UTEP student calls lecturer disgusting Questions Academic Freedom

February 10, 2012

 

by Hayley Kappes | El Paso Times

UTEP student Elizabeth Jimenez said she is disgusted by what she claimed was an offensive lecture by a guest speaker in one of her classes at the university.

Jimenez, a 38-year-old English major, said a lecturer in her Research and Critical Writing course at the University of Texas at El Paso last November crossed the line when he gave a graphic presentation on animal abuses in slaughterhouses. It occurred in English teacher assistant Louis A. Herman’s class.

An audio clip provided by Jimenez records a male speaker badgering students for eating animal products.

“Yes, my meat-cheese-egg-milk loving friends, you engage in carnivorous bestiality on a daily basis, sometimes multiple

times a day,” the guest speaker says in the audio clip.

The clip recorded several expletives in reference to criticisms of people who consumed animal products.

Jimenez said the class of about 25 students was not forewarned on the lecture’s content. The lecture, she said, included videos of slaughterhouse workers stabbing calves in the neck with a knife, workers repeatedly ramming ducks by their bills into a metal rod protruding from a concrete wall and live cows hanging from rafters while being stabbed in the neck.

She accused the speaker of pushing a political agenda.

“He told everyone he was going to be talking for an hour and 10 minutes,” Jimenez said. “If anyone got up and left, he said he was going to consider them a coward.”

The instructor took attendance and a certain number of missed classes would drop a student’s grade, Jimenez said.

The next time the class met, Herman explained the guest speaker was demonstrating what a powerful presentation was like, Jimenez said. She argued that the lecture had no relevance to the English class.

Herman, who is pursuing his doctoral degree, did not respond to phone calls or emails.

Jimenez tried for two months to meet with UTEP President Diana Natalicio to discuss the presentation.

University spokeswoman Veronique Masterson confirmed that Jimenez contacted the president’s office, and said Jimenez was referred to Patricia Witherspoon, dean of College of Liberal Arts, who has tried to schedule a meeting with the student.

Jimenez, a mother of a teenager, wanted to shed light on the incident for other parents and express her belief that similar speakers should be prohibited from UTEP classrooms.

She posted an audio clip of the lecture on YouTube.

University officials have not received other complaints about the lecture, Masterson said.

“It’s an issue of academic freedom,” Masterson said. “It’s supposed to pertain to the class. I’m not sure how that related to the speaker or the presentation.”

Academic freedom is outlined in the 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure, which was written by representatives of the American Association of University Professors and of the Association of American Colleges (now the Association of American Colleges and Universities).

Without knowing whether Jimenez’s complaint had merit or validity, if the guest lecturer used profanity and it had no bearing on what he or she was discussing, the question should be raised whether academic freedom should protect that, said Robert Kreiser, senior program officer at the American Association of University Professors.

A faculty member or guest lecturer would have an obligation to warn students that he or she was going to show videos of graphic depictions of animal abuse, Kreiser said.

“That doesn’t mean a faculty member is barred from showing those types of videos,” Kreiser said. “If there are students likely to be offended by them, it would be appropriate for the guest lecturer to alert students to that fact. Academic freedom does cover these situations, but there should be a willingness on the part of faculty members to represent the sensitivities and sensibilities of students.”

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