Religion freedom vs. academic freedom - discrimination or not?

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  • Reply 101 of 135
    The university of copenhagen require a plate of gold to accept me. It must be my danish teacher from High schools job to provide it to me. <img src="graemlins/oyvey.gif" border="0" alt="[oyvey]" />



    As BR said: Its not he fault of the professor that someone else have stupid rules. If it was me I would write my application and explain it as it is: I disagree with my professor on this and this issue and I would not bent just to get an recommendation so they must do without and I would be more than happy to come and explain it for board if they wanted me to do so.



    IMHO that would be much more effectful and show a lot more about the student than a LoR. And if the board said well thats not how we do it: No LoR, no acceptance, I would say screw you. Your obvious not the place for me.



    One of my co students hasn´t got a full high school education but is accepted at uni because he was a central figure in the 80s squatter movement (and for other reasons) and have gained a lot of experience that way. Experience that is different than my for example but something that helps him through Uni just as well as my high school diploma helps me. Its a courageus board that accepts students on grounds like that.
  • Reply 102 of 135
    thttht Posts: 5,354member
    <strong>Originally posted by trumptman:

    However he was taking the class to graduate and go to medical school. It was an undergraduate class which means it just gives a general overview of biology.

    ...

    Disagreeing about that particular topic would not stop you from being a good lawyer. Disagreeing about macro-evolution would not stop this student from being a good doctor.</strong>



    So, a biology professor should give a student who understands one of the prevailing concepts of biology yet denies its efficacy a [positive] letter of recommendation because said knowledge is not important to the student's future?



    Why should the professor believe and behave in such a way? A letter of recommendation is a personal affirmation that a student is worthy to be in some institution or business. It would weaken the professor's reputation and cheapen the value of a letter of recommendation.



    <strong>Again I could make up a half a dozen examples where this would seem just as absurd. You could be taking a class in recent American history and need a letter to go to law school. You could earn an "A" in the class, and get to know the professor during office hours. However to have that professor turn around and deny you a letter because say, you disagree about aspects of the U.S. involvement in Vietnam is silly and irresponsible.</strong>



    Ok, but what about a student who disagrees in quantum theory? What about a student who disagrees with plate tectonics? How about the theory of relativity, is that up for debate? How about inheritable traits? What bounds for "creative thought" are you going to give students without penalizing them?



    And in your example, what if the student believes the Gulf of Tonkin was real? That the press did a good job reporting that? Obviously where I'm leading is the typical evolution is a hard science debate, but I'm just trying to gage your bounds.



    <strong>The process we were discussing involves admissions to various colleges and schools. Grade inflation is a huge problem and some people explain away differences in performance on tests like the SAT, ACT and GRE as being caused by racial and cultural differences.</strong>



    So, there is no such thing as inflation in letters of recommendation.



    <strong>John's letters of recommendation sound obligatory.

    ...

    Juan's letters of recommendation are glowing.

    ...

    So who would you admit? That is a debate for another thread, but we can see here how important letters of recommendation have become to the admissions process.</strong>



    I don't buy it yet. This is a fairly contrived example, since it can just as easily be said the John's letters of recommendation are glowing as well. It can easily be said that the reputation of certain people who write letters of recommendation are much more important. A letter from a person who the institution or business trusts will be much more valuable than the content itself. This is, by the way, how I understand how recommendations are most effective.
  • Reply 103 of 135
    midwintermidwinter Posts: 10,060member
    [quote]

    <strong>A letter of recommendation is a personal affirmation that a student is worthy to be in some institution or business</strong><hr></blockquote>



    I would only nit-pick with this a little bit: in addition to a personal affirmation, letters of rec are an *endorsement* of the student by the professor.



    Otherwise, I agree with you completely. I just wish I'd said it all that clearly



    Cheers

    Scott



    [ 02-24-2003: Message edited by: midwinter ]</p>
  • Reply 104 of 135
    Jeez, I'm not a fundamentalist Christian, but I would also refuse to accept Darwin's theory of evolution as fact. That's akin to claiming we know all there is to know on the subject.



    Not only has it not been proven to the degree of precision required for an idea to progress beyond the moniker "theory", but there are areas of development it does not touch, and it breaks down on the fringes of evolutionary pressure.



