, by the way.)

Many of those homeschooled kids have now "graduated from homeschool-high school" and gone on to very successful careers at four year colleges (either as freshmen with "advanced standing" or as transfer student juniors, depending on the policies of the colleges in question. Some of them got no credit at all for their cc courses taken during high school, BUT the grades and recommendations given by the cc professors were still helpful to them in the college admissions process.)

Anyway, my kids and their friends quickly learned that there's a lot of variability in the quality and dedication of the faculty at the various colleges around here. (As an aside, they often discovered that the community college professors were better than some of the professors at the four-year public and private colleges in this area.)

Lifestyle issue wasn't a problem for them (they are agnostics, Reform Jews, Unitarians, Druids, etc.), but teaching quality was.

They picked and chose their instructors carefully.

They knew they had lots of options in every subject and they had taken ownership of their education, so they weren't about to settle for a Prof. Deadwood.

Here's the competition Prof. Deadwood faces:

--independent self-study for AP or CLEP exams is always an option

--there sre also on-line classes available from all over the country, including Harvard's extension school classes (at surprisingly modest cost) University of Texas at Austin also offers very inexpensive on-line classes; indeed MIT's "Open Courseware" is free for highly motivated kids who want to self-study

So they didn't have to put up with substandard instruction in any particular subject, because they had so many alternatives.

Moreover, in our area, there are a number of private local four-year colleges that offer classes to high school students on very favorable terms (much cheaper per credit hour than the rate they charged their full-time students--basically the local private colleges offer "free samples" or "highly discounted" samples to local high school students, on the theory that hopeful some will enroll fulltime after graduation. Homeschoolers can enroll in these classes on the same terms as conventional high school students.

There's also pretty good public transporation, so it's possible for even fairly young homeschoolers to get around easily between institutions, picking and choosing one class here and one there (and studying on the bus in between.)

If Prof. Deadwood offered a class for homeschoolers in our area, he wouldn't have many takers. (From the peeps or from the non-peeps.) They have lots of good alternatives.

If "Jen" offered such a class for homeschoolers, she'd have lots of takers.
As a student, I wouldn't want to not have a teacher due to her lifestyle. What she does in her personal life is private, and if it doesn't affect her teaching, it shouldn't matter. How long can parents shelter their children from the real world? They are causing their children harm by not letting them learn about controversial topics and have an opinion of their own.

Actually, I think challenging them is the best course of action for the students, because it will let them a chance to mull over her prefabricated notions about right and wrong in the present world..
I'm sorry, Dean Dad, but I don't understand a fundamental part of this whole thing. They are homeschoolers, right? Their families have opted out of the public education system, and yet they want to contract with the public education system for classes in 'their' school? Who pays for this? If it's the taxpayer, WTF?? Even if the 'school' is paying the costs of the faculty member's salary, they are still using public resources, and again, WTF??? That's not the point of public education, and it's another slippery slope. I'm sorry, but you can't have it both ways. If they want to have their children take classes from CC faculty, then they should enroll their kids in the CC. Of course, this means, even if the kids are minors, they will be covered by FERPA, and the parents will lose all control. But no, I'm sorry, publicly-employed instructors and CC's have no business providing any educational access to people unwilling to buy into the system wholeheartedly.

BTW, a lot of my dual-enrolled HS students are home-schooled until they are old enough to qualify for dual enrollment. At that point, the parents enroll them in HS, and the students pretty much take all their classes (except sometimes sports or music/theatre) at the CC. They are then subject to the same rules and responsibilities as public school kids, so it doesn't really bother me.
I'm flattered that someone considers my blog widely read. I think of it as a niche blog, way under the radar of the big kids.

That aside, I blogged about this case because I think it's a version of a much larger (and fairly common) issue: how (or how much) to tolerate the intolerant. That issue goes way beyond my campus, and way beyond this case. But this case is real and in my face, and I'm sufficiently torn by it that I wanted to seek thoughtful input.

And it worked. I hadn't given enough thought to the very real prospect of 'poisoning the well,' as a few commenters put it. The point that warning the Peeps might actually make a blowup more likely is also plausible, and I hadn't thought of it. Thank you for that.

ADM's point about enrolling at the cc deserves a response. The issues there are twofold: FERPA and transportation. Many of these kids are too young to drive, and we don't have buses or a reasonable public transportation system, so if we don't come to them, they can't take the class. In terms of FERPA, as I understand it, college enrollment doesn't automatically trigger it; age does. We have other high school students at our cc, and FERPA doesn't cover them.

And yes, the Peeps are paying tuition. And providing the facilty. The burden to taxpayers is actually less than if they enrolled here. Plus, the Peeps' parents are taxpayers.

Joy's comment about having Jen's back offended me initially. I thought it was fairly clear (as in my ultimatum example) that of course I'd back Jen in any conflict. Still, it's valuable to know how you can be misread. If nothing else, I'll know to keep that in mind in dealing with the faculty on this.

As for the comment about being a 'pansy,' I'll just let that one speak for itself.
This isn't a moral dilema. You just feel queesy about not wanting to offend someone. You've already wussed out through your concessions about the curriculum. It's only one small step to wussing out about who teaches the classes you've already wussed out over. You're a college, if the students aren't prepared to take college level courses and all the uncomfortable mind blowing experiences that occur when they find out that some people have sex with each other, they don't really need to be taking these classes. But you've already acted like a pansy on that issue. Try to do better on the next.

Act like an adult, tell everyone what the score is, and force them to act like adults as well. That you didn't in the beginning was a mistake. If you continue doing it you'll lose respect, from your teachers, from your students, from the administration, from the community.

