Student booted for 'personal beliefs'
February 16, 2005
Ex-master's candidate believes teachers should use 'strong discipline'
A master's student at a New York college was kicked out of the graduate education program because of what officials claim was a "mismatch" between his personal beliefs and the goals of the program.
According to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, or FIRE, a nonprofit group, the trouble began when Le Moyne College master's student Scott McConnell wrote a paper that advocated "strong discipline and hard work" in the classroom and an environment that allows "corporal punishment."
The paper, written in November, received an "A-," with McConnell's professor noting that his ideas were "interesting" and that she had shared the paper with the department chair, Cathy Leogrande. McConnell ultimately received an "A" as his final grade in the course.
Last month, however, Leogrande sent McConnell a letter stating he was being dismissed from the program.
In the dismissal letter, Leogrande stated that she had reviewed McConnell's grades for courses he took during the summer and fall semesters and had "discussed" his work with his professors.
Wrote Leogrande: "I have grave concerns regarding the mismatch between your personal beliefs regarding teaching and learning and the Le Moyne College program goals. Based on this data, I do not believe that you should continue in the Le Moyne [Master of Science for Teachers] Program. You will not be allowed to register for additional courses."
FIRE says at the time he was dismissed, McConnell had a grade-point average of 3.78 for the fall semester.
"Le Moyne College says it respects academic freedom, yet it has dismissed a student purely for expressing personal beliefs that are different from those espoused by administrators," David French, president of FIRE, said in a statement. "This shows a profound lack of respect for the opinions of its students. Le Moyne must not promise freedom and then allow extensive and arbitrary censorship on an administrator's whim."
On Feb. 3, FIRE wrote a letter to Le Moyne President Charles Beirne stating that dismissing a student based solely on his expression would undermine the college's own standards, which state that students who interfere with others' expression are subject to "the maximum penalty of suspension or dismissal."
A written response from LeMoyne stated, "The college does not believe it is appropriate to enter a public debate with your organization concerning the college's admission decision concerning any particular student."
FIRE says it will not drop the issue, stating it has not decided whether or not to take legal action.
"Le Moyne College administrators must learn that the freedom to dissent is everyone's business," said Greg Lukianoff, the organization's director of legal and public advocacy.
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