Shielding students from discomfort
In other book-related news, a Minnesota school district decided last week to stop requiring high school students to read two classics: To Kill a Mockingbird and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Parents and community groups in Duluth, Minn., have complained about the novels for years because they contain the “n-word,” district officials said. Although the books will no longer be on the required reading list, students can still find them at the school library. “Conversations about race are an important topic, and we want to make sure we address those conversations in a way that works well for all of our students,” said Michael Cary, director of curriculum and instruction for the district. Students say having to read racial slurs makes them uncomfortable. The local NAACP chapter called the decision “long overdue.” —L.J.
Forcing students to face discomfort
While educators in Minnesota want to save students from feeling uncomfortable, administrators at Princeton University want to teach them to have rational conversations about uncomfortable topics. Several students walked out of an anthropology class after professor emeritus Lawrence Rosen used the “n-word” during a lecture about hate speech. Rosen later canceled the course, but university President Christopher Eisgruber defended the professor during a town hall meeting with students. “I think it’s very important for our culture to have academic freedom that allows people to have pedagogical choices on how to teach difficult subjects,” Eisgruber told them. Anthropology Department chairwoman Carolyn Rouse, who is African-American, noted the students missed an important lesson by walking out of class. “Rosen was fighting battles for women, Native Americans, and African-Americans before these students were born,” she wrote in a letter to The Daily Princetonian. “He grew up a Jew in anti-Semitic America, and recognizes how law has afforded him rights he would not otherwise have.” —L.J.
Pledge death case heads back to court
Members of a now-shuttered Penn State fraternity will go back to court next month to convince a judge they shouldn’t face trial for a pledge’s post-hazing death. During a preliminary hearing last year, Pennsylvania Magisterial District Judge Allen Sinclair dismissed the most serious charges against the college students, but the Centre County district attorney refiled charges based on new evidence shortly before she left office in December. Her successor turned the case over to the state attorney general’s office. State prosecutors say they haven’t decided yet whether to pursue the case. Beta Theta Pi pledge Timothy Piazza, a sophomore engineering student, died after consuming mass quantities of alcohol and falling down the fraternity house’s basement steps. The group’s leaders didn’t get him medical attention until the next day, when he died at a local hospital. The charges filed against the students made up the biggest hazing-related case in U.S. history. —L.J.