PC Police Haul Professor Before Tribunal for Offshoring Joke

Apr 25, 2017 by

Image result for Trent Bertrand photo

Johns Hopkins scholar escorted from classroom by security after ‘hostile environment’ complaint

by Margaret Menge –

Trent Bertrand, a former senior economist with the World Bank, returned to Johns Hopkins University six years ago, where he had first taught in the 1970s, to teach a class on international economics.

It was an intellectually stimulating class that pulled students into a debate on economic development and the Enlightenment, the ideas of Immanuel Kant and John Stuart Mill, along with Adam Smith and Friedrich Hayek.

“To me, this is an unprecedented event for Hopkins and, I would suspect, for most universities.”

By his sixth year of teaching it, enrollment in the class had gone from 12 to 68 students.

But then, one day, things came to a screeching halt, when Bertrand was informed that he’d been the subject of a complaint for a joke he told in class about offshoring, a joke that a student felt had created a “hostile environment.”

“It came out of the blue,” Prof. Bertrand told LifeZette this week, saying he was told about the complaint by the head of his department about five classes before the end of the fall semester.

Just three weeks later, on Dec. 6, 2016, security guards were waiting for him when he showed up to teach his class, telling him that he’d been suspended from teaching and was not allowed to enter the classroom.

The offshoring joke that had inspired the original complaint involved a depressed man calling a mental health help line, only to find that his call has been transferred to a call center in Pakistan, as Bertrand retells it. The call center employee asks,

“What seems to be the problem?”

The American responds that he lost his job because the work he was doing was being sent overseas, and says he is depressed and suicidal.

The call center employee responds: “Great. Can you drive a truck?”

This and a handful of things he’d said in lectures in other years were presented to him in an April 7 meeting with representatives of the university’s Office of Institutional Equity.

“The interviewers suggested the joke might be offensive to some since it might imply that all Pakistanis or all Moslems are potential suicide bombers,” wrote Bertrand in a long note documenting the April 7 interview that he sent to other professors in the economics department. “I saw no implication in the joke that the imaginary call-center employee was representative of all Pakistanis or Moslems — a suggestion that seems to me to be an insult to all the Pakistanis and Moslems putting their lives on the line in an effort to defeat Islamic terrorism within their country and elsewhere.”

Another statement dealt with the issue of equal pay for equal work. Prof. Bertrand had told the class of the difficulty he had at the World Bank in determining what constitutes “equal work” as two people with the same title may do unequal amounts of work. He told the students that he’d done an assessment of midterm grades in the class, and found that one of the sexes had done 3 points better on average than the other, asking if he should even them out so that the average grade of both groups was the same. His students said, “no.” (It was the women in the class who had performed a bit better.)

Other statements that were alleged to have created a “hostile environment” involved discussions of two books — “The Bell Curve,” by Charles Murray, and “The Female Brain,” by Louanne Brizendine, both meticulously researched works by respected academics — and both controversial in intellectual circles.

Somewhat strangely, another allegation involved the professor’s attempt to solicit input from Chinese students in his class. One Asian student had said he was offended when the professor incorrectly assumed he was from China, and sought his input on China’s economy, when he is in fact a Canadian citizen.

In a letter notifying him of the suspension, the dean of the college of arts and sciences had written that the statements all “inappropriately target, single out, or denigrate groups of people based on their race, religion, and gender.”

Bertrand said he was told he could not have an attorney or anyone else present during the April 7 interview, and could not record it, either.

He was recently told that it would take about another two weeks for the committee to determine his guilt or innocence.

“To me, this is an unprecedented event for Hopkins and, I would suspect, for most universities,” says Bertrand.

“There was no investigation,” he says, and “no due process” before he lost his post.

If found “guilty,” Bertrand says he’ll appeal to the university’s Academic Council, and says he’s been talking to an attorney about taking the case outside the university, possibly filing a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission — in order to repair his reputation.

On the day that the security guards showed up at the door of his classroom, he’d asked for some mercy.

“For the first time in my four years here, I was truly excited to go to class and learn.”

“I negotiated with them to have three minutes to say farewell to the class,” he said, saying he’d taken those three minutes to urge his students to have an open mind about things, and to always think for themselves.

They’d responded with thunderous applause, Bertrand said, and several later emailed him.

One email, sent to Bertrand by a lacrosse player, bemoaned what the incident represented about the entire system of learning at the university. It reads:

I applaud you for your courage to stand up to the banner of political correctness that has overcome this University, and honestly, this society. But honestly… why do I even feel like I have to applaud this act?  The reason is everyone nowadays is afraid to engage in any confrontation. Has confrontation, debate… even competition been completely lost in our society?

 After four years here at Johns Hopkins I have firmly come to believe that the education system here is flawed. I rarely listen in class, I cram all test information into my head one or two nights (TOPS) before tests, and I just get by. There are times here and there that I find value and have a passion to explore a topic. However, I feel as though I am collecting checks (credits) until I can graduate with a degree that will get me a job- where I’ll have to learn everything all over again to do. I am very rarely challenged by a teacher to WANT to learn more, and WANT to research more into something… Until this semester.

For the first time in my four years here, I was truly excited to go to class and learn. For the first time in my four years here, I have spent more than 4 or 5 weeks now working on an assignment (my term paper.) And honestly, the first time in my four years year I have thoroughly enjoyed exploring my prompt for an assignment. 

Prof. Bertrand said he’s repeatedly emailed the president of the university, Ronald Daniels, but gotten no response from him.

He’s also taken to emailing his colleagues in the economics department at Johns Hopkins, but says none have spoken up for him to the university.

“This was something that I thought I would never see in an American university in any century, maybe in Nazi Germany in the 30s but not in America,” he wrote in one account. “I don’t want to push that comparison too far. I never felt that the security personnel would put me up against a wall and shoot me. In fact, one of them stated that he was very sorry to have to be doing what they had been instructed to do. The source of such repression is not a Hitler, but perhaps a more benign form of such tendencies can be seen in the attack on the Enlightenment implicit in a Roadmap to Diversity and Inclusion and Political Correctness guidelines that revert back to an institutionalized imposition of immaturity.”

Source: PC Police Haul Professor Before Tribunal for Offshoring Joke | LifeZette

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