Stephan Williams: Students rally around suspended professor





LANCASTER - Stephan Williams taught history with wit and casual style, his students said, but his bosses weren't charmed.

Williams became noted at the Lancaster Campus of Harrisburg Area Community College for classroom discussions on Abraham Lincoln's sexuality. He used the occasional curse word. A student described him as "a guy you could almost see yourself sharing a beer with while talking about history."

Williams no longer teaches at the school in East Lampeter Twp. The former head of the history department was suspended in January, on the first day of the semester, for using a slang term for sexual intercourse in class.

Several HACC students and professors said administrators bowed to pressure from a few students only to offend dozens more by suspending one of the most popular professors on campus. Some students said that, since the suspension, many of them have become shy in classrooms. They say they've also noticed their professors are more timid with subject matter.

Williams would not comment on his suspension, citing the advice of his attorney.

HACC officials also would not talk about it, citing confidentiality in personnel matters, but spokesman Patrick Early said the college has the obligation to protect academic freedom and to preserve a good learning environment.

To some, the issue is another test for free speech on America's campuses.

Greg Lukianoff, the interim president of Freedom of Individual Rights in Education, said bureaucrats interested in creating a noncontroversial learning environment have taken over campuses.

He said they limit speech by calling it "harassment" instead of "offensive language," which is protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.



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