My University Treated Me Like a Criminal Over a Joke

For the past six years, I have taught an undergraduate course on international economics at Johns Hopkins University. Most of my students thought it was a very good course. So I was shocked when, on December 6, 2016, I was met at the door of my classroom by Johns Hopkins security personnel and barred from entering.

The next day, I received a letter from my dean suspending me from my teaching duties—just three classes before the end of the semester.

What had I done to cause such a reaction by the administration? I had told a joke when discussing off-shoring, the practice of firms shifting work abroad, often in search of lower wages. Here it is:

An American loses his job due to his work being off-shored. He is very depressed and calls a mental health hot line. He gets a call center in Pakistan where the call center employee asks, “What seems to be the problem?” The American responds that he has lost his job due to the work being sent overseas and states, “I am really depressed and actually suicidal.” The call center employee says, “Great. Can you drive a truck?”

The lecture on off-shoring took place several weeks earlier. The stated reason for my suspension was that three students (out of 68) complained that my joke had created a “hostile learning environment” in the class. That’s a charge most college administrators now take with the utmost seriousness.

At the time of my suspension, the investigation into those complaints by Johns Hopkins’ Office of Institutional Equity (OIE) had not even started, but still the administration somehow concluded that my teaching had to be terminated immediately.

I believe that the real reason I was barred from class and suspended was that in response to being informed two weeks earlier that a complaint had been made, I had noted the Orwellian characteristic of the OIE, quoting from their website but adding the italicized phrase in brackets:

Johns Hopkins is dedicated to the world of ideas and that world expands exponentially as those with different experiences and points of view share their knowledge and interpretations with one another […unless of course those views diverge from the dominant groupthink protected under the banner of ‘political correctness’ or threaten the safe spaces and comfort of anyone else]. Our commitment to diversity and inclusion reflects both a recognition of the past and the promise of the future, something owed to everyone in the Hopkins community.

I had also noted that the OIE appeared to be an enforcement mechanism for the “Political Correctness” and “Safe Spaces” culture supporting the Roadmap to Diversity and Inclusion promulgated by President Ron Daniels and Johns Hopkins trustees. This “roadmap” was a response to demands from the Black Student Union that included greatly increasing the number of underrepresented minorities, subsequently defined as African Americans, Native Americans, South Pacific Islanders, Lesbians, Bisexuals, Transgender people, and “self-identifying men, women, and non-binary” persons.

Hopkins has an Academic Council with the mandate to “consider cases of alleged academic misconduct, faculty discipline, and appeals from negative promotion decisions, and will take action as necessary.” An appeal for access to the Academic Council by me, and for me by the Association of American University Professors, was met with the reply that no action could be taken before the OIE investigation was complete.

Although the OIE investigation was finished in early April and I was told a report would be ready in two weeks, the OIE has failed to complete the report, thereby delaying any access to a faculty review.

The term of my contract ended June 30 of this year and the long delay in providing such a report may simply indicate a desire to prevent access to the Academic Council, perhaps with its concurrence. In any case, the Homewood Academic Council (HAC) informed me on July 3 that “removal from a class for incidents of this kind would not ordinarily reach the level of extraordinary grievance that might be productively reviewed by HAC.”

I conclude that Johns Hopkins would rather have a sacrificial lamb to appease student protesters than to provide a faculty member with any semblance of due process.

Over two dozen students wrote emails protesting the actions taken against me and attesting to the value of my teaching. Here are just two of the posted comments.

Craig Vande Stouwe wrote:

As a nineteen-year-old who grew up in New York, I’ve spent my whole life hearing the virtues of some of the “politically correct” ideologies you’ve challenged in class extolled. Throughout class, I found myself disagreeing with you and with the class readings in principle on a variety of issues. However, that disagreement was my favorite part of class. Being challenged critically on an idea that I assumed to be indisputable fact has been one of the best intellectual aspects of my time here at Hopkins. Especially when these challenges are on the basis of a sound economic analysis…. If I could give you any advice as a student, I’d say continue to challenge students’ beliefs, continue to invite us to discuss with you, and continue to cultivate the intellectual environment you have had in your classes.”