Tolerance also includes civility. Sometimes acting in a civil manner includes compromise in behavior. Suppose the Peeps say, "hey, this Jen is a good instructor and we should have her teach our kids." And then on the first day of class Jen walks into the Peeps church wearing a pentacle. In that case the Peeps compromised certain values to allow their children the best teacher. And in return that teacher was intolerant to the Peeps. Think you'll ever get any repeat business that way?

You don't get it both ways. That's what compromise is. In return for the Peeps overlooking Jen's lifestyle choices, she may just need to take that 10 guage bull ring out of her nose for the night.

Tolerance goes both ways. I've seen just as many intolerant pagans as I have intolerant christians. Militant feminists are just as intolerant as misogynists. At some point you need to suck it up, overlook behavior that isn't harmful to anyone or anything except your ego, and get the job done.
Does civility include refraining from name-calling?

I can't force the Peeps to take a course they don't want to take. They came to us voluntarily. Students who aren't matriculated in a degree program can take courses as they see fit, as long as they pass the relevant placement exams. Students choose courses based on perceived easiness, scheduling fit, what their friends are taking, and all other manner of non-academic considerations. That's just reality.

The nature of Jen's difference is such that hiding it is simply not an option. She's a professional, and I would expect no less, but asking her to pass for Katie Couric isn't going to happen. And it's not because she's intolerant; it's just who she is.

Beyond that, I just don't see the substance to your position. If you have an ax to grind against the perceived tyranny of militant feminists, well, that's really your issue. It doesn't help clarify this case.
Just wanted to add that I figured you would have her back, but of course it is important to make sure she knows that. As much as I like and respect my Dean, I might worry about the political fallout of the situation and where I would end up if he didn't make it pretty clear. Not that we faculty don't completely trust the administration or anything! Heh.
It's not an axe to grind, it's the reality of how things are. As I've said before, I've been accosted by vegans while eating a cheeseburger. They weren't very tolerant of me, while insisting I be tolerant of them. I didn't call you a name, I said your actions were of a particular weak minded type.

I would never ask anyone to pass for Katie Couric. What kind of monster do you think I am?

If it's not something she can easily cover (like a long sleeve shirt over that marylin manson tattoo) then the Peeps either have to suck it up or tell her in person why she's unacceptable to teach their children.

This still isn't a moral dilema. Just lay it out there for everyone and force them to take responsibility for their own preconceived notions. If this is the first time you've been in this situation then it's fine to deal with it on the fly. After this, get a policy in place so it doesn't happen again. Otherwise you're going to end up either catering to every special interest out there or abandoning the program altogether.

The Peeps apparently knew enough to know that some of the classes your college offers would disagree with their particular world view. They may not have known that some of your instructors would. You need to let them know. You also need to let them know that if they are disagreable to a certain instructor, not due to the instructors professional incompetence or criminal record, and that instructor volunteers for the job. They (the Peeps) need to tell the instructor why. You don't have to play that dumbass placating mediator game. If they have a problem with someone they get to tell that person. If they hesitate at that, that's the instructor they get.

This is no different than any other service oriented business. If you hire a landscaping crew and when they show up one of the workers is a pink skinned, freckle bedecked, redhead and you decide you simply can't have "that person" working on your property (because who really can tolerate "those people" around) the solutions go like this:

1) You tell the owner who sends his worker to another job to save his contract with you.

2) You tell the owner and he tells you to piss off, picks up his tools and leaves.

3) You tell the owner and he says, "sure I can get him off your property, but you have to tell him why".

Option 1 is a bullshit move. Option 2, while high on integrity, is a dumbass move. Given option 3 what do you think you would do?

If the owner knew before hand your predeliction for hatred towards those pink skinned freaks he could have shuffled him off to another job (a pansy move) or could have told you upfront that this guy was the best worker he had and if you want the best you gotta suck it up for a while. If he did know and decided to spring it on you and the freckle monster when the crew showed up for work, that's just unkind to everyone involved.

At this point you're in the phase where you're assuming what the Peeps will or will not object to. Just tell them about your concerns. Tell them that knowing of their reservations concerning clinical sexuality discussed in a class on psychology, you have an instructor who, while highly qualified, wears Burkenstock sandals with socks to work.

After you went through the course outline did you bother to introduce the parents to the faculty that teaches those classes?
So according to that logic, if a colleague or student or parent thinks I shouldn't be working in my department because I'm a woman/queer/red-headed and pink skinned and freckled (I am!), my dean shouldn't step in to help mediate the situation? The person gets encouraged to tell me these things to my face? I get to bear the burden of this person's prejudice on my own because that is the grown-up responsible thing to do? I call bullshit on that.
I call bullshit on someone thinking they're too weak to handle being called a name. I call bullshit on someone not being able to take responsibility for their own bigoted prejudices. Yes, it is the adult thing to do.

In the end the college is acting like a contractor, offering services to someone else on someone elses property. If the contractor decides to move in solidarity with the worker fine. But ultimately wouldn't you want that choice? Wouldn't you want the ability say, "you know what, this guy is a prick but there's no reason you should lose the contract over that, I'll go to another site"? Wouldn't you want to know what the problem was from the asshole that had the problem?

This isn't taking place in a public institution. It isn't about an abusive work environment. This is contract labor. The person seeking the service has the ultimate say in what service they get and who does the servicing. If they agree to the service and the workers then fine. If they agree to the service but not the workers, the contractor can walk or try to accomodate to keep the job. What the contractor cannot do is pull a bait and switch. What the contractor shouldn't do is suprise the client.