    This is like asking me to accept Newton's laws as fact. Truth is they were an excellent approximation for a long time, but they break down along the fringes of speed and mass. Darwin's theory of evolution can be likened to Newton's physical laws. A genius discovery and relatively precise theory to explain biological development, but not fact.



    I might even venture to theorize that we will never have a body of knowledge proven to be "fact" to encompass biological development or physical mechanics. But I cannot prove it.



    -- ShadyG
  • Reply 105 of 135
    pfflampfflam Posts: 5,053member
    [quote]Originally posted by thegelding:

    <strong> drunken irishmen...

    </strong><hr></blockquote>I knew that there must be some commonality twixt Gelding and myself . . . alas, its that . . .
  • Reply 106 of 135
    trumptmantrumptman Posts: 16,464member
    [quote]Originally posted by BR:

    <strong>



    If a student is required to get a letter of recommendation, it is the fault of the institution requiring it, not that of the person withholding it. Nobody has a right to a letter of recommendation, period.</strong><hr></blockquote>



    You are changing the question. No one is saying they have a right to a letter of recommendation. The question is are you allowed to use discrimination in your criteria regarding letters or recommendation.



    Nick
  • Reply 107 of 135
    brussellbrussell Posts: 9,812member
    [quote]Originally posted by ShadyG:

    <strong>Jeez, I'm not a fundamentalist Christian, but I would also refuse to accept Darwin's theory of evolution as fact. That's akin to claiming we know all there is to know on the subject.</strong><hr></blockquote>That wasn't what the prof required. He asked students to "truthfully and forthrightly affirm a scientific answer" to this question: "How do you think the human species originated?"



    Think about that question. He wasn't asking students to deny religious beliefs. He was asking students to give a scientific answer to a biology question.
  • Reply 108 of 135
    pfflam, not only the drunken heritage we share...if i remember correctly you have great taste in movies and books.....g
  • Reply 108 of 135
    brbr Posts: 8,395member
    [quote]Originally posted by trumptman:

    <strong>



    You are changing the question. No one is saying they have a right to a letter of recommendation. The question is are you allowed to use discrimination in your criteria regarding letters or recommendation.



    Nick</strong><hr></blockquote>



    And the answer is of course you can because no one has a right to a letter of recommendation. It doesn't make it moral but it is perfectly legal.
  • Reply 110 of 135
    pfflampfflam Posts: 5,053member
    The professor need not write a letter . . .c'est tout!!!!



    He doesn't like the way that the student couched his science in aggressive religious belief then no letter for him . . . tough.



    A letter of recommendation is like asking someone to do something extra for you . . . you should grovel before you ask for a letter . . . you should whimper and prostrate



    The professor has to think up, and type, a coherent bunch of words about someone's performance, even if that someone is practically a stranger . . . and must do so while also trying to maintain research, prep for classes, feed their kids, shop for groceries, play Unreal Tournement, and type in AI . . . so they really are doing that person an extra bit of goodness . .



    and if its a letter from me then you better believe its extra good!!!!!!! and you better have been crawllin while asking for it . . .





    now this thing about standardized tests: they're on the rise and they are nothing but bad news . . . they are the invisible elitism, not the eleitism of talent and knowledge and ability, as is the eletism of midwinter (as far as I can tell) but rather an elitism of specific cultural interpretations of specific data which are ambient in the environment for certain groups and non-existent to others . . .



    Standardized tests are terrible and a true detriment to humanistic education.



    [ 02-24-2003: Message edited by: pfflam ]</p>
  • Reply 111 of 135
    trumptmantrumptman Posts: 16,464member
    [quote]Originally posted by THT:

    <strong>

    So, a biology professor should give a student who understands one of the prevailing concepts of biology yet denies its efficacy a [positive] letter of recommendation because said knowledge is not important to the student's future?



    Why should the professor believe and behave in such a way? A letter of recommendation is a personal affirmation that a student is worthy to be in some institution or business. It would weaken the professor's reputation and cheapen the value of a letter of recommendation.



    </strong><hr></blockquote>



    None of these factors would happen because what the professor is questioning is not performance or knowledge but personal belief. It is like saying believing in UFO's would make you a bad doctor or accountant. If anything you prove my point because it shows that this one criteria has nothing to do with reaffirming the point that the professor would worry about.



