Author’s Note: Those wishing to follow this column should note that the subject of the controversy, a course syllabus, can be accessed here: (http://www.uncw.edu/soccrm/documents/proceduresyllabus.pdf).
Last Friday I was sitting in my office with a couple of students. We were going over an exam and talking about the schedule for the rest of the semester. While we were talking, I got an unexpected email from another professor. I shared it with my students. After reading it, they begged me to respond and to share my response with others.
Because I am a faithful public servant, I decided to honor their request. Professor Richard’s letter is reprinted below, along with my response. Of course, I got his permission to share his letter with the general public. Richard’s privacy is important to me. And so is his approval.
Dear Professor (Adams),
I was perusing the web for an example of a good syllabus and came across your own for Criminal Procedure. We here too at Elmhurst College originally had a single course called, Criminal Law and Procedure and like you divided it into two classes now being taught by an attorney in Chicago.
I had never heard of Elmhurst College when I received your letter but I kept on reading anyway. I’m not an elitist. Just so you’ll know, Richard, I finished in the bottom 1 percent of my class in high school and subsequently got all of my degrees from Mississippi State. So who am I to judge? In fact, I’m so humble my next book is tentatively titled “Ten Steps to Humility: And How I Made It in Seven.”
I took the liberty of reading your "Who is Davidson Meyers" story and it was certainly most unique and frankly in over 23 years of teaching at such institutions as State University of New York, California State University and Loyola Chicago, never saw anything like it. First, I was concerned you were violating the privacy of students but you adequately explained that you received the permission of the student. I just have a few questions for you.
Richard, I have been around academia long enough to realize that when a professor starts listing his credentials it means he’s about to scold you and you’d better listen. I was scared when I read this paragraph. But I kept on reading anyway. I’m open to criticism, even from Richards I don’t know.
Did you receive the permission of the Paula Tyndall? If not, how were you able to use her name?
Regrettably, Paula Tyndall recently died of cancer at the age of 35. I knew her well. While she was living, I did not seek permission to print the line you are referring to, which follows in its entirety: “(Davidson) was also prone to turning around in his seat and yapping in class with another student by the name of Paula Tyndall.”
Just for the record, Richard, it does not violate one’s privacy rights to say that she once had conversations with another person in a public setting. Privacy rights attach to more serious issues like sodomy, abortion, and contraception. Haven’t you read your Constitution lately? It’s all right there.
You teach at a public university it appears. Do you believe in the separation of church and state? Perhaps you should be teaching at a religious institution?
Richard, the portion of the syllabus you find offensive is the following paragraph (it must be because it’s the only one that mentions religion or God): “Rather than seeing you as the mere product of random mutation, I see you as a unique individual endowed by his Creator – not just with a right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness – but with a purpose. Each one of you has unique and special talents and along with that a distinct purpose in life that makes you not just unique but irreplaceable. Unfortunately, I sometimes have students who resist fulfilling their God-given potential.”
Richard, the Declaration of Independence says that we are all endowed by our “Creator with certain unalienable Rights, (and) that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Obviously, I have paraphrased the Declaration and added something else we get from our Creator: purpose.
Professor, if you think that merely mentioning the Creator is unconstitutional then you are in the unique position of actually considering the Declaration of Independence to be unconstitutional. If that is your position, let me suggest that you are suffering from severe intellectual hernia. That is not ordinary stupidity. That is practiced stupidity. It takes work to become that confused.
Of course, this is not all about intellect. It is also about bigotry. What you are really telling me is to hide my religious beliefs by keeping them to myself. You are saying “get back in the closet” or get out of the public university system. Your position is that “separation of church and state,” which is found nowhere in the constitution, requires that all of our public universities be run by atheists. This is ugly, unmitigated, vile, bigotry. You should be ashamed of yourself.
I’m sure you consider yourself morally superior to religious people like me who oppose homosexuality. But I would never tell a homosexual to get back in the closet. I actually have gay friends who know I accept them but reject their behavior. On the other hand, I doubt seriously that you have any conservative Christian friends. It sounds as if you fear them.
You [sic] comment, "flapping your jaws" and requiring them to tell you who Davidson Myers is seems highly authoritarian and demeaning to me. You seem to rule with an iron fist and while it is your style I am glad most academics do not treat students like they were in a correctional facility.
Richard, that isn’t true. People can talk all they want in correctional facilities. But they can’t talk in my classroom without raising a hand. It’s not demeaning. I just happen to believe in the separation of banter and lecture. College is expensive. People want to hear the lectures—even though they are usually coming from overpaid, underworked, and condescending hypocrites who give really bad, unsolicited advice because they have too much time on their hands.
God forbid someone chats while you are talking. How dare they? Your words of wisdom are so important that those who whisper something must pay their dues.
Richard, did you just say the word “God.” Don’t ever say that again unless it is followed by the word “damn.” In fact, just get back in the closet. You’re offending me with all this God talk.
I used to take myself as seriously as you seem to. I was a police sergeant in a large city before getting my PhD in sociology over 20 years ago at the University of Florida. I realized that one should be humble and while having rules and standards, treat students like adults. As a religious person (you appear to be based on your statements about God in the syllabus) your syllabus screams out, "I am so important and what I have to say is so important that if you miss a minute of it you will be penalized."
Richard, what you are basically saying is that you are more humble than I am. That’s even more stupid than the suggestion that the Declaration of Independence is unconstitutional. When you say “I’m more humble” that means you’re bragging. That’s not humility. That’s just mind-numbing hypocrisy.
I wonder what your students really think about you. Perhaps I am being harsh but your syllabus is absurd.
Well, Richard. Maybe you should have just checked out Rate My Professors. Here is the link: http://www.ratemyprofessors.com/ShowRatings.jsp?tid=158835
If you wish to check my credentials please go to google scholar and place my name along with criminology or the police. Sincerely,
Richard G. Greenleaf, Ph.D.
Professor and Director of Criminal Justice Studies
Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice, Elmhurst College
No, Richard, there’s no need to google your credentials. Fortunately, this column will now be the first thing people see when they google Richard Greenleaf. Your wisdom, humility, and tolerance will be an inspiration to them all.