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Students discuss ignorant classroom comments

Unfortunately for students, it is a common experience to have been sitting in class and have a chill run down your spine as you hear a fellow classmate make an offensive comment. This situation is extremely uncomfortable for everyone involved – whether it is the professor, TA or student, no one wants to have to go through this. 

Most agree that insensitive comments have no place in the learning environment, yet these types of remarks are still prevalent. While Ohio University prides itself in diversity and inclusion, the conduct of some of its students clearly says otherwise. 

Students are often able to mentally prepare for possible offensive comments when entering classes such as political science, sociology, etc., but Audrianna Imka, a freshman studying psychology and special education, said offensive comments can happen anywhere. Learning communities at OU are supposed to be a safe introduction to college life for freshmen, but this is where Imka heard the most jarring comments yet.

“I'm a psych major (and) the major’s primarily female, but there were a few guys in there and one of them likes to terrorize our class with ignorant comments,” said Imka. “One of the discussions for that day was about diversity and inclusion and including people of different identities. At one point, he said, ‘I don't think it's fair that we have to use people's preferred pronouns.’”

Imka says this student's ignorant behavior didn’t stop in the classroom and continued in their class’s GroupMe.

“The guy responded (to someone) using improper pronouns,” said Imka. “And so then that person said, ‘My pronouns are they/them’ just to remind him, and he said, ‘My pronouns are don’t be/racist’, which came out of nowhere. The person addressing him was African American. It was making light of the whole pronoun situation.”

The students making ignorant or offensive comments often go unpunished. Julia Sheppard, a freshman studying environmental studies, saw men in her “Capitalism and its Critics” class making pro-Nazi comments.

“There were these guys who were talking about how Hitler was so good for the economy,” said Sheppard. “And how Hitler really did some good things. Another day, the same guys were talking about how the Nazis just had the coolest uniforms and the coolest symbols.”

Sheppard doesn’t recall any kind of consequences being given to the men saying these things.

“I feel like the worst that happens is everyone else in the class is like, ‘Man, I can't stand that guy,’” said Sheppard.

OU has policy written on interim campus freedom of expression, which states: “it is not the proper role of Ohio university ‘to attempt to shield individuals from free speech, including ideas and opinions they find offensive, unwise, immoral, indecent, disagreeable, conservative, liberal, traditional, radical or wrong-headed.’”

According to the policy’s rationale, such institutions are in place to encourage an environment where ideas can be shared. Under this policy, professors are not permitted to prevent students from sharing opinions, even ones some people find offensive, as not to interfere with their right to free speech. 

Still, these comments can be offensive and cause concern to students. These remarks are also not new on college campuses and often date back to high school. Carolyn Johnson, a freshman studying child and family studies, has heard offensive comments made on her appearance since high school. 

“Mainly it was around my looks, or if I got a question wrong,” said Johnson. “Before I had my braces, they used to say that I could fit a mattress in between my teeth.”

When faced with these issues, Sheppard said sometimes professors will politely address the problem, adding hopefully more will follow suit.

“My professor has ended class early, or she’s entered a very respectful debate with someone who’s just completely trying to cause a problem,” Sheppard said. “I don’t know how easy it would be for people to really realize, ‘Oh, this is something that’ll be offensive.’ It would be nice if professors would say things like, ‘Hey, don’t say disrespectful things like that in my class because that won’t be tolerated.’”


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