Saturday, March 21, 2009

Groupies

News travels fast on a small campus, but these days it travels even faster via Facebook.

Apparently well-known history professor Dr. Rorin Platt recently received some bad news from Campbell about his future with the university, though no one seems to know exactly what that news is, whether he lost is tenure or was just plain fired.

To no one's surprise, disgruntled Campbell students formed a Facebook group protesting the university's actions regarding Platt.

I have never had a class with Dr. Platt, nor am I a history major. I don't have an opinion about how excellent or horrible a professor he was, but I have a few things to say about the Facebook group and also about the group's goal to confront the administration on behalf of Dr. Platt.

People often throw Facebook communication to the side as petty and of little consequence, but whether you type a sentence into cyberspace or write it in a letter, words are still expressions of opinions and thoughts, which speak volumes about one's character.

This is my spiel:

1. Maintain a realistic perspective. After someone dies, gets fired or leaves abruptly in another way, people extol that person's graces and relay only the "good times." When people say Dr. Platt is one of the best professors Campbell has, remember how humans cope with loss and take into account his followers could be wearing rose colored glasses.

2. Despite Campbell being a non-profit institution, it still has to run like a business in order to stay in the black. When the university hires new faculty it's making an investment. When a professor frequently arrives considerably late to class, demands coffee runs from students and makes inflammatory remarks (as group members and other accounts have expressed), that investment isn't returning much profit becuase the professor isn't performing well.

The point? Regardless of Dr. Platt's quality of teaching, the university simply could have seen the situation as business.

3. A group member cited an apparent heart condition as reason for Dr. Platt's frequent tardiness, then mentioned the Americans with Disabilities Act as reason why the professor should remain at Campbell, implying Campbell was unaware of the legislation and in fact wasn't complying with it in the case of Dr. Platt.

In order for the university to comply with anyone's disability, that person much file the disability with the government. Secondly, the ADA requires employers to provide accommodations, like a wheelchair ramp or elevator. It doesn't require the organization to keep the employee despite poor performance.

4. An SGA member in the group cites personal communication between Dr. Platt and Dr. Greene, the university provost. My first thought was, why is a student aware of such communication? If he wasn't fabricating the quote from the letter, he was arrogant enough to attempt to impress the group with his inside information, though simultaneously revealing that he either read the letter without Dr. Platt's knowledge, or Dr. Platt showed him the letter. Neither occurrence was smart. The latter only speaks against Dr. Platt and the former speaks against the writer himself.

Talk about shooting yourself in the foot.

5. The writer of the aforementioned posting also insulted Dr. Greene and Dr. Hammond, the dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. The group wants to approach the administration about its decision-- and offensive slings from the SGA Executive Vice President are going to facilitate its cause? I don't think so.

6. This is (sarcastically) my favorite part of the entire group-- when the SGA Executive Vice President insults fellow students with an elitist, and once again, arrogant attitude. He condemns those apposing the group as below him.

"...they prove how those individuals go to 'Camp Campbell' not Campbell University and are taught by 'Camp Councilors' not true professional that are professors like Dr. Platt."

Translation: If you didn't like Dr. Platt, you somehow attend a different Campbell University run like a camp instead of an institute of higher education.

Ladies and gents, that's not even the kicker. After a long paragraph of run-on sentences and what's supposed to be inspirational rhetoric about justice, he snidely brings down community college students when referring to those who haven't researched Dr. Platt's background.

"Again this is evidence that some students just do not belong at a University, maybe a community college."

Translation: If you don't support the group, then obviously you haven't researched Dr. Platt (how silly of you), which makes you so dumb you should be in a community college, which apparently is below the writer's standards of education. Considering the poster's syntax and composition abilities, that's quite funny.

7. Last but not least, the group wants to meet in person to discuss how to officially show the administration its disapproval. Good for them. I'm always a fan of fighting the man, but once again, let's be realistic. I don't think the administration played rock-paper-scissors to come to a conclusion. As we saw from one person's unwise citation of personal documents about Dr. Platt, the administration spent several months on the matter and had personal meetings with the professor. I doubt a few angry students are going to prompt anyone to reverse the decision.

(Photo credit: http://cdn.davesdaily.com/pictures/401-protesting.jpg)