The Wanted Man

When a couple of students objected to the course materials in Stephen Philion's race and culture class at Hamline University, he thought the trouble would pass. Wrong.

Garvin Davenport, Hamline's vice president for academic affairs, downplays the controversies. "We have offered a racial and cultural minorities course in our College of Liberal Arts for more than 30 years," he writes in an email. "Of the nearly 50 students who took the course in the past two years, a small number were engaged in a disagreement with the professors over the content and methods of the course. Whether or not this makes a full-blown controversy, I do believe that acknowledging and working through such issues is what education is all about in a democracy. In my 40 years as a Hamline faculty member, I believe that we have always taken seriously this responsibility. Needless to say, we must also consider these particular incidents to be private matters between the students and faculty, and therefore cannot provide you with names or more details."

Brennan, of the University of Minnesota, says that this kind of acquiescence in the face of student discontent is not uncommon. "I know that they're exceedingly worried about legal action," he says. "So when there's a conflict, they side with the student."

Philion has since secured a tenure-track position at St. Cloud State University, where he'll begin teaching next fall. His experience at Hamline has left him bitter and angry. He believes the experiences of himself and Markowitz are part of an organized campaign.

Sean Smuda

"I link what happened to him and what happened to me," Philion says. "The students insist, 'we're not part of that.' I said, what you're doing is the same and likely part of a campaign that targets the sociology department's class on racial and cultural minorities. For some weird reason you think this is an important thing to fight." 

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