Created on Monday, 30 April 2012 23:28
Conversation about Jammie Price has exploded, both on campus and in the international media.
But this case is more complicated than it seems at first glance. Most of the discourse has centered around Price’s academic freedom, but there’s another concern that should be considered: the freedom of her students to feel respected in their learning environment.
Both sides have a stake in the debate.
Price is a tenured Appalachian State University sociology professor who was placed on administrative leave March 16, according to a letter sent by Vice Provost Tony Carey.
The letter can be read in full here. It details allegations brought by Price’s students. The much-discussed pornography documentary, “The Price of Pleasure: Pornography, Sexuality and Relationships” is mentioned, but other incidents are included as well.
Many involved in the conversation, particularly faculty members and commenters on sites like the Chronicle of Higher Education’s, have come to Price’s defense.
While Price met with administrators Monday, demonstrators held signs bearing slogans like “Forgive me, I have consistently strayed from the path of my syllabus.”
Professors from other universities have added input as well. Most have criticized the administration, as well as students who felt uncomfortable.
“This film is shown at colleges from one side of the country to the other,” Gail Dines, a sociology and women’s studies professor at Wheelock College who was interviewed in the film, told The Appalachian Wednesday.
Dines called the administration’s response “a complete violation of academic freedom.”
Academic freedom is a subject that has been debated at universities around the world.
Sometimes, students’ and professors’ scholarly endeavors face scrutiny from within their institutions, as well as outside voices.
That has been the tone of most of the discourse surrounding this issue -- and that is understandable. It makes sense to question whether Price, in her role as a faculty member, had the freedom to act as she did. Likewise, it’s worthwhile to examine the validity of the administration’s decisions regarding Price’s employment.
But there’s a student perspective that’s being left out.
The Appalachian has received letters to the editor from students who said they were enrolled in Price’s class this semester.
One student felt the film Price showed was inappropriate for an introductory sociology course. Another raised concerns about Price’s teaching style in general. Both students raised the issue that the class was not informed about the film’s content before it was presented.
“There was a scene where a father began molesting his babysitter,” one student wrote. “As a child who was sexually abused by a trusted adult figure, this really upset me. If I had known it was coming, I would have left class.”
Another student told The Appalachian Monday that she had been enrolled in Price’s course and felt “disheartened” by the current discourse, which has largely attacked Price’s students.
Price’s academic freedom, or lack thereof, is an important aspect of this story. But it’s not the only one that matters.
Anyone passing judgment about the Jammie Price issue should also examine the perspectives of students who were enrolled in Price’s course and understand her teaching style.
Professors have the right to challenge, provoke and experiment in the classroom. Likewise, the classroom should be a place where students can engage the curriculum without feeling disrespected or misled.