College of Liberal Arts
“I was teaching a class that dealt heavily with concepts of culture. I assigned my students a paper in which they had to discuss a cultural issue by pulling from several factors, including historical components. One of my students (a white male) expressed interest in writing about the shooting of Michael Brown and the events in Ferguson. Seeing how motivated he was, I encouraged it and he even came to office hours to discuss his paper. I offered him sources when he asked for them and made him aware about some of the assumptions he was making about this case. For instance, he could not understand why the protesters were looting and I sat down with him and I remember we looked through a few articles, some written by a few of the activists in Ferguson, where outrage was expressed at individuals who took advantage of the situation to loot. Basically, I was trying to get him to realize that he was making an assumption about this case that was incorrect. I wanted him to take a step back and examine factual information. Despite providing him with what I thought were credible sources and multiple opportunities to sit down and talk, the student turned in a paper in which he discussed that he didn’t understand all the uproar over Michael Brown’s shooting. He talked about how Brown was at fault for having stolen cigarettes. I don’t even understand what he did with the references and discussions we had.
This was one of a few incidents. I have also received racist responses in exams and other written assignments from other students. The most frustrating part was when the students don’t understand why their responses were offensive.”