Students Object to Philosophy Prof’s Facebook Post About Gaza

Andrew Pessin, professor of philosophy at Connecticut College, is at the center of a controversy at Connecticut College regarding offensive speech for a Facebook post he wrote in August, 2014. In the post, reports Inside Higher Ed,

Pessin describes the situation in Gaza as one in which “a rabid pit bull is chained in a cage, regularly making mass efforts to escape.” In Gaza, according to the post, the conflict is a cycle of giving the dog a chance by letting it out of its cage, only to have to put the pit bull back in the cage when it snarls and goes for the owner’s throat…

Pessin says the students who accuse him of being a racist are deliberately misrepresenting words he used as a metaphor and that he was referring to Hamas, not all Palestinians. Students — in letters to the student newspaper and an online petition — say Pessin dehumanized Palestinians with offensive language…

The letters acknowledge that Pessin has a right to free speech. But they also call on the administration to make underrepresented students feel more comfortable by making it clear that the university doesn’t agree with Pessin’s views…

[Pessin] wrote a brief letter to the editor in which—based on advice from the administration—he apologized for any hurt he caused. He wanted to defend himself, but he recognized that could put the blame on students who misinterpreted his words, he said.

Instead, the apology has been read as an admission of his guilt, he said.

The online petition‘s text includes the following:

We the undersigned acknowledge Prof. Pessin’s apology and hope that it is a sign of enhanced understanding of what precisely constitutes racist speech. We firmly believe and uphold the principle of free speech – free speech, moreover, that entitles one to their racist, homophobic, sexist, bigoted or violently hateful opinions.

We do not believe censoring Prof. Pessin to be the answer. That we are in disagreement with his opinions does not mean we wish to silence them…

We demand that the entire senior administration of College engage publicly in free speech on behalf of its angered and disquieted community, expressly declaring that it condemns the racist sentiments of Prof. Pessin and asking that the backlash against students who have publicly identified Prof. Pessin’s racism for what it was cease with immediate effect.

The original post by Pessin has been deleted, but here is a screen capture of it, via WNPR.



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