Once the terms are agreed upon, the process can move forward. But, both client and contractor need to know those terms before hand. Seems to me the Peeps are missing some information.
"I call bullshit on someone not being able to take responsibility for their own bigoted prejudices."

Nice, from someone who will use a derogatory term for gays as synonymous with being weak.

Anyway. The issue here isn't "bait-and switch"; the Peeps haven't asked for an instructor who conforms to their particular lifestyle - they've asked for a teacher to teach a particular subject. It's not as if DD is going to sneak them a French instructor to teach the kids chemistry.
"Nice, from someone who will use a derogatory term for gays as synonymous with being weak." -- McMurdo

Perhaps I missed it--which term did Brother Bones use? I read through his post, and the others. Now, I did see some people refer to themselves as "queer." (Joy--twice)

Perhaps you refer to his use of the word "wuss." Well, according to the ONLY definition for the word (as slang, in fact) is "A person regarded as weak or timid and especially as unmanly: 'Cats are for wusses, dog men say'"

Ahhh... but I see the use in question. He chose to say "pansy" and clearly didn't mean the flower. Interestingly, when one looks up that word, one will find that even this word has several meanings. Only one is derogatory, while another makes it a synonym for "wuss."

And here we now have a dilemma. Do we only judge someone's word choice based on our own predispositions about what words mean, and whether we view them as disparaging?

In order for McMurto's charge to "stick" one would think McMurto would have to a) ensure that B_B actually knew the slang usage for that term (not easily proven, since pansy, separate from any reference to homosexuals, can be common in many subcultural lexicons) and b) he had the intent to play off the "double meaning" of the word in this case.

Simply put--here we go again. The "tolerant" left is perhaps trying to exercise a holier-than-thou indignation against those poor people who apparently view themselves as "holier than thou."

Does anyone else see the irony in the title itself? A "moral dilemma" about the possibility of having someone that a group may consider "immoral" teaching a course? THAT part of this has me rolling.

Two things I would like to see addressed:

1. The double standard of "we get to be intolerant of your intolerance" (eloquently explained by B_B) and
2. The presumption by everyone that "Jen" is homosexual, and not a member of some other "obvious without speaking a word" group (Many came to mind--and honestly, homosexual wasn't even on my radar scopes!)
Pansy is a derogatory term for gays? When did this happen? There's too many words I need to know to not use these days. Maybe you could make up a list of all the words that have third derivitive second type definitions that might or could be offensive to one group or another. Or maybe you could repeat the phrase, "sticks and stones may break my bones but words shall never harm me."

Let's see, bait and switch. You're right, that term doesn't fit this scenario. However DD has already uncovered certain bias' (biasis?) in the Peeps mentality during the discourse over which classes were to be taught. He believes (tho no confirmation has been realised) that there may be other prejudices that should obviously be addressed prior to going any further.

Perhaps the Peeps don't know about Jen's preference for wearing slacks with a skirt. Perhaps they don't care, perhaps they do. It's bad business to ambush both parties on the issue, however.

Suppose nothing is said, everything moves forward, Jen walks in to the classroom only to be met with prejudicial opposition. Was that fair to allow her to walk in to that situation knowing it may have been a problem? Was it fair to the Peeps for not warning them about Jen's propensity to break into a cheer routine complete with pom-poms and high pitched spirit?

The Peeps need to know that, just as certain classes may be objectional to them, certain instructors may be as well. If they do have a problem with Jen, then Jen needs to hear from them their specific objections.

Right now DD is trying to negotiate a deal and he's witholding information that may be crucial to this or future deals. His workers don't need to know the particulars of the deal unless and until objections are raised. But the client needs to know.
Actually Prof that post was enlightening. The name for the band Pansy Division now makes sense to me. I never did understand why they named themselves after a flower.

thanks for clueing me in mcmurdo
The Professor: "Does anyone else see the irony in the title itself? A 'moral dilemma' about the possibility of having someone that a group may consider 'immoral' teaching a course? THAT part of this has me rolling."

I see literary irony, yes.

There's the moral dilemma of how best to approach the subject while balancing the needs of (a) the school, (b) the students, and (c) the faculty without doing something ethically wrong, and then there's the "moral dilemma" of the Peeps and how they will respond to a teacher who goes against their standards of morality. Dual meaning! How about that!

If you meant "hypocrisy," as your tone implies, then no, I don't see that at all. Please explain.
This is a balancing act, but it's not a moral dilemma. He just doesn't want to offend anyone.

The school's faculty is being sub-contracted out to a local group to provide a service. The only ethical question is whether or not to provide all parties with all known information pertaining to that contract work. Once all known information is known then negotiations can procede. If all known information is not known to all parties prior to delivery of services (and preferably prior to signing the final contract) there will be problems.

Hopefully those problems will stay in the realm of hurt feelings and not blow up into litigation for fraud. No good will come from not laying everything out on the table.

Nope. Didn't mean hypocrisy. Heck, that ain't even in the thesaurus as a synonym for "irony."

What I meant by the use of the term was the dictionary definition:
"An occurrence, result, or circumstance notable for such incongruity."

For instance, being "intolerant of intolerance" is classic irony.
"He just doesn't want to offend anyone."

I don't think that's fair. He wants to know how to minimize offense and who to offend first, if necessary, while remaining consistent with the ideals of the university.

I agree that it isn't precisely a moral dilemma; it's more of an etiquette issue. But that doesn't change the fact that there are some tricky issues at play, and it's worth talking them through.

