Freedom of Speech or Consequences of foul language – You tell me! Isaac Rosenbloom vs. Barbara Pyle

May 19, 2010

Don Troop, an author featured in The Chronicle of Higher Education wrote the following – presented in full:

An F (Bomb) in Oral Communications

Isaac Rosenbloom was among a small group of students who stuck around after speech class one day this spring at Hinds Community College to discuss their grades with the instructor.

After seeing that he had received a 74 on a late assignment, Mr. Rosenbloom testified in a recorded disciplinary hearing, he turned to one of his peers and said, “this grade is going to [expletive] up my entire GPA.” He says the instructor, Barbara Pyle, heard him and “went into a screaming fit,” telling him that she does not tolerate offensive language and threatening to send him to detention.

“I told her, ‘This is college, and I’m 30 years old,'” Mr. Rosenbloom testified. “‘There is no detention.'”

After being summoned to the dean’s office, Mr. Rosenbloom sought the assistance of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, the free-speech advocacy group, which issued a statement defending the right of adults to use naughty words.

“It is quite absurd that a college has decided that a 29-year-old man who uses a four-letter word out of frustration after a class should be officially punished,” FIRE Vice President Robert Shibley said in a statement. “College students don’t lose their free speech rights when they arrive on campus. Will Hinds be sending its students to bed without supper next?”

While Mr. Rosenbloom is actually being disciplined for “flagrant disrespect,” FIRE wrote President Clyde Muse to tell him that the college’s speech policies are unconstitutional and were “applied unconstitutionally to punish Rosenbloom for his protected speech outside of class.” The college bans “public profanity, cursing, and vulgarity.” Violators can be fined $25 to $50 or, for a third offense, be suspended from college.

According to FIRE, Mr. Rosenbloom was banned from Ms. Pyle’s course and given 12 demerits (three short of suspension). In addition, a description of the case is being placed on his permanent record.

An appeal to President Muse is pending.

So…as I often report on choices and consequences…and ethics, this article seems interesting.  It raises an excellent question or set of questions.

  1. Should an adult have the freedom of speech to express his/her frustration without retribution or negative consequence?
  2. Is it constitutional for an institution of higher learning to impose a limit on speech for it’s students or employees?
  3. Was the instructor’s reaction to the words uttered appropriate?
  4. Lastly, if what you say offends me, should I have the right to limit your freedom of speech?  If so, where is the limit drawn between what offends me and your rights to express yourself?

I would hope that readers might be willing to express themselves and weigh in on whose right carries the greatest weight.


On Line Education – Is this the next big Fraud Arena? Trenda L. Halton pleads Guilty!

January 14, 2010

An interesting article appeared in the Chronicle of High Education.

Seems that 38-year-old Trenda L. Halton just fit in with the working-adult students at Rio Salado. She however led a double life.  Ms. Halton used social security numbers, tax returns and high school deplomas in a scheme that defrauded the federal government of about $539,000 in student-aid dollars—a scheme that involved dozens of people recruited to pose as phony “straw” students, according to court records.

Straw students…wow this sound a lot like what we read so much about with the massive mortgage fraud scandals.

According to the Chronicle’s article:

The high-tech methods she admitted using have already set off alarms at the U.S. Education Department. Ms. Halton made her bogus recruits look like real students by assuming their identities online to “participate” in classes and collect a share of their aid money, authorities say.

The case highlights how the same technology that is expanding access to education for millions of online students may also expose the country’s $117-billion federal financial-aid system to supersize fraud.

The full article is here.

Ms. Halton pleaded guilty in federal court to conspiracy, mail fraud, and financial-aid fraud. Her lawyer has not responded to requests for comment.

Ultimately, 65 people were indicted, most in Arizona but others in Wyoming and California. In her plea agreement on Tuesday, Ms. Halton agreed to repay $581,060. She was released pending sentencing on March 29. As of Wednesday, 23 other defendants had been sentenced and ordered to repay a total of $212,013.


Montreat College takes the Ethical High Road! Business Ethics Speaker Chuck Gallagher explains

January 7, 2010

Administrators at Montreat College, according to The Asheville Citizen-Times, said this week that they would help cover student loans taken out by more than 50 master’s-degree students at the North Carolina institution who were told by outside recruiters that the federal government would forgive their loan debt up to $17,500 each.

Many of the students whom the recruiters said would be eligible for loan forgiveness were in fact ineligible because they were neither secondary-school mathematics and science teachers nor special-education teachers at elementary and secondary schools. The recruiters, who worked for a private company hired to recruit for the college’s adult-education programs, had told the students that they would receive government help if they pursued an M.A. in education at Montreat.

President Dan Struble, Montreats leader, met with teachers Monday night telling them the college would aid them with the costs they’ve incurred in the program.  “Clearly, this is a challenge to our reputation,” Struble said. “We want to be who we say we are and that means meeting every student’s situation.”

According to the Asheville report:

Montreat contracted with Arizona-based Institute for Professional Development in 1994 to build its adult education program.

IPD recruiters representing Montreat have visited numerous schools in Western North Carolina in recent years advertising a masters program in K-6 education.

Many teachers who enrolled said recruiters told them they were eligible for loan forgivenes because they were highly qualified math, science or special education teachers at Title I schools.

Neither Struble nor officials at IPD’s parent company, the Apollo Group, have said why recruiters distributed material suggesting students in the K-6 program qualified for loan forgiveness.Sara Jones, a spokeswoman for the Phoenix-based Apollo Group, said her company would work to resolve the students’ complaints and review the recruitment issues.

While the final loan forgiveness assistance help is not fully finalized, positive moves are being put in place to hear the students concerns and take appropriate action.  This is ethics in action…and as a business ethics speaker to colleges and universities I find joy in reporting on positive applications of ethics vs. reporting on ethical breaches.


The repackaging of MIT Marilee Jones: A second chance that’s come a little too soon

December 14, 2009

I’m all for second chances — so much so I even started a foundation to encourage others to find theirs. So when I read that Marilee Jones had started a new life as an admissions consultant, I really wanted to cheer her on — especially given all she’s had to overcome, even if as a result of her own poor choices.

A little over two years ago, Jones resigned as dean of admissions at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) after it was discovered she lied about her academic credentials nearly 30 years before. Still, everyone deserves a second chance — right? — and, today, Jones has reemerged as an admissions consultant who delivers this message to parents: Academic glory isn’t the be all-end all; it’s your relationship with your child that matters most.

So far, so good. But here’s something that raised my eyebrow: Jones hired a public-relations consultant, Rose Marie Terenzio, to help with her comeback. Terenzio’s first order of business was getting Jones to volunteer at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital, where she could help teenage cancer survivors move on to college. However well-intentioned, these steps seem just a little too manufactured.

Here’s hoping I’m wrong. The fact is, facing the truth and operating with honesty, integrity and ethics will serve Jones well — she doesn’t need a PR firm for that. Based upon her own choices, she can now be true to herself and use her experience as a positive framework for helping others. Through that she will receive her SECOND CHANCE!

What do you think of Marilee Jones’ comeback? Too soon? Or just in time? Share your comments here.