American Elephants

The Bill of Rights Was Ratified 222 Years Ago. How Come They Still Don’t Get It? by The Elephant's Child

“I was expelled from Syracuse University for comments that I posted on Facebook.”

Syracuse University School of Education graduate student Matthew Werenczak was just trying to finish his masters degree early when he decided to take a summer course that involved tutoring at a local middle school. But after a comment he posted on Facebook about an experience he had at the school caught the attention of the Syracuse administration, Werenczak would be lucky if he graduated at all.

On the first day of Werenczak’s tutoring program at Danforth Middle School, he and another Syracuse student were introduced to their students by a member of the Concerned Citizens Action Program (CCAP). They happened to be the only two white people in the room. Shortly after the introduction, in the presence of Werenczak and the other white student teacher, the CCAP member, who is black, said that he thought that the city schools should hire more teachers from historically black colleges.

“This [comment] offended me, as well as the other student teacher in the room,” says Werenczak in FIRE’s latest video. “It just seemed inappropriate considering that the two student teachers happened to be from Syracuse and a not a historically black college.”

So Werenczak took to Facebook to write about the incident.

“Just making sure we’re okay with racism,” wrote Werenczak. “It’s not enough I’m … tutoring in the worst school in the city, I suppose I oughta be black or stay in my own side of town.”

“I was kind of trying to see if my friends or other peers, classmates would have a similar reaction to what I had,” says Werenczak about the reason for his posting the comment.

One reaction Werenczak didn’t see coming was an expulsion from the School of Education for the Facebook comments, which the school described as “unprofessional, offensive, and insensitive.” The school told Werenczak he could avoid expulsion by voluntarily withdrawing, or he could fulfill several requirements in order to gain a chance of “re-admittance.”

When Werenczak fulfilled the requirements and was still not readmitted to the school, he contacted FIRE for help.

“Hours after FIRE took the case public, Syracuse University backed down and I was brought back [into the program] and later graduated.”

Why is it always the educators in our universities that don’ t grasp freedom of speech. Our colleges and universities are  hotbeds of attempting to censor speech that they don’t like. Thank goodness for FIRE.

4 Comments so far
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Nothing new there. Public schools and schools of higher learning do have problems with free speech, speech that is that does not conform to a set dialog. They do have a problem in maintaining and enforcing our first laws of the land and therefore rule them out. Law is only as good and relevant to those who keep and enforce the law. If the law is not enforced by the people it becomes a non-law or a law no longer. Any law that is written that is contrary to the first law is not in itself a law but an edict toward Tyranny and subsequent chaos. The US Constitution and the first ten amendments are our first laws and are being violated by our schools and government every day against people as a whole and in person. We had better change back to our forefathers beginnings or our children will be surfs and slaves. How about that Professor?


Comment by fireboatman

Yep! There’s trouble in River City.


Comment by The Elephant's Child

I deal with local and high school theater (gotta get some mileage out of that Theater degree) and watching some of the choices that people try is somewhat bewildering. An all-white version of “Ain’t Misbehavin'”? Okay, I can see that, although several of the songs were written explicitly from the black point of view. But some students were wanting to do an all-white version of a scene from “Raisin in the Sun” (which deals with racial discrimination). A couple wanted to do a duet scene from “Driving Miss Daisy” where Daisy and Hoke are discussing being discriminated against (Daisy is Jewish, Hoke is black) – problem the girl playing Daisy was black, and the boy playing Hoke was white (I’m all about suspension of disbelief – I do consulting work for the government, after all – but it was obvious they didn’t understand the story or the context).

Even reading aloud gets problematic… “Huckleberry Finn”, “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”, “To Kill A Mockingbird” (“…just skip over *that word*…).

We discussed a number of films that had been made in the past that would not be made today, “Blazing Saddles” first and foremost among them. It gets more and more difficult to explain to high school students that yeah, the “n-word” may be offensive, but in that film it served a purpose, and not just a humorous one. When a student pointed out that Richard Pryor was one of the writers on “Blazing Saddles” (which made the use of that word “acceptable”), I explained that Pryor’s chief writing contribution was the character of Mongo (“Mongo only pawn… in game of life.”), and that Brooks and another writer developed most of the Sheriff Bart routines (“The new sheriff is a n*BONG*”… “What’d he say?”… “He said the sheriff is near.”). (side note: actor Burton Gilliam was terrified of having to say the things his character (Lyle) had to say to Cleavon Little (Bart). Little told Burton that these were just words on a page, and lines in a script, and jokes in a movie).

I guess what I’m getting at is in an effort to become “politically correct”, when you try to remove certain words from usage, you are also altering their context, to the point where you don’t understand what made the words offensive in the first place, and you wind up losing some of the historical perspective behind them.


Comment by Lon Mead

Every few years, a mother of a student in one of our schools discovers that her child has been asked to read Huckleberry Finn and the book has unacceptable words in it. She wants her child protected from being exposed and the book banned from schools. She can’t understand why no one banned the book before.
Diana West’s new book “American Betrayal” suggests that political correctness, along with the whole race, gender, ethnicity, sexual preference bit is part of a long-term strategy to bring down America, and we’re losing. I’m not far enough along to be ready to comment, but it is very interesting. The subhead is “The Secret Assault on Our Nation’s Character.” Stay tuned.


Comment by The Elephant's Child

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