That said, DD isn't necessarily withholding information; if one of the pieces of information he is seeking to pass on is, "We do not consider [insert characteristic here] of persons who teach courses to be relevant to their ability to do so, and thus we have no reason to discuss [characteristic]," then he would have to remain consistent with that. People do not have an infinite right to personal information regarding the persons they work or contract with, and contracting parties have every right to draw reasonable lines.

Finally, that's kind of an in-your-face style being used here. Just saying.
It's a business ethics question, not a personal ethics question.

He already knows that the Peeps have certain biasis towards certain subjects through his dealings with them on the classes that will be offered. He comprimised on what to teach and stood fast on how it would be taught. So both parties made concesions there. The where was agreed upon and the when presumably so as well.

Since that meeting he's thought that the Peeps may have an issue with who teaches those classes. If it only occured to him after, then it may not have occured to the Peeps at all. But, if it has occured to DD then it could occur to the Peeps. At this point DD is withholding information that may or may not affect the decision of the Peeps buying the CC's services.

He's already made concessions during a negotiation so, he can't retroactively make a "you get what we got" statement. He could but he'd lose credibility.

The Peeps may not care, however, DD has reason to believe that they might. He is obligated to inform them of his concerns. The customer is always right and the Peeps are his customers.

If he doesn't tell them and they aren't put out (assuming Jen would take the post) no loss. If he doesn't tell them and they are offended he loses their future business, and quite possibly, any business that may have come through them by referal and a possible lawsuit for misrepresentation.
Dean Dad, you might want to know that even calculus can be potentially controversial to creationist peeps.

Mainstream calculus textbooks have word problems dealing with carbon-dating half lives as an example of an exponential decay process.

Some of those word problems could have numerical answers inconsistent with a literal reading of the Bible.

The Bible literally says the world is about 6,000 years old, so any answer to a carbon-dating exponential decay math problem indicating that an object could be older than 6,000 would be heresy.

One of my teaching assistants got a complaint from a student about a problem of this sort. (Fortunately, there wasn't much ado about it, because the offending problem had been assigned as optional ungraded extra practice, but the student still felt the need to register his objections.)
As Dean you maintain the right to schedule as you see fit correct? So make a choice that makes sense.
b_b, I think I see where you're coming from, but DD is trying to figure out what information is ethical to not just distribute, but actively promote, given his status as a representative of the university and its policies.

I don't think it's as simple as you're laying it out to be is all I'm saying.
*rolls eyes* Apparently some people (in particular, brother_bones) still haven't realized that colleges (both four year universities and community colleges) aren't businesses. They're schools.
First Trolls: do not feed.
Second, Dean Dad, I think you might want to check the FERPA stuff -- there may be a minimum age, but I've taught at 4 different CCs with dual enrollment, and our FERPA training at each one was clear that, once a person walks through the college door, they have to be treated as equals under FERPA. That may be why our dual enrollment requires a minimum age, though.

As for the Peeps being tax payers, I don't buy that they get to hire CC faculty and use CC resources -- unless those classes are open to anyone enrolled at the CC who would prefer to attend at a different venue.
Are the Peeps planning to open up the class to all homeschoolers? There are a lot of us wicked heathen homeschoolers who don't share their religious beliefs, but who also have children who'd like to take college classes.
From the US Government's web page on FERPA:

"FERPA gives parents certain rights with respect to their children's education records. These rights transfer to the student when he or she reaches the age of 18 or attends a school beyond the high school level."
As a high school art teacher, who also works in the library, I run into the sensibilities issues daily. One of the main reasons people homeschool is the perception that they are protecting their children from an evil world. I would agree that there are dangers in life, but I don't think cloistering a kid away is the answer. It seems ironic that the homeschoolers in my state like to tout the few homeschooled kid who make it into prestigious colleges, but they ignore the far too many that are getting meagre education in return for what can be an expensive curriculum. I have had many of these kids after 8th grade when their parents finally decide they can't do this anymore. While a few did okay, many of them were far behind in writing and reading skills as well as social skills. A few of them were docile on the surface, but had secret lifestyles that were just as crazy as the party kids on campus. What I can't fathom is why some parents send their kids to public schools and then demand a religious education. This goes across the board from fundamentalist Christians to fundamentalist Muslims-I've had every version in between. Our librarians have gone nuts having to pull award winning books based on parental complaints-and I am not talking pornography here but things such as "Huckleberry Finn" and "Catcher in the Rye". I dread this next year when I teach AP Art History. There's no way i can do that without addressing the nude as a genre. It's existed since Venus of Willendorf, but believe me, I have seen the Gardners' current text and I will get calls, even though the images are ones that historically reflect the mores of those periods in time. Right now homeschoolers are trying to demand access to athletics and electives, even though their parents pay taxes, they do not participate in the fundraising. They expect a free ride. I even had a homeschool parent tell me that I "owed" her daughter supplied free of charge. I wish I was allowed to tell her about the pictures online of her little angel at a rave that were intercepted by our tech people, but then again, people always believe what they want to believe.

It is that simple in this situation. This is contract labor, nothing more, nothing less. That he's had similar situations in the past dealing with students in other locals (public highschools) only serves as a basic template. This situation is unusual in that it deals with a secular institution offering sub-contracted services to a religious co-op. That this is the first time DD has run through this unusual situation, it is no wonder that procedures may be a little cluster fucked. That happens.

For future projects of this nature a clear cut policy needs to be put in place and followed. However, no such policy exists as of now.