John Crawley wrote:

After four years here at Johns Hopkins I have firmly come to believe that the education system here is flawed…. 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…. How can we be brought up in a “marketplace of ideas” when there is only one “right” (or left) belief? How can we gain a competitive advantage when we’re afraid of being wrong? Thank you again for inspiring me.

In their article The Coddling of the American Mind, Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt worry that the imposition of “vindictive protectiveness” (a good description of my case) encourages students to think pathologically. Based on my experience, I can also affirm that it also encourages administrators, OIE investigators, and some faculty to also think pathologically. The failure to provide students alternative perspectives while encouraging them to think about and debate controversial issues and to make up their own minds is where many universities are now failing American students.

The encouragement to students to become hyper-sensitive to possible violations of political correctness and its restrictions on speech differs from what was expected of 18- and 19-year-olds some 70 years ago, as was pointed out to me by a high school friend of mine when he heard about my alleged offenses. Dr. Colin McKinnon wrote:

In 1944, 18-year-olds were losing their lives on the beaches of Normandy to protect democracy, including free speech. In 2016 our 18-year-olds need trigger warnings for potentially hot topics of discussion, safe places if their feelings are hurt by an idea, or, even more ridiculous, time off from university because Hillary lost the election. Free speech and the idea of a university is at a crossroads.

From our “greatest” generation to whining victims of “micro aggressions” in less than three quarters of a century? Not entirely, as a reading of the comments from my students attest. But the threat is real.

We are in a battle for the survival of the university as understood by President Hanna Holborn Gray who helped inspire the University of Chicago’s recent Statement on Freedom of Expression with the following words:

[Education] should not be intended to make people comfortable, it is meant to make them think. Universities should be expected to provide the conditions within which hard thought, and therefore strong disagreement, independent judgment, and the questioning of stubborn assumptions can flourish in an environment of the greatest freedom.

Our universities have gone badly astray when professors can be yanked out of their classes and denied rudimentary academic due process simply because a student couldn’t take a joke or administrators cannot tolerate criticism of actions that threaten to undermine the idea of a university.

  • One more year, for me, of this. It is very common, sadly.

    • nth

      Transfer. Don’t give them your money…

    • His Highness

      Doesn’t this comment place you at risk? I’m glad you had the courage to make it.

  • OldJarhead03

    Some parents are taking action on their own. The falling enrollment of the PC hellhole known as “Evergreen State” should be a wake-up call, but I doubt it.

    • His Highness

      Also see Mizzou, where enrollment has dropped like a rock, dormitories have been closed, people let go, as parents respond to that school’s [it does not deserve to be called university] take-over by SWINE — Students Wildly Indignant About Nearly Everything. Hat’s off to Al Capp.

  • Joseph Corlett

    Hell, I got thrown out of Oakland University, Rochester, MI, for turning in my English assignment.

  • Tom Leith

    You have discovered whose university it is, and it ain’t yours. We need some new ones…

  • Fred McCoy

    The joke is funny.

    • feellikeastranger

      because it’s true … or at least within the realm of possibility

      he just needs to make jokes that elusively belittle Americans, white ones particularly, and he’ll be just fine

    • I didn’t get the joke. Is the Pakistani offering him a job as a suicide bomber?

      • jsgilm

        I didn’t either at first, but I think you are right. It’s a poor joke-but not a fireable offense, imo.

      • B

        Note the hotline worker is in Pakistan and then think Nice on Bastille Day.

        If a joke has to be explained it’s not that good, or maybe you just aren’t quick on the uptake.

        Regardless, the professor unequivocally should not have been disciplined in any way for it.

      • Charles Wayne

        Or just offering the previously skilled worker a job in the service industry, since you can’t export “truck driver” jobs.

        And the joke is that you don’t want a depressed, suicidal person driving a truck, but the pakistani doesn’t understand that.

