Friday, July 15, 2011

Deaf Prof Fired

The University of Oregon has fired a sign language professor for a comment he made in class about shooting a student. Peter Quint told his class about a time in Pakistan when a gun was pointed at his head by a tribesman. The deaf professor said he was able to deal with the dangerous situation by his method of communicating with the man. The story was a way to explain to the students why he requires only visual communication in the classroom. His syllabus tells students he requires them to use ASL in the class to ensure everyone is included in the conversation. Later, during the same class, after several students repeatedly ignored his request to not use spoken English, Quint grew frustrated and told one of the students, "Do you want me to take a gun out and shoot you in the head so you understand what I am talking about? I had to practice being respectful in Pakistan otherwise I would have been shot. Can you practice the same respect here?" Other students in the class at the time later told the school newspaper that they understood Quint was not saying he was "actually going to shoot anyone.” His comment was clearly a reference to the story he had just told. Quint even apologized to the class.

Nevertheless, one student filed an official complaint, leading to Quint's suspension and eventual dismissal. Quint was finishing his second year as an adjunct instructor at the school. The campus newspaper, the Oregon Daily Emerald, wrote an article about his dismissal, which you can read here. In response, a student in the class wrote a letter to the editor claiming the decision to dismiss Quint was right. You can read the letter here.

Quint's attorney says the school violated his free speech and ADA rights were violated because "he got no hearing, he got no preparation for any kind of statement of the facts and no written finding talking about why he should get the suspension and later why he shouldn't be re-appointed." The situation has drawn interest from the campus rights group Fire (The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education), which has sent a letter to school officials demanding Quint's reinstatement. Quint himself indicates he plans to file a lawsuit against the school.