The negotiations apparently covered the necessary parts (what, where, when, how) except for one (who). DD likely didn't think of it at the time because in his environment it's a non-issue so long as the instructor is competent. He has since come to realize that in the Peeps environment it may be an issue. The Peeps need to know. Even if they decide it's a non-issue they still need to know, simply because it occured to DD (and now that he's posted it in a public forum there comes legal issues of prior knowledge and non-disclosure).

If the Peeps do have a problem with certain members of the faculty, they need to let those people know why and in person. As grown-ups we don't get to hide behind our mothers skirt anymore, no matter how uncomfortable that makes us.

If the Peeps do in fact have a problem (though this is still unknown because no one has bothered to check yet) there are steps that can be taken to possibly address those issues. Perhaps a sit-down meeting with the instructors in question. Perhaps an informal audit of a classroom session or two so that the Peeps understand what and how this particular person teaches that subject. This is, of course, assuming that instructor would want the job.

In a perfect world who taught what wouldn't be an issue, so long as that person were professionally competent. This isn't a perfect world and other cultural and social paradigms need to be taken into consideration when they're alien to your own.

Schools are businesses. They provide a service (education) in return for compensation (tuition). If they weren't a business there wouldn't be any discussion anywhere of financial issues for a school.


DD is expanding the services offered by the CC beyond the bounds of the campus. This service has been offered in the past (as he said using local high schools), however, not in this type of location (church) or to this type of body (home-school co-op).As DD said these students would actually end up paying more than traditional students, so it could be a boon to the college, if it is implimented successfully.
No, brother bones, schools provide the opportunity to learn and experts to help students to do so. They are not businesses.

And I still maintain that private institutions shouldn't be able to pick, choose, or contract labor from public, on general principle. Plus, I really wonder how FERPA fits into this -- Dean Dad, do these students get college credit for this class? Because that sounds like "enrolled" in a college class. And if they are, their parents don't actually get any input, unless each student waives his FERPA rights.
An institution that provides a service for a fee isn't a business? It doesn't matter if it is government owned or not. It's still a business. Maybe if you guys would quit being so elitist and believing that you couldn't be replaced tomorrow by someone that does it better if it weren't for government monopoly, you'd run your business a little better.
Damned Medievalist (oh, I have known a few! ;-):
"No, brother bones, schools provide the opportunity to learn and experts to help students to do so. They are not businesses."

Ideally, sure, we want Universities and schools to not be run based solely upon business principles (supply, demand, etc.). Practically speaking? Oh yes they are. (Albeit not for profit.) How do you think you are paid? (Assuming you work for a college or uni.)

Private schools that fail to offer students what they or they parents believe is necessary for their education (whether it is really necessary or not) will see dwindling enrollment, loss of revenue, and will have to cut faculty, staff, and perhaps ultimately close. They are at the whim of fades, styles, and fashions, both intellectual and market. Don't believe me? Check out this story from the NYTimes just today regarding my alma mater's image problems (perceived and real)
Cornell's Worried Image

It is naive at best to believe that we are not in a business. At worst, it is willful blindness. Because if recognize the forces at work then you can act to counter them and still insure, for example, a good liberal arts education for those students (and parents) who insist that Bobby just has to have a finance BS from the Business School. Understanding the forces involved, you can show them how a minor in finance beautifully augments a major in Philosophy and Bobby can still get that job at Goldman-Sachs. Even more important, you can thus ensure that the Provost will approve that replacement position in Environmental Ethics just vacated in your Phil department, because students are clamoring to take it as part of their preparation for a law school application. And so on...

So education is a business and those that do not understand this will never be able to fully realize the business of educating our students.
Couldn't have said it better myself. Seriously. I suck.
Please excuse the typos in my above post!
Ellen K writes, "One of the main reasons people homeschool is the perception that they are protecting their children from an evil world."

Ellen, with all due respect, I don't think you have any way to know what the main reasons people homeschool are. It's very, very difficult to survey homeschoolers because so many fly under the radar and don't want to be surveyed.

I'm a homeschooler myself, and so I know quite a few homeschooling parents. Neither I nor my friends are homeschooling to keep our children away from the evil world. Most of us are homeschooling because we think it's the best way for our children to learn. There are a lot of homeschoolers out there, homeschooling for a lot of different reasons, and generalizations about homeschooling are suspect.

I look with a jaundiced eye at schoolteachers who take the homeschoolers who return to public school as somehow representative of all homeschoolers. Might I point out that the kids who return to school tend to be the failures? Successful homeschoolers often continue to homeschool through the high school years, typically augmenting homeschooling with either distance learning or community college.
I’m going to jump in here, at the risk of feeding the trolls. I don’t think brother_bones and The Professor are trolling, but I do think they are mistaken.

Being intolerant of intolerance is not “classic irony,” it’s a noble calling. If someone’s religious principles require them to dress in a certain way, that’s fine with me. If they are required to make certain dietary choices, I’ll do my best to accommodate. If they need periods of prayer and meditation, I’ll work around it. But if their religious principles require them to discriminate against people for irrelevant reasons, no, I won’t tolerate that. I wouldn’t tolerate it if their religion required them to rob banks or kick puppies, either.

I don’t know what was on The Professor’s radar, if not homosexuality. Because I can’t think of anything else that would even lead us to have this discussion. If the Peeps were neo-Nazis, and Dean Dad were afraid they wouldn’t accept an instructor with a yarmulke, he wouldn’t even have brought it up. He would have rejected their prejudice out of hand, and we would applaud him for it. If they were Klansmen and Jen were black, he wouldn’t hesitate for a moment to say, “She’s the best person for the job. Deal with it.” But because she’s gay (NOTE: my assumption), it’s still socially permissible for sections of society to say they have a moral right to not deal with her. They don’t. They have a right to disapprove. They have a right to pray for her soul, or to gleefully anticipate her damnation, or whatever they want, but they do not have a right to screen their instructors (or any employee) on that criterion.