    [quote] Ok, but what about a student who disagrees in quantum theory? What about a student who disagrees with plate tectonics? How about the theory of relativity, is that up for debate? How about inheritable traits? What bounds for "creative thought" are you going to give students without penalizing them?



    And in your example, what if the student believes the Gulf of Tonkin was real? That the press did a good job reporting that? Obviously where I'm leading is the typical evolution is a hard science debate, but I'm just trying to gage your bounds. <hr></blockquote>



    Does it really matter what they personally believe as long as they can demonstrate the knowledge in the field and show they can do the job?



    As for judging bounds, you keep it broad but lets bring it in a bit more. People are making this an evolution vs. creationism debate with clear sides but lets move it over to just pure evolution. Suppose this professor believed in gradualism instead of punctuated equalibrium. If the student earned a grade of "A", and got to know the professor, would the professor be justified in declaring that he would be a bad doctor just because he believed in punctuated equlibrium?



    Does anyone see yet how this criteria has absolutely nothing to do with a) How well the student did in biology? and b) How they would perform as a doctor?



    [quote] So, there is no such thing as inflation in let <hr></blockquote>



    Oh as I mentioned I have no doubt it would happen in letters of recommendation exactly as it has happened in grades.



    Anytime you try to move people of privlege into a worse position you shouldn't be amazed if they don't just passively roll over and instead counter the move. So the numbers favor them and instead we add background letters, letters of recommendation, income indicators, maybe even enrollment by part of the state or zip code.



    So they minimize their wealth on the background letter (no real way to verify it), they practically buy the letters of recommendation, they hide and shelter their income, they buy a second house in an under-represented part of the state or zip code.... DUH!



    I mean it is like complaining that a rich business pays no taxes while the little guy takes it on the chin. Of course that is going to happen because you don't get rich by knowing nothing about money. The will hide it, move it, lobby for a special exemption, etc. Meanwhile the little guy who knows nothing about money gets reamed when amazingly enough there isn't enough revenue to pay for the benefits he, himself voted in.(pardon my rant)



    [quote]I don't buy it yet. This is a fairly contrived example, since it can just as easily be said the John's letters of recommendation are glowing as well. It can easily be said that the reputation of certain people who write letters of recommendation are much more important. A letter from a person who the institution or business trusts will be much more valuable than the content itself. This is, by the way, how I understand how recommendations are most effective. <hr></blockquote>



    Of course it is contrived, you asked for it! You wondered why someone would even need a letter of recommendation and stated that you had never been asked for one. I gave the clearest example possible as to how they are trying to use criteria such as this to overcome the limitations of just using grades and standarized tests. I didn't declare them perfect, nor did I say I even support them. You just asked for an example and I provided one. I have no doubt that if John didn't get in, Daddy would go back and ask for better letters, call the admissions office, donate a building, etc.



    I don't need to explain to you how the world works and that amazingly enough those on top really want to stay there even at the expense of those on the bottom. As I said I don't consider this process a solution, but while they are enforcing it shouldn't be discriminatory.



    As for the proces itself, it is mostly just silly. I know this myself as an educator. All these fake extra-curriculars, inflated GPA's, letters of recommendation and other cock and bull amount to pretty much nothing the second you are outside of school. They are just pretty little hoops to jump through.



    I've had to get letters of recommendation on several occasions, and through them all I have never been asked about my personal beliefs. I was judged on my ability to demonstrate knowledge or demonstrate performance on a job. They could have cared less if I believed in God, left-handed RNA from meteorites, UFO's, angels, ghosts, you name it.



    Nick



    [ 02-25-2003: Message edited by: trumptman ]</p>
  • Reply 112 of 135
    trumptmantrumptman Posts: 16,464member
    [quote]Originally posted by BR:

    <strong>



    And the answer is of course you can because no one has a right to a letter of recommendation. It doesn't make it moral but it is perfectly legal.</strong><hr></blockquote>



    It might be legal if you apply this standard without being forced to state it. Much like it would take a concerted effort to prove say a lending institution is racist.



    With large samples it has been proven that mortgage originators for example turn down minority candidates more often for a loan even when given the exact same numbers. This implicit type of racism would be very hard to sue against.