        Some people though hear “pakistani” and “truck” and automatically assume “terrorist”.

        • John the Mad

          “Some people though hear “pakistani” and “truck” and automatically assume “terrorist.”

          Can’t possibly imagine why, old boy. Is there a worldwide jihad happening or something? OMG another joke. Call the SJW brigades. Assemble the mob. Read the charges. Bring forth the guillotine. Sound the drums. Citizen Mad must be expunged. “Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité”

      • Lowell Wrucke

        Yes, Joe, that’s apparently Exactly what some of these progs on this site believe.

      • 48574

        Yeah as suicide bomber is the least obvious interpretation that never entered my mind until people like you started commenting.

        I would love to see into your mind. It must be a messy place indeed.

  • Judy Anderson

    I’m an elementary school teacher: sterling 45 year career. (I’m now an occasional teacher.) Twice I’ve been suspended as a result of the lies of “posses” of 11 and 12 year old boys with reputations as trouble makers. There is no due process: the identity of the accusers is withheld and there are no rules for what evidence is allowed. The administration acts as prosecutor, jury and judge: conflict of interest? This injustice starts in kindergarten: our kids are actually being TAUGHT to be offended. As they and their parents are now considered to be clients, it is very bad news for teachers, who are now considered expendable. Yes, there was finally a hearing in both cases, but my testimony was not taken seriously: in one case, I even provided an affidavit. My truth meant nothing compared to appeasing the kids and their parents and getting them off the administration’s back. Despite all their phony “No bullying” codes, our educational systems are churning out entitled bullies.

    • Abdullah The Sheik of Tikrit

      Have you ever had an admin ever ask you “where are your witnesses” when you report a student? I have a friend who is a teacher and everything he does is always wrong and the criminal students are always right or misunderstood.

      • Judy Anderson

        “The witnesses” were the kids’ friends. Administration told me this with a straight face. Their word against mine. Guess who “wins”?

    • Bert

      Ms. Anderson, I’ve experienced the same thing but via what I coined, “the buzzsaw of a coven of middle school girls.” (nasty, nasty things those covens) And I got in trouble for bringing this up!:

  • Caleb Jephunneh

    I would hope, Professor, that a moiety of your colleagues (not the SJWs among them) are having their Oppenheimer moment of self-revelation as to what they have created. In the Soviet Union, the complaint of a single child could lead to a firing squad. You are still alive, so fight.

  • Oak Rapp

    Like most people I have a mixture of conservative and liberal views. From both perspectives I feel that allowing a culture of enforcing “right thinking” in our educational system is very dangerous. A monoculture of ideas is too fragile, as are people trained to run rather than attempt to understand and confront challenging ideas.

    • John the Mad

      Oak Rapp “…I feel that allowing a culture of enforcing “right thinking” in our educational system is very dangerous. ”

      You needn’t fret. Only “left thinking” seems to prevail in academia these days. 🙂

  • Fabio Paolo Barbieri

    How can anyone run a university like this?

    • His Highness

      The students have no problem running universities like that.

    • Mom2amom

      Most American corporations are run the same way. They expect high ethical standards from their employees and don’t allow a bigoted employee to make others feel unwelcome. This is American fairness in action.

      • hubman

        Your entire comment is based on an assumption of bigotry. Why should anyone give it any weight at all?

      • John the Mad

        I’m not an American. If, however, this is an example of American fairness, then American fairness has only a tenuous connection to actual fairness. Actually, on reflection, I think better of Americans, it than you do and find it difficult to believe most Americans would follow you down your ethical rabbit hole.

      • Fabio Paolo Barbieri

        The very fact that large corporations behave like this as good as proves that it is a vile, gutless, crawling and power-thirsty way to behave. I can’t imagine where you got the idea that corporations had anything remotely like morality, but if you are serious about it, then that only proves that you yourself don’t even know morality’s home address.

  • Charles Scheim

    I’m not sure if you should be fired but you do seem like a complete asshole.

