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Laurentian Professor's Waiver On Vulgar Language Got Him Axed From Teaching A Course

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Profanity is A-OK with this professor at Laurentian University, but the tactics he used to run it by his students got him kicked out of his own class.

Michael Persinger was teaching a first-year psychology course until recently, when the school told him he would no longer be teaching the year-long course.

At the start of the semester, Persinger handed out a statement of understanding to let his students know what they were in for for the rest of the year, in terms of his use of expletives.

The sheet leads off with a familiar motion picture rating symbol and disclaimer: "This course is rated "R" for coarse language and explicit content."

In the statement of agreement, he notes that both he and the students will be allowed to "employ creative metaphors regardless if they are or are not 'politically correct'." The next page lists nearly 30 examples of terms they can expect, ranging from "politician" and "Satan" to homophobic slurs and the "F word."

If students were uncomfortable with this, it was recommended they transfer to another section of the course, the document reads.

Persinger told the CBC he's been having students sign the waiver for years without a complaint. The CBC published a copy of the agreement Persinger handed out to students available here.

michael persinger laurentian

The Laurentian University Faculty Association has filed a grievance in light of the situation, saying the school's actions violate academic freedom.

Since his removal, several students have spoken up in Persinger's defence. A 19-year-old student, Aurora Buckley, told the Toronto Star that she'd specifically switched to his class after hearing good reviews from friends.

Persinger also won a national award for best lecturer in 2007 after being nominated by students.

A student from another course taught by the professor told the Star that she considered him to be one of her best professors, profanities and all, but she recalled that some students took offence to his teaching style. Two students left class during a lecture on religion.

Persinger tells the National Post that the reason he allows inappropriate language in his classes is so students can dissect it. He tells them it's not meant to embarrass or insult, but rather to teach them how emotionally-charged language can affect their thoughts and reasoning.

It's not the language, however, with which the administration took issue, but the contract itself. Robert Kerr, vice-president academic and provost, told Global News that faculty cannot require students to sign a document as a condition for taking a course.

In an interview with The Huffington Post Canada, Kerr specified that it is senate and administration that determine the prerequisites for each course, and it they meet those they should be able to take any section of the course.

Due to the grievance that has been filed, Kerr was unable to provide detail on the current steps being taken. Ideally, he said, "I would like to make sure we come to a resolution as quickly as possible that is something both parties can agree on."

The university has also said that Persinger is welcome to return to teaching the class if he drops the waiver, Global News reported.

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