University of Maine sophomore Rebekah McDade, a journalism and political science double major, says she dropped a History of Mass Communications course on the first day when associate professor Paul Grosswiler â€œoffered extra credit to class members if they burned the American flag or the U.S. Constitution or were arrested defending free speech,â€ reports the Bangor Daily News.
“I was offended. I come from a family of military men and women, and the flag and Constitution are really important symbols to me because of my family background,” McDade tells the paper.
Responding to an E-mail from the paper requesting a comment, Grosswiler explained that a provocative example of free speech, such as flag burning, â€œdemonstrate[s] the courage necessary to support free expression,â€ and added:
“I donâ€™t intend for students to burn either the Constitution or the flag, and over the years hundreds of students have understood that. â€¦ If they donâ€™t tolerate thought that they hate, they donâ€™t believe in the First Amendment. I applaud the studentâ€™s exercise of free expression. If she had stayed in the class, I would have given her extra credit for publicizing her opinions.”
The Stiletto is a free speech advocate, so this is all well and good. But to be honest, if Grosswiler really meant to inspire students to have the courage of his convictions, he should have encouraged them to draw cartoons of Mohammad.
A UM spokesperson exercised his free speech rights by describing Grosswiler as a “well-respected member of the faculty” and then suggesting that students should not have taken his comments â€œliterallyâ€ and that â€œextra credit would not be granted for carrying out such activities.â€
So, basically, the official UM position is that the â€œrespectedâ€ professor is either a fool or a liar.
Note: The Stiletto writes about politics and other stuff at The Stiletto Blog.