  • Madame Two Swords

    Telling a joke, even an infantile one that is both racist and makes light of terrorism, is not an offence that merits termination. It does demonstrate very poor judgement.
    As public figures, professors need to maintain professional standards–the classroom is neither a bar nor a locker room where you can brush off saying something thad dumb with “I was only _joking_ about all Pakistanis being terrorists, haha!”

    That having been said, mocking university regulations, expressing disdain for their decision-making process, and otherwise being as arrogant as possible certainly makes you less attractive as an employee. You’re in a hyper-competitive market with a glut of qualified applicants for even adjunct posts. So why _not_ replace you with someone who will conduct themselves in a more mature and positive manner?

    But honestly, if you disliked the university’s policies so much, why would you adjunct there in the first place?

    • JDNC12

      The sad thing is you are seem to be intelligent, articulate, and thoughtful. But the point you may be missing is this man may be an extraordinary teacher with questionable taste in humor. So, you punish all the young people who would benefit from his expertise and insights because he tells a joke that may offend a handful of intellectual pajama children. The three who whined about his joke should have been told to find something more egregious to be offended about. Oh and your moniker itself is a micro aggression. Perhaps you should be banned from commenting here.

      • Matt S

        He may be a good professor, but he’s hardly the second coming in terms of teaching. I’m certain there are other professors who could do as good a job.

        • JDNC12

          He may or may not be a great prof. No way for me or you to know (unless you’re his student). Either way, firing someone for such superficial PC nonsense is the real crime. Study some history and some current events (eg Venezuela, Turkey, NoKo) and you’ll see this type of punishment fits nicely with totalitarian regimes that want nothing to do with free speech.

        • Fultzy

          until they are sacrificed by kids in bunny slippers who think its funny to lodge warrantless complaints.

      • Mom2amom

        Adjuncts are ten a penny. They could likely get a better one who is not a bigot. As for the “pajama children” jokes, no, that is not what those who stand against bigotry are. It takes a lot of courage to stand up to a confident, well-educated professor who is a bully.

        • John the Mad

          Good grief. Nothing the prof said could remotely be construed as racist. He was not, repeat not, repeat again, not referring to terrorism. That particular canard is fermenting in the fetid SJW minds of his accusers, not Professor Bertrand. Now we have a spurious bullying assertion made up of whole cloth.

          Does anyone attacking this maligned professor have a shred of decency or the smallest moral compass? So far you haven’t demonstrated it to be so.

        • Fultzy

          The point snowflake, is that the good ones are rare and sacrificing them on the alter of political correctness is needless destruction. Children who find offense where others don’t are indeed “pajama children” and your leap to their defense, includes the false charge of bigotry, is evidence of your own intolerance.
          And you have no idea what a real bully is.

          • Fabio Paolo Barbieri

            Unless, of course, she should happen to look in the mirror.

    • His Highness

      Likely, he was adjunct at Hopkins because they offered the best combination of pay and benefits, especially to an adjunct. In addition, what university doesn’t have the policies that Hopkins has? It could be that it is a least-bad of a very bad bunch.

    • Gail Finke

      Wow. My college professors told all kinds of bad jokes. I never decided that any of them should be fired. Your post is an example of why we can’t have nice things.

    • Dano481971

      Pakistan is a country not a race. Islam is a religion not a race. It would be nice if people who threw around the racism charges would learn that.

    • Charles Wayne

      Why, when you read “pakistani” and “truck”, did you immediately think of “terrorist”? Seems like the problem isn’t the joke, but people’s preconceived biases against people from some countries.

    • Lowell Wrucke

      Madame, the joke was not racist, did not make light of terrorism, did not demonstrate poor judgement, but it was about outsourcing, for Gawd’s sake, which just happened to be the subject of the prof’s lecture.

    • Grumpy Cat

      You upvote your own comment with sock puppets? I’m flagging you for “Impersonation”. See how that works?

      • Funny how the profile isn’t even available. I wonder if she got cut – or deleted it?