    However if the institution simply stated, we won't lend money to black people they would be sued and they would lose.



    Yet you have no right to a loan either.



    The professor stated this criteria. He could have simply left it unsaid and it would become a campus secret you could do nothing about, probably much like trying to catch a cab late at night while being black.



    However he stated the policy and in my opinion will likely lose the lawsuit. I have no doubt that is why he already changed the wording of his question. If he loses the suit, I have no doubt the question will be altered even further. In fact I would even be willing to bet the final criteria will be much like I stated here. Demonstrate a keen knowledge of evolution, not prove belief.



    Nick



    Nick
  • Reply 113 of 135
    pfflampfflam Posts: 5,053member
    [quote]Originally posted by trumptman:

    <strong> In fact I would even be willing to bet the final criteria will be much like I stated here. Demonstrate a keen knowledge of evolution, not prove belief.

    </strong><hr></blockquote>

    Perhaps that will be the case . . . and if that really were the reason for his not writing the recommendation, rather than an entire structural anti-scientific perspective (which I have a suspicion is in fact the case . . . and, where the sole porpose of taking the class was in order to 'challenge this 'discrimination'') I would think that he should have written the recommendation.



    However, on principle he does not 'need' to write it (see my post above) and it is that simple . . .



    He probably should have written a letter in which he states quite clearly that he thinks that the student is capable of satisfying two thirds of the criteria but that the student exhibits a lack of a profound understanding of basic scientific principles in certain specific areas etc etc . . .





    and hence another reason why Letters are better than tests: there is a chance for a rounder image of the students character, capabilities, talents and possibilities.
  • Reply 114 of 135
    brussellbrussell Posts: 9,812member
    [quote]Originally posted by pfflam:

    <strong>now this thing about standardized tests: they're on the rise and they are nothing but bad news . . . they are the invisible elitism, not the eleitism of talent and knowledge and ability, as is the eletism of midwinter (as far as I can tell) but rather an elitism of specific cultural interpretations of specific data which are ambient in the environment for certain groups and non-existent to others . . .



    Standardized tests are terrible and a true detriment to humanistic education.</strong><hr></blockquote>I disagree, and I'd love to get into it with you about this, but I don't want to hijack this thread.

    : devilish but disappointed and somewhat chagrined smiley :



    [quote]Originally posted by pfflam:

    <strong>and hence another reason why Letters are better than tests: there is a chance for a rounder image of the students character, capabilities, talents and possibilities.</strong><hr></blockquote>As well as the personal biases and prejudices of the letter-writer and letter-reader.



    [ 02-25-2003: Message edited by: BRussell ]</p>
  • Reply 115 of 135
    trumptmantrumptman Posts: 16,464member
    [quote]Originally posted by pfflam:

    <strong>

    Perhaps that will be the case . . . and if that really were the reason for his not writing the recommendation, rather than an entire structural anti-scientific perspective (which I have a suspicion is in fact the case . . . and, where the sole porpose of taking the class was in order to 'challenge this 'discrimination'') I would think that he should have written the recommendation.



    However, on principle he does not 'need' to write it (see my post above) and it is that simple . . .



    He probably should have written a letter in which he states quite clearly that he thinks that the student is capable of satisfying two thirds of the criteria but that the student exhibits a lack of a profound understanding of basic scientific principles in certain specific areas etc etc . . .





    and hence another reason why Letters are better than tests: there is a chance for a rounder image of the students character, capabilities, talents and possibilities.</strong><hr></blockquote>



    pfflam,



    I was going to give you a little more credit than just taking at face value what you posted. I posted links to the current TTU schedule of classes. It showed that this particular professor was the only one teaching all sections of Biology II at this university.



    Perhaps in another thread we can discuss whether courts should be used to promote social agendas, but in this particular case I think the guy deserves the benefit of the doubt.



    It says he had to take the class at another university and transfer the one class back into this university. That to me says lends credence to his case. If he had declared the entire university religiously hostile and declared he had to go somewhere else to graduate, etc. that would be very different.



    In principle you are right and as I mentioned if he had not stated the criteria, he could probably get away with it forever. Of course someone could flip it around and say that if the professor were only interested in insuring an understanding of biology, he wouldn't purposely be posting criteria that includes a personal question seeking to antagonize segments of the population.