As for the argument that this is “contract labor, nothing more, nothing less,” it doesn’t hold water. The exact same argument was made not so long ago to justify discrimination against blacks. “They have a right to work, but I don’t have to hire one.” And before that, against Jews, and Italians, and Irish, and a host of others. I’m not lawyer enough to say whether the Peeps have a legal right to discriminate, but they have no moral right. None.

brother_bones’s assertion that, “Employers can discriminate all they want so long as it's in the job description,” flabbergasted me. No, they can’t. His analogy of modeling doesn’t apply. Yes, an ad agency can require that a model be a young lady with an ample bosom, if their “artistic vision” requires it. But that same agency cannot require that their receptionist or their accountant be a young lady with an ample bosom. Not even if they put it in their job description. They can’t make a case that it’s a necessary qualification for the job. And no one can make a case that Jen’s “conspicuous lifestyle choice” has any impact on her ability to teach PV101.

Dean Dad, as always, your instincts were right on. Proceed to staff the course in the usual way, and if the Peeps don’t like it, tell them to go to hell. (OK, you put it more diplomatically than that.)
"Schools are businesses."

Wrong again. They are schools. It's wannabe robber barons like you who are responsible for much of the damage done to K-12 and Higher education. Running a school like a business is a sure-fire way to ensure that said school does a piss-poor job.

There are more important things than money. Maybe someday you'll learn that.
But if their religious principles require them to discriminate against people for irrelevant reasons, no, I won’t tolerate that.

What is irrelevant to you may not be irrelevant to another group. It's a highly subjective issue.

The issue you brought up about a modeling agencies administrative jobs is a good point. In 1992 there was a case brought against Hooters by several men who claimed discrimination because they weren't hired based on gender.

The ruling was mixed in that, while Hooters lost the case and were forced to create new positions that allowed men and open up the "front end jobs" (host, bartender, etc. to which they had applied) to males, the job requirements of the waitresses (attractive young women with ample bussoms and an apple of a hiney) remained in effect.

This basically falls under the Bona Fide Occupational Qualification of the Civil Rights Act. Part of that qualification deals with "authenticity". Authenticity is the part that says Japanese steak houses can hang a sign saying "help wanted: Irish Catholic need not apply".

While the BFOQ cannot be used as an excuse for exclusion of certain classes based on customer preference (Diaz v. Pan Am World Airways). It can, however, be used to deny certain classes the performance of certain duties (Torres v. Wisconsin Dept. of Health and Social Service).

So, while DD is legally bound to hire "Jen" as an instructor, he is not legally bound to place her in the post of "Peep's childrens instructor".

Again, this is contract labor being subbed out to an offsite location. While it may be worth it, for our own spiritual well being, to make a Civil Rights case out of it; is it worth the cost, the hassle, the time, the public scrutiny WHEN NO ONE HAS BOTHERED TO ASK THE PEEPS IF THEY HAVE A PROBLEM WITH IT?

I stand by my advice to take it to the Peeps first and find out if they actually would have a problem.

As a side note, since others can't get off it, when I first read the post I assumed the woman might be muslim and stuck to the rules regarding head wear (I briefly flirted with the "goth" image but decided that really wasn't a look that would lend itself to a professional setting). Being straight I don't have gaydar and can't readilly tell if someone else is gay if they don't tell me first. So, my assumption with phrasology like DD's always goes somewhere else.

Our K-12 education is mediocre. Our higher education is top notch. Among the higher educational institutions state schools run as socialist paradigms are known for their sports teams, private schools run as capitalist agents are known for their academics. Among the K-12 schools, state schools not run as a business suck shit, private schools run as a business do extremely well.

That being said, this isn't the thread for this argument.
It's worth having the discussion elsewhere, if you're interested; my experience was much the opposite in the state where I grew up. There was little difference in the quality of K-12 or higher ed between public and private; there were excellent and badly failing institutions in both categories. Anyways.
brother_bones quotes me, and then replies: "What is irrelevant to you may not be irrelevant to another group. It's a highly subjective issue."

You are absolutely right. When I say the reasons are "irrelevant," I'm making a moral judgment. But my ethical principles do not require me to recognize their position as morally equal to my own. Which is to say, I don't feel bound to tolerate intolerance. Which may be a fancy way of saying, "I'm right and they're wrong." What can I say? I truly believe that I'm right and they're wrong.

I won't try to counter your legal arguments. I concede that there might be a legal right to exclude Jen, but I maintain that there is no moral right. Again, I'm right, and now the whole U.S. system of jurisprudence is wrong. Ain't I the humble one?

The reason why I don't encourage Dean Dad to ask the Peeps whether they have a problem with it is that I don't concede their right to have a problem with it. To even ask if they would mind is to acknowledge their right to mind, which I think is wrong and unfair to Jen. Nor is it particularly fair to the Peeps, if he's not planning to respect their wishes. "Do you have a problem with Jen? You do? Well, tough luck, because that's who you get."

Having just written three paragraphs that make me sound like I think I'm the moral arbitrator of the Universe, I'd better back off. Clearly, I don't think the Peeps have a right to object, and I encourage Dean Dad to proceed as if they don't. But I admit that that's my subjective opinion, and that some people, notably yourself, and likely the Peeps, don't agree.