  • Bert

    I think that is a pretty good joke.

    • APR

      Regardless of the quality of the joke, termination without any chance of defending oneself over a joke is NOT the kind of society I want to live in. We need to drastically raise the cost of such Orwellian behavior!

      This is how you got Trump!

  • Logan Cummins

    Well, at least one fact is clear: If society ever stumbles (which history says, often happens), you KNOW that all the ‘fragile SJWs’ will NOT make it. If they can’t handle micro-aggressions, how are they EVER going to play ‘real-world survivor’ for food and water with Jimmy-Joe and his baseball bat taking first-dibs?

    • Logan Cummins

      Actually, played out in a true ‘real-world, law-of-the-jungle’ step-by-step logic sequence, I see a LOT of SJWs becoming not-so-valued slave property. They really should pray that society doesn’t collapse on them. They do NOT have the tools to survive it otherwise.

      • Fultzy

        Three SJW were walking down the street after the civil insurrection occurred…..

  • nth

    Foundation for Individual Rights in Education rates institutions based on freedon of speech.

  • Mom2amom

    The “joke” was bigoted and racist and was in very poor taste. How would Pakistani students in the class feel about being told they’re all terrorists? Any corporation worth its salt would fire an employee who behaved like that. Racists can’t be allowed to harm others and affect their productivity.

    The security detail meeting Bertrand at the door was over the top. He should have been contacted before that and told how he had violated university policy.

    • JMK

      Did Bertrand call any of his students terrorists? That’s a pretty big – and dumb – assumption to make.

    • jsgilm

      I hope you are joking regarding your first paragraph. Telling jokes that are insensitive shouldn’t not be an instant firing offense. What if he told a joke that was outright racist, immediate firing squad?

    • MAGA Big League

      I am as far right as you’ve ever spoken with, and I didn’t even get that from the statement.

      I literally thought, “Oh, he’s saying due to international trade you should take a job driving trucks because there’s one job you can’t offshore and additionally, it’s connected to the transportation industry, which grows with trade”

      I didn’t understand you could infer a car bomb until I read your comment. Actually, as far as I know, car bombs are not a preferred technique in Pakistan, there Jihadists execute you by hand while you go to church or carry the bomb on their person.

      I am actually serious, this is actually not an automatic reference to terrorism.

    • Charles Wayne

      Oh, I guess you could interpret the joke that way, or you could interpret the joke as being about high-skilled labor being shipped overseas, leaving only jobs you CAN”T, like, say “driving a truck”. the humor was in telling a suicidal person they should become a truck driver, because really we don’t want depressed, suicidal people doing that, I guess.

      But, I guess if the first thing you think of when you hear “pakistani” is “terrorist” and “suicide bomber”, then you would assume that was the “joke”, and then get outraged that your private thoughts had been made public by someone.

    • whatthedickens

      No, the joke was neither bigoted nor racist. The only person to mention, in the joke, the driving of a truck was the one person from Pakistan responding to the suicidal caller. There, I literalized the joke for you. It appears that you are assuming that the joke-teller infers from this that all Pakistanis are terrorists. If that’s the case, then any joke simply cannot be told because sensibilities will flutter at anything not thoroughly anodyne. If you are looking for a bigot or a racist, I suggest using a mirror.

      • Rollie Aarron Murray

        Bingo! Odd but the word terrorists never even entered my mind until I started reading the comments. I thought he was offering a retraining program. The word terrorists was never used and if you see it in the joke it’s only because it’s in your mind. I have friends that can see a dirty joke in just about any statement made. That’s what she said!

    • Mietzsche

      Well, I think it turns on the professor’s genuine intention s in telling the joke: I too first understood it to be a reference to Muslim suicide truck-drivers (Nice, Berlin); however, it’s quite possible this is not the meaning of the joke.
      If no, an apology or explanation should be sufficient; if yes, the professor is a bit of an idiot – about whom students have a justifiable complaint – though not one, in my opinion, sufficient to justify his firing…

    • Former_Naval_Person

      Apparently you either to dumb to get the joke, or too biased and must see everything in terms of race. The idea about driving the truck was that this is a job that cannot be outsourced. That you immediately equated the idea of driving a truck to terrorism only shows your own racism.