    On a devils advocate note, I would have liked to gone to this professor and stated that I fully believe in evolution, but that the initial RNA had to be seeded by aliens because I saw it in a STTNG episode.



    As for letters of recommendation being better measures. I don't see how humans trying to be objective and failing(because we all have our biases) when designing a test is any worse than humans knowingly being subjective and writing their subjective views down on a piece of paper.



    Nick
  • Reply 116 of 135
    pfflampfflam Posts: 5,053member
    Yes, biases etc are going to be there... but they are attached to a specific signiture with a specific history . . .and, at the point, where letters make a difference those things matter . . .



    but it's true what you say to some extent . . . in the best case there would be a measure of both . . . standardization with its pretence of objectivity and the richer information of some form of narrative. For example: many alternative schools don't offer grades but rather have evaluations. Evaluations affoer a very broad picture of the student's work and capabilities and provide nuances where the grade of 'B' does not. And then, to the other extreme, the place where I am teaching now does not even give + (plus) or minus grades, merely A, B, C, D o a failure . . . they give virtually no room for subtle differences . . . a but this is academic *heehee*



    Another thing about standardized tests is that the outcome depends so much on the student's ability to take tests . . . test taking is probably not a usefull skill for English majors "in the field" except for when they need to take standardized tests . . . and beyond school, the only time they would need to do so would be in the DMV . . . and same can be said of 90% of the fields where a college ed is usefull.



    anyway... would love to see a drawing of that chagrined etc smiley . . . draw one up and .mac it.
  • Reply 117 of 135
    midwintermidwinter Posts: 10,060member
    I think this discussion is being sidetracked by all of this groping for appropriate analogies, and we've lost the key element of the issue:



    This biology professor will not write letters of recommendation for people who will not "affirm" a scientific answer to the evolution of species.



    Since he's a biology professor, he's most likely writing letters of rec for people applying to grad schools and med schools, and he believes that an acceptance of Darwin's theories (or more probably some kind of modern version of it--punctuated equilibrium, or whatever it's going by these days) is fundamental to a successful pursuit of these types of careers.



    He is under no obligation to personally endorse a student who does not meet his criteria, nor is he obligated to endorse a student he feels would not fare well in such a career.



    [insert graceful transition here]



    The title of this thread, even, is inflammatory, since this isn't religious freedom at all. Evolution need not be antithetical to religious belief (and there were MANY in mid and late 19th century who found Darwin's theories perfectly compatible with Christian doctrine). He's not attempting to deny this student the ability to believe what he wants to believe, nor is he attempting to somehow malign this student for his religious beliefs. He's got a set of criteria that are perfectly reasonable within his profession, and he makes them clear.



    One thing to keep in mind about all the racism questions is this: folks who hold such beliefs tend not to make it very far in academia. I have known ONE openly racist professor in my entire educational history (three universities), and he was in his 70s and one of the earliest super-scholars of the Old South (i.e. the Confederate South). To talk about such things as if they happen all the time, or as if such people wouldn't be weeded out very early on in their careers (i.e. pre-tenure), is hyperbolic at best.



    The other half of the title of this thread, though, is dead on. Any challenge to a faculty member's ability to maintain criteria of his own making for writing letters of recommendation *is* a threat to the professor's academic freedom, and should be opposed. Remember: if a professor is a racist pigdog, not only is he going to be a rarity (at public schools, that is), but he's probably not going to write very many letters of rec in the first place.



    Cheers

    Scott



    PS

    Scott: I left an apology to you in the other thread.



    PPS

    One little thing. Anyone who thinks that letters of rec--or more specifically, GOOD letters of rec--are easy to write is fooling him/herself. They take hours and days. I wrote two for a student last semester (one to Brown and one to Smith), each of which were two single-spaced pages, and they took around 8 hours to write. You don't want them to sound like boiler plate, and you have to be careful about what kinds of words you choose (e.g. avoid "adequate" as a description of the student's work). I had four written for me last semester, and none of them were under 4 pages. I know it took at least a week for one of them. A thoughtful professor will be aware that these letters of rec are one of the things that get you out of the pile and into the hiring committee's hands.