Finally, I don't see how you can read the original post and not think that Jen is gay. If she isn't, I think Dean Dad deliberately used vocabulary meant to mislead us. In any case, if it isn't, I don't change my argument. Potentially eliminating Jen from teaching a course for which she's qualified on the basis of the fact she's wearing a burka is just as bad. Any way you slice it, it seems to me that the issue is whether we should consider excluding Jen from teaching a course for which she's qualified on the basis of the Peeps' reaction to something that has nothing to do with academics. My answer is an unqualified no. Your mileage may vary.
I wear three different hats in this debate, so I'm going to weigh in with a rather lengthy post. I teach at a cc (English Comp. and Comparative Religions). I have 11 years' experience as a homeschooling mom of three (for NON-religious reasons; we are non-observant Jews). I taught for 7 years in a homeschooling coop that was dominated by fundamentalist Christians and, during that time, gradually persuaded them to let me teach their children more & more liberal subjects till, in the last year, I taught a course on banned books. Some of the families did not sign their kids up for my classes because I was not a Christian & too much of a rabble-rouser. Their loss. The class was filled to capacity anyway.
My point is, I'm a professional in all three senses here.
Here's my advice on this, Dean Dad: don't sweat it. Lay out the facts on these folks to ALL your faculty members. If Jen's the one to teach the 101 course, let her teach it. She's a grown woman (presumably) & as long as she knows she can count on you, and knows what these people are like, if she wants to take it on & you're not just assigning her to the course, let her do it.

As for the Peeps, DO NOT talk to them ahead of time. That is just plain not the professional thing to do. Would you do that for any other group? I'd bet not.

I assume trust Jen not to teach in the nude, or wearing outlandish clothing. She wouldn't be dressed like that on the cc campus, right? What does she wear, a hijab? (I'm amused that no one imagined that might be the issue.) Big deal. Her religion, her gender, her sexual preference or whatever else you are concerned about is none of their business or yours. Her qualifications are what matter. If they don't like her, they can take it up with her, or withdraw their students, but it is NOT appropriate to bring it up beforehand.

Trust me on this. I've been through years of agonizing over dealing with people like this. Sometimes they surprise you by being nicer than you expected. Sometimes they surprise you by not fighting nearly as hard as you thought they would.

As for the folks with all the ignorant comments about homeschoolers: stop embarassing yourselves.
Okay--some have asked for it... I have just blogged on the idea of "education as business--or not."

Check it out, and let the wordgames begin!

The problem with not asking the Peeps first is that DD only "believes" there is a potential problem. He doesn't know. He is prejudging their position based on his own biasis. Without going to them and saying, "hey, I think you might have a problem with some of our instructors" he won't know for sure.

The Peeps may want the best instructor based on professional competence irregardless of race, creed, or planetary origin. But, again, DD doesn't know. He's making a prejudicial presumption.

If you're going to insist that others rise above the fray you better make damn sure you're above it yourself.

Finally, I don't see how you can read the original post and not think that Jen is gay.

Here's how:

One of the relevant faculty – I’ll call her Jen – is, um, very conspicuously committed to some lifestyle choices that this group would believe would land her in Hell in short order.

I don't consider being gay a "lifestyle choice". That's why my original thought drifted to the "Goth look".
@dr jameson

As for the Peeps, DO NOT talk to them ahead of time. That is just plain not the professional thing to do. Would you do that for any other group? I'd bet not.

It is the professional thing to do (we're back to business ethics here). If he doesn't disclose a potential deal breaker to his clients (the Peeps) he faces the possible loss of future business and gaining a reputation as underhanded. It doesn't matter if he would do it with any other clientel, what matters is that he believes this client may have a problem with one of his educators.
Dr Jameson wrote:
"I assume trust Jen not to teach in the nude, or wearing outlandish clothing."

Actually, I had assumed that, while not nude, that the reference that Dean Dad had made was quite literally a clothing/appearance issue. He wrote not only that it was conspicuous, but "If you met her, you would pick up on it before she said a word."

For me, that would imply something visual. And for me, that meant something that was unabiguous and therefore doesn't mean homosexual.

I have actually worked hard to ensure that those around me don't assume that a male who takes pride in how they dress, or who is effeminate in speech, is "automatically" gay. By the same token, just because a woman is athletic, or has short hair, should not be a "sign" that they are lesbians.

Pentagrams, though? Certainly devil worship is high on that list. all black clothing, with much of the other "accessories?" Goth. Various religious attire that shows membership in a "non-Christian" group that thus is not "saved"--ditto.

So, again, I find it interesting, actually in an academic way, that the "open minded liberals" so quickly jump to a "one and only" conclusion, while the closed-minded conservative apparently was far more open about the possibilities.

Hog_Jockey said:
Wrong again. They are schools. It's wannabe robber barons like you who are responsible for much of the damage done to K-12 and Higher education. Running a school like a business is a sure-fire way to ensure that said school does a piss-poor job.
There are more important things than money. Maybe someday you'll learn that.

Presumably this was in reference to my or brother_bones' post. If it was mine I suggest you follow my profile and learn a bit about me before you suggest that I am a "wanna be robber baron" or that money is the most important thing in my life. (Can't be or I wouldn't have these grad school loans.)

No, I am just someone who can testify from current and relevant experience that it is imperative for the survival of good education and good schools that those administrating it understand the business models that make them survive. NB, such a business model will NOT be the same as that of, for example, Apple Computer. It has to be tailored for the academic world, priorities, and concerns.

