Friday, November 16, 2007

'hostile' enviornment....

BNCC has been a bit of a kerfluffle recently. It seems that someone used the "Everyone" e-mail function to solicit Christmas cards for the troops.

Someone else, correctly, pointed out that the troops aren't 100% Christian -- although, it should be noted that most say they are, and a large number of them are conservative Christians at that -- and suggested "holiday cards". As you may imagine, tempers got heated -- people said stupid stuff and everyone with a stance on religion (pro, con, 'Flying Spaghetti Monster, etc.) went a bit nutso in "everyone" e-mails.

As it went on, it wasn't personal -- at least that I could tell -- and everyone tried to be civil, even when writing some pretty ignorant stuff.

On my hallway, we made some jokes about it and mostly blew it off. It should be noted that 'my hallway' includes the people who teach philosophy, our only religion class and communication studies. Nobody from ' my hallway' "contributed" to the cycle of e-mails.... maybe we are just too busy teaching huge classes -- or, maybe we realize that not responding is a good option and that people say ignorant shit about religion on a daily basis. For us, it seemed to be a non-issue.

Today I was at a meeting with folks supervised by my Dean. Someone asked the Academic VP a question (that wasn't a question) about the "hostile work environment" created by the "proselytizing" going on in e-mail.

Last I checked, "proselytizing" was an act intended to promote conversion to a new religious faith. In order to be "hostile" the person would need to feel threatened by that attempt, no?

Unless she got some e-mails I either deleted or ignored, I didn't see ANY "everyone" e-mails that could be called an attempt at religious conversion, nor did I see any kind of threat.

She also implied that there is a problem of Church/State separation, as BNCC's e-mail was used to conduct the conversation and that she was concerned about "the kind of advise and the quality of education" provided by those she saw as creating the "hostile" environment.

Really, until this faculty member started talking in the meeting, the e-mails didn't really anger me. A few people said stupid stuff, others shut them down and it was over.

What angered me was seeing someone who ought to know better using hot-button words in an inappropriate way... and that really does bother me. If someone were really proselytizing and/or being hostile, I'd be in opposition to that kind of activity -- the problem is tagging ignorant but innocent actions one of those terms decreases the power of those terms when they are used to describe real instances.

I left the meeting sincerely worried about the critical thinking skills this faculty member was teaching - seeing as how she'd just demonstrated her own lack of critical thinking skills.

Edited to add:
A friend/reader sent me an e-mail saying that there was a call to religion in one of the more recent 'everyone' e-mails. I went back and actually read the most recent one -- and she is right. the message was kind of like 'the world we live in now sucks because people have ignored God'. I'll grant that the message was the weakest kind of proselytizing -- and, really the least effective method.

I still don't see it as creating a hostile working environment or establishing A college religion (thus the church/state separation problem). And, if it were the case that that created a hostile environment and violated church/state separation, then the only Philosophy class we can teach is Logic. The World Religion class is in trouble, as students are required to observe a religious practice and write about it. Further, my Introduction to Philosophy course is in trouble because I sometimes spend time on the philosophical underpinnings of religion and (gasp) arguments FOR the existence of God. My Ethics class is also in trouble because I talk about Natural Law and other ways philosophical ethics intersects with religion. In my Medical Ethics course we'll talk about Natural Law as well a the diversity challenges that come when people have different religious beliefs.

Also, since philosophy has large classes, I'm sure the number of students we teach in a week is significantly higher than the number of people who read to the end of the worst of the 'everyone' e-mails. Thus, we responsible for significantly worse violations of church/state separation and are creating a significantly more hostile environment.

1 comment:

Anastasia said...

yeah..uhh...unless the administration was requiring people to sign a christmas card, i don't see a real church/state issue here. most people throw the terms church and state around in inappropriate ways, though. they mean religion and politics, which is entirely different.

meanwhile, you are so right...there's no proselytizing going on here, even if there is some ignorance.