Professor Fired Over Va. Tech Discussion/Demonstration

Cross-posted from PoliBlog:

The AP reports: Professor fired over Va. Tech discussion

An adjunct professor was fired after leading a classroom discussion about the Virginia Tech shootings in which he pointed a marker at some students and said “pow.”

The five-minute demonstration at Emmanuel College on Wednesday, two days after a student killed 32 people on the Virginia Tech campus, included a discussion of gun control, whether to respond to violence with violence, and the public’s “celebration of victimhood,” said the professor, Nicholas Winset.

During the demonstration, Winset pretended to shoot some students. Then one student pretended to shoot Winset to illustrate his point that the gunman might have been stopped had another student or faculty member been armed.

The Boston Herald has a longer version of the story: Professor axed for VT stunt: Re-enacted tragedy to tout pro-gun perspective

The weird thing being (to me, anyway) is that Winset was fired via letter without any direct contact from administration and sans review. Further, the letter apparently cited issues of language (from the AP report):

The college issued a statement saying: “Emmanuel College has clear standards of classroom and campus conduct, and does not in any way condone the use of discriminatory or obscene language.”

It is unclear from the reporting that I can find on the story how obscene language is a relevant element of the story, although it is possible that he used such language and it was a pretext for the firing.

Back to the summary dismissal: such are the circumstances for adjuncts, but still it is odd that he was so summarily dismissed. One wonders if there was some kind of backstory that would explain the situation.

Another intriguing element to the story is that in the era of new media, Winset is able to get his side of the story out via YouTube. He has videoed and posted a four-part explanation of the events in question. If his version of events is accurate, then the firing makes little sense. Of course, he isn’t exactly an impartial source. One does get the feeling that he is a rather opinionated fellow who likely rubs some students the wrong way. Of course, if that was a firing offense, most colleges and universities would be faculty-less.

Here are the video clips in question:

If anything, it is an interesting exercise in the way the internet has changed news.

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Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter


  1. floyd says:

    The “adults” in our society appear to have become just what the cheap SCI-FI movies of yore predicted! Weak, hypersensitive children, tender of mind and spirit, without a single callous to protect body or soul.
    They have become totally unprepared to face the elements of reality, mentally or physically,and thus have become unfit to master their own lives or the world in which we live.
    I, for one, mourn the loss of the pioneering spirit that would expect young adults to be tough enough to face the chaffing winds of liberty without going “fetal” at the slightest insult to their sensitivities like those in charge of our universities do.
    While it is true that recent events have been most horrific, life must still go on without determent. we should have compassion for those who have suffered loss, while maintaining a sense of optimism and humor for the future.

  2. Bithead says:

    Clearly, discussion wasn’t wanted , despite what they said about it. The interesting part here is that the students were not offended ; the campus administration was. What could have possibly offended the administration so ?

    The idea that someone might have defended himself, had they been armed. That is an idea that needs to be kept under the strictest of control.

    So much for college Campi being a place for free exchange of ideas as a part of a learning process.

  3. […] Steven Taylor, posting at OTB, links a story today regarding the firing of a VT professor: An adjunct professor was fired after leading a classroom discussion about the Virginia Tech shootings in which he pointed a marker at some students and said “pow.” […]

  4. Anderson says:

    Sounds pretty darn hysterical to me. I suppose every society goes through these panics; at least nowadays, one is likely to be unjustly fired or suspended, rather than burned as a witch, etc.

  5. I think VT may be feeling a bit of heat about being ‘gun free’ (unless you are bent on mass murder), so any discussion about the lack of wisdom in that plan is suspect.

    There is an interesting comparison to VT to other mass murder that failed.

  6. Bithead says:

    The advantage of being ‘gun free’ is that people don’t use guns to kill people.

  7. floyd says:

    bithead; You mean they don’t use “legal” guns to kill people?

  8. Bithead says:

    Check the link, Floyd.
    Ya kinda lose the ironic flavor without it.

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