I am sure you remember Katrina. Well, if it hadn't been for the very quick and decisive decisions by our President (I teach at Tulane), who also happens to be a professor of business, we would not have opened and be ready for a strong year ahead. Very difficult business and academic decisions had to be made. Other schools around us have not done so and our now scrambling to make it. I am very much afraid they won't and that will be a great loss.

The problem in this debate seems to be the inability of subtle thought. If one like myself suggests that we as professional educators need to be aware of the financial side of things if we are to balance the books and continue to operate, we are called "robber barons." It is true that there are others on my campus who say that I am not practical and I am too much of "an academic" ("Thank you very much" I say!) because I argue for all sorts of programs that do not have any apparent financial return.

I see that The Professor has started another thread, we can continue this there, if anyone would like. But I felt it was necessary to reply here. I still stand by my earlier comment that if you really care about education you would care about the business aspect of it as well. Because if the school you work for is unable to balance their books and, better yet make that profit which, since it is a non-profit must be put back into things like faculty salaries, research grants, programming, etc., if they do not have a sound financial plan you will be left without a job and those students will not benefit from all your wisdom.
The Professor:

With all due respect, the fact that it didn't even occur to you that the Peeps might be concerned about Teh Gay infecting their kids says a lot more about your lack of understanding of Peeps than anything else.

I'm not assuming that we're talking about sexual orientation, but it's one of the only two or three things we could possibly be talking about. The "lifestyle choice" could easily be to live as a relatively obviously out person, rather than passing. Or maybe DD is throwing us off by using deliberately vague/misleading language. But Peeps care about the things they care about. Pretending that this is not so only serves to reinforce that you are interested in expressing smug superiority instead of trying to deal with questions of tolerance or intolerance.

Oh, I am quite aware that fundamentalist christians, and even perhaps most evangelicals, would be concerned about homosexuality.

My simple point was that DD commented that it would be obvious without Jen saying a word. That would mean being able to make a judgement about lifestyle choice simply on appearances.

Book... cover... Not judging?
I'm pretty familiar with conservative Protestant beliefs myself. Too familiar realy. Certain actions and lifestyle choices that will get one damned to hell run the gamut from homosexuality (open or hidden) to women wearing jeans. Depending on the brand of conservatism and/or Protestantism I've seen people damned to hell (to their faces) for those offenses and everything in between. It's not just "two or three things", there's a whole range of behaviors that can get you damned.

I've seen Christians of one sect (Baptists) damning Christians of another sect (Catholics) to hell. I've even seen Christians having verbal wars that would rival congressional partisan mudslinging over issues that an outsider would consider cosmetic (what's the difference between Methodist, Presbyterian, and Baptist again?). On more than one occasion I've seen a Christian damn to hell another Christian simply because the one used a different version of the bible than the other (those KJV only people scare me). It doesn't have to be anything as conspicuous as a pentacle to get certain protestants in a lather, sometimes a crucifix will garner the same reaction.

The point is, without knowing anything more about the Peeps or Jen we don't know what the Peeps might find objectionable. ESPECIALLY SINCE NO ONE HAS ASKED THEM.

Face it, the conservatives were much more open minded than the liberals on this one.
It seems to me that what you should do depends on what you are trying to achieve. If you are really serious about building a bridge, then perhaps the Peeps' attitudes should be taken into account. If this means asking Jen not to teach the class, then so be it. You cannot expect someone to just accept your attitudes wholesale. (And I am saying this as an avowed atheist.) At some point, defending everything becomes counter-productive. I think the key to building a bridge is in establishing some trust, and you cannot do this if you shove your ideas down these people's throats. If, on the other hand, you wish to wage the culture war, then so be it. But do not expect the teaching initiative to have any positive effects.
Wow you could publish a book on all your comments. Isn't it amazing what people will respond to? Truly an intesting topic and I hope you can figure out what you need to do..Many good points....took a while to read them all....Lots of agendas out there.....I needed to go back and read the blog about Girl dancing....I bet you were pleased as punch to see her strut her stuff..and I mean that as only a mother of girl can!
DD I'd be interested in an update on this. What your final decision was and what the outcome was. Since the program is in the fall I realize it might take some time. But, I think a follow-up would be interesting.
It seems to me that you have to look at the pros and cons if you try to force Jen on the Peeps:
Pro: Jen is not (unknowingly) discriminated against.
Con: The students, who would conceivably benefit from the instruction, will be deprived of it.

As Jen is not aware of any harm that may be caused to her, and the students will benefit, I don't see why you would try to force her on them. It's certainly not going to make the Peeps any more open-minded.

As for the legal issue, that would be relevant if your state includes sexual orientation (I'm assuming that is the issue) in anti-discrimination laws, most states don't. But even so it hardly seems that Jen would be aware AND care enough to sue AND be able to offer some proof, especially if there are other equally qualified professors.
As a homeschool mom, leader of a co-op and responsible person for setting up all our classes, I was very interested to read about your moral dilemma.

I am a conservative christian, maybe like your peeps, but have not found many comments throughout this stream that would be pertinent to our group.

We require all of our teachers to come with references, and letters from those who have been in their classes. We also interview all our teachers beforehand. We hire christians and non-christians.

We do require that all teachers respect our beliefs, and not teach contradictory ideas.

We would not hire someone if they could not teach a subject the way we wanted it to be presented.

Your 'peeps' would not be contracting with you, if they were not prepared for teachers with contradictory beliefs.

Just put the opportunity out there, and take the teacher who wants to do it. This homeschool group is obviously ready for all that you can give them.

I know you will handle it all professionally, and that your teachers will as well. So will your homeschoolers. Just go ahead in peace, and allow the situation to develop.

May God bless your endeavor to favorably impact your world!
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