    Whew.



    Cheers

    Scott



    [ 02-25-2003: Message edited by: midwinter ]



    [ 02-25-2003: Message edited by: midwinter ]</p>
  • Reply 118 of 135
    midwintermidwinter Posts: 10,060member
    [quote]Originally posted by trumptman:

    <strong>I posted links to the current TTU schedule of classes. It showed that this particular professor was the only one teaching all sections of Biology II at this university. </strong><hr></blockquote>



    I just noticed this, and it struck me as strange that the kid would be seeking a rec from his sophomore level bio instructor. I wonder what he taught prior to this semester....
  • Reply 119 of 135
    trumptmantrumptman Posts: 16,464member
    [quote]Originally posted by midwinter:

    <strong>



    I just noticed this, and it struck me as strange that the kid would be seeking a rec from his sophomore level bio instructor. I wonder what he taught prior to this semester....</strong><hr></blockquote>



    Or it could be that this kid is just an undergraduate getting his degree in whatever will get him into medical school and that it didn't require anything higher than Biology II, or that he other sciences for the graduate level work.



    Nick
  • Reply 120 of 135
    trumptmantrumptman Posts: 16,464member
    [quote]Originally posted by midwinter:

    <strong>I think this discussion is being sidetracked by all of this groping for appropriate analogies, and we've lost the key element of the issue:



    This biology professor will not write letters of recommendation for people who will not "affirm" a scientific answer to the evolution of species.



    Since he's a biology professor, he's most likely writing letters of rec for people applying to grad schools and med schools, and he believes that an acceptance of Darwin's theories (or more probably some kind of modern version of it--punctuated equilibrium, or whatever it's going by these days) is fundamental to a successful pursuit of these types of careers.



    One thing to keep in mind about all the racism questions is this: folks who hold such beliefs tend not to make it very far in academia. I have known ONE openly racist professor in my entire educational history (three universities), and he was in his 70s and one of the earliest super-scholars of the Old South (i.e. the Confederate South). To talk about such things as if they happen all the time, or as if such people wouldn't be weeded out very early on in their careers (i.e. pre-tenure), is hyperbolic at best.



    </strong><hr></blockquote>



    It wasn't sidetracked. People keep trying to sidetrack it by getting off the original question the professor asked instead of the revised question.



    He would write recommendations only for students who could "truthfully and forthrightly affirm a scientific answer" to this question: "How do you think the human species originated?"



    It wasn't a scientific question asking for a scientific answer. It was a philosophical question demanding a scientific answer. As I mentioned in my little devils advocate moment, if I said human evolution true, but believed we were seeded here by alien RNA would this professor have dumped me?



    As for your lack of prejudiced encountered in academia I say good for you. I have personally encountered tons of it.



    I had an English professor who was a radical feminist. She of course had to have us read her favorite novel. In this novel (pardon me as I have forgotten the name) the main character is a woman who leaves her neglectful husband and family (yes her children) to become an artist. As the stresses of being an artist and struggling against the societal sexist expectations of her role become to much for her, she drowns herself in the sea.



    In my review of that book, I simply asked if a man leaving his wife and children to pursue being an artist would be viewed as heroic. (of course it wouldn't)



    Based off that one statement, she lowered the grade of my final paper enough to lower my entire grade in the class from an "A" to a "B". I know again the disbelief, but you have to consider how most professors weigh various papers. All my previous papers (there were several) had earned "A's" and of course she saved the best book (in her opinion) with the most weight grade-wise for last.



    I had another professor actually toss me out of her multicultural education class when I questioned her about teaching Mexican children in Spanish.



    I simply stated that if we did this weren't we simply helping their oppressor since all these children had mostly indian ancestry and had been forced to become Catholic and speak Spanish by conquering Spain. Weren't they in reality like African-Americans who have had their true culture stripped from them and were now unable to rise up (by the class definition, not mine) because of this.



    Shouldn't we in reality, be going back and teaching these children in their native indian tongues and also teaching them their true native culture (be it aztec, or other indian group)



    That didn't go over well.... she had me dropped from the class at her discretion.



    In fact I would say the one place in my life where the thinking was most rigid, and that I encountered the most sexism, classism, and racism was at University.



    Nick
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