Thursday, 4:30 PM
Fired professor takes dismissal to YouTube
By April Simpson, GLOBE STAFF
A former Emmanuel College adjunct professor, who was fired last week for using a classroom discussion to mimic the recent tragedy at Virginia Tech, said Sunday that the college violated his rights and has tried to stifle valid discussion of a controversial topic.
"Every other faculty member there has learned the lesson of be quiet," Nicholas Winset said in a telephone interview. "How can you be a professor and not touch on controversy?"
Winsetís comments came a day after he posted an 18-minute defense of his actions on YouTube.com, a popular website for homemade video clips.
Under the title "Fired Professor Speaks Out!" the four-part video features Winset describing the lecture that led to his dismissal: a brief discussion of gun control, whether to respond to violence with violence, and the publicís "celebration of victimhood" in the aftermath of the Virginia Tech shootings.
"To me, the message that this sends to every professor at Emmanuel College is, 'Donít ever say anything controversial because you will be fired,'" Winset said in the video.
In his financial accounting class Wednesday, Winset dramatized the massacre that left 33 students and faculty dead after 23-year-old Seung-Hui Cho went on a shooting rampage, eventually turning the gun on himself. Winset, 37, said administrators had asked faculty members to engage students on the issue.
Winset said he opened the discussion by summarizing nonviolent philosophies before holding up a marker and asking the class to acknowledge that it was not a weapon.
Afterwards, "I walked among them, [aiming the marker at students] and went Ďbangí five or six times," Winset said in the telephone interview.
He then held up his hands signaling to a student he had prepped before class, to draw his own marker and point it at Winset, "at which point, I went down," Winset said.
"Why did I stop?" Winset asked his 23 undergraduate students.
"Why was this possessed person stopped in Virginia?" he asked, before someone replied that Cho was shot.
"So guns maybe arenít all bad," Winset told the group.
After class, students and parents contacted officials at the Catholic liberal arts school in Boston, which released a statement Friday saying the school prohibits "any behavior or action which makes light of or mimics the terrible tragedy at Virginia Tech.
"Emmanuel College has clear standards of classroom and campus conduct, and does not in any way condone the use of discriminatory or obscene language by any member of the College community," the statement read.
Winset said the discussion took roughly five minutes. In the video, he said he wanted to assuage studentsí fear of a similar attack occurring on their campus when "statistically, the odds of them being in a major car accident," are greater.
Winset also said in the video and Sunday that the shootings were blown out of proportion by the media and the public, who have failed to draw attention to matters with greater long-term implications.
"More people died of AIDS that day and no one is flying at half mast for them," the Newton resident said Sunday. "And more importantly, it [the Virginia Tech shootings] didnít affect the markets. The Dow reached a record high that week."
Christopher J. Stephens, an adjunct professor of English at Wentworth Institute of Technology, posted a response to Winsetís dismissal early Sunday on an online independent news publication. He said Winset misunderstood his role as an adjunct professor.
"The whole point of being an adjunct professor is to write your syllabus, do your job and move on," Stephens said in a telephone interview. "Thereís no room for grandstanding, and I think thatís what he did in his act."
Winset said he had already alerted the school that he would not return for a second semester
Winset said he has been banned from the college, but seven of his students sent supportive e-mails, and a handful plan to file a request for redress on his behalf.
One of those students, Junny Lee, 19, said most students did not appear to find Winsetís demonstration offensive, and the administration should have interviewed students before dismissing the professor with less than two weeks left in the semester.
"I know he was making a point," said the sophomore mathematics major. This far "into the semester, firing a professor like that doesnít really help the students at all."
Simpson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
See Winset at http://youtube.com/watch?v=X-cBKXyRvyM