Welcome back students! This is the sixth day of a new year and the first day of a new semester. I’m excited to have you all in my class. Well, actually, I’m excited to have all but one of you in my class. Please allow me to explain.
Each semester, I teach two sections of Introduction to Criminal Justice. Each section has 35 students. At the end of the semester, every student is given a chance to evaluate the course. I receive and read those evaluations several months after they are completed.
When the evaluations come in, the results are generally the same. Over thirty students rave about the course – many saying it is the best they’ve ever had. A few students offer mild criticism – some saying they wish I would use Power Point. And, every semester, one student claims to have been offended by something I said in one of our thirty class meetings.
Last spring, an offended student claimed I was disrespectful towards students, explaining further that I had engaged in “homophobic” speech in the classroom. I know precisely why the student made that remark as there was one and only one discussion of homosexuality over the course of the semester in that particular class.
Our brief discussion of homosexuality occurred on our “preserving free speech” day. Every semester, I do a little exercise in understanding and appreciating free speech, which involves having every student answer three questions pertaining to free expression. The answers are read and discussed in front of the class sometime around mid-semester.
The third of those questions asks the student to say something he always wanted to say in a college classroom but feared to say because of concerns over political correctness. One student chose to say that he was adamantly opposed to gay marriage. After I read the remarks, I allowed a supporter of gay marriage to rebut them. In other words, both sides had an opportunity to speak.
There was a brief back-and-forth between the gay marriage supporter and the professor (me). I talked about the 1879 Reynolds decision, which upheld a Utah ban on polygamy. We talked about the issue of whether adoption of gay marriage would lead to polygamy. He said he did not care. I said I did. We had a healthy and respectful exchange – so much so that it continued for a couple of days during my office hours.