#STANDWITHDOWNIE, IUP professor wrongfully accused of prohibiting free speech
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Dr. Alison Downie is a professor at Indiana University of Pennsylvania and is a part of the Religious Studies Department. Dr. Downie has a PhD in Systematic Theology and a concentration in Christian Feminist Theology.
Dr. Downie was lecturing in RLST 480: Sin, Self, and Salvation, a class about Christian notions of sin and salvation and how they have been defined. She showed a 15 min TED video by former minister Paula Stone Williams -- who talked about her experience coming out as a trans woman and how her world changed after she became the woman she was meant to be. The professor also lectured on the wage gap, male privilege, and mansplaining.
After the video and lecture were over, Dr. Downie opened the floor for discussion. She first opened discussion to the women to speak and have their voices heard without interruption. There was a two minute silent pause, and at that point, Lake Ingle started talking.
When Ingle spoke, he made highly offensive remarks about the experiences of women and people who are transgender. While he tried to back his info with what he believed were facts saying there were only two genders, which was not relevant at all to the conversation, he continued to disrespectfully reference these groups.
Dr. Downie asked him to be civil. Three of his fellow classmates called him out on making them feel unsafe in the classroom. An eyewitness, who remains anonymous, noted that Lake was completely disrespectful in regards to Dr. Downie's authority, and to the concerns of his fellow classmates.
Ingle accused Dr. Downie of trying to stifle his dissent. Dr. Downie asked him to leave, and proceeded to cite him for disrespectful behavior and making the class an unsafe environment for other students.
Afterwards, Ingle met with Dr. Downie to go over the citations, and refused to agree with the disrespectful conduct according to his own words in a Facebook post he later deleted per suggestion of his lawyer. He maintains his freedom of speech was denied. However several students reiterate and reaffirm that Dr. Downie cited him for disrespectful conduct and making the classroom environment unsafe.
It needs to be said that every professor at IUP includes a statement in the syllabus stating that, if a student is disrespectful to the professor or the other students in the class, they can be removed from the class. By not switching out of a class, a student agrees to the terms and conditions of the syllabus. If Lake Ingle was unhappy with the terms and conditions of the syllabus as described by Dr. Alison Downie, he should not have taken the class. Dr. Downie specifically stated in her syllabus that a respectful atmosphere is needed in any classroom for those in the class to learn. She also stated that some of the topics may be difficult and uncomfortable to talk about, but that is the nature of upper level classes.
There is currently a petition on change.org demanding Dr. Downie be fired. This is the reason I am writing this petition. Dr. Downie operated well within the rights of her classroom, and only asked for the respect of her student. She should not be fired for exercising her right, need, and duty, to keep her classroom a safe and respectful environment for her students. Lake Ingle has made multiple statements to different forms of media, all stating that his freedom of speech was infringed upon. I am here to bring light to the situation. Dr. Downie did not take away anyone's freedom of speech. She only asked for respect in her classroom. If Dr. Downie is fired for this issue, IUP would lose a wonderful professor, who is obviously passionate about her job and her field of study. She also serves as a communal support for the Religious Studies department. If she is fired, not only will academic freedom be infringed upon, but a valued member of the IUP faculty will be lost.
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