      • Fultzy

        When people are always looking for the offense in an otherwise innocuous subject, they will eventually find it. Mother Goose here lives in a world full of offenses and she thinks it’s her job to point out how everyone else is wrong. Her virtue signaling is transparent, however, as she hides her own elitist snobbery.

    • Lowell Wrucke

      You’ve got to be kidding! Or maybe you really are so dense that terrorism is the only thing you can think of when you hear “Pakistan”. The joke was about outsourcing, for Gawd’s sake, which just happened to be the subject of the prof’s lecture.

      • Mom2amom

        No, you missed the point. The joke was about Pakistanis seeing potential suicides as potential terrorists.

    • 48574

      The word “terrorists” never entered my mind when I read the joke. You are projecting not making a valid argument.

    • mreed12

      When did Pakistani become a Race? And bigotry? … Do you know the definition of “bigot”: big·ot, ˈbiɡət, noun, a person who is intolerant toward those holding different opinions – that would be you. And, “in very poor taste?” Taste is a purely subjective Opinion, and Liberals who laugh at Colbert jokes shouldn’t be throwing stones on that one. As to “harm”, you’re just being an absurd cartoon on that one – these are Adults in the eyes of the law and society, not little children. Now, return to puckering your lips, looking down your nose, and judging your neighbors, Church Lady.

      • Mom2amom

        So if your opinion is that Hitler was right in executing genocide, I’d be a bigot for being intolerant toward his opinions?

        • mreed12

          Hitler? Your Screeching Hyperbole and Bizarre Leaps explains a lot. Thanks and seek counseling at your earliest convenience. Oh, and acquire a book on rhetoric and focus on the sections regarding “excesses”, “reductio ad absurdem”, and “logical fallacies”, which may help also.

    • Perseus

      Unlike corporations universities are supposed to be committed to academic freedom so that professors do not have to worry about offending snowflakes (and their enablers like you) who look for any ridiculous pretext to complain.

      • Mom2amom

        Academic freedom isn’t an excuse for being an a$$hole. Also it’s about being ACADEMIC. There is nothing academic in racist, religiously chauvinistic taunting.

        • Fultzy

          Don’t forget sexist, xenophobic and homophobic! You have to check all the boxes to make your cookie cutter liberal point. Then you can climb back on your broom, look down your long nose, and point a crooked elitist finger at all the little people.

    • john Diamond

      Islam is not a race and it was an indictment of the Jihadists not all Muslims nor Pakistanis. I think people , like yourself,simply couldn’t understand the joke so they decided to virtue signal instead.

    • tommy mc donnell

      how did you get all Pakistanis are terrorists out of that joke? you aren’t too totalitarian are you.

      • Mom2amom

        You didn’t understand the joke. A random Pakistani hears someone is suicidal and immediately tries to lure him into a terrorist truck bombing. It’s a mean-spirited racist statement that suggests all Pakistanis are constantly supporting terror.

    • LudicrousSextus

      You sound like the poster-bimbo for the old Designing Women joke…

      Where Suzanne (‘Southern Belle’) asks a cocktail party full of NY elite women…‘Where ya’ll from?’

      One crusty broad replies, ‘Where I’m from, we don’t use prepositions to end a sentence…’

      Suzanne replies, ‘Well let me rephrase that…where ya’ll from b_tch?

      Yeah, yeah…we know. You can’t be a racist – because you drive a hybrid.

    • Fultzy

      Your children have no chance in life with you as an example

  • MAGA Big League

    If he’s written anything, they should take it out in the quad and burn it in a bonfire. If they do it at night they can carry torches as they walk around. That would be a terrific expression of solidarity.

    • Fabio Paolo Barbieri

      Maybe wearing white hoods? Or, alternatively, appropriately decorated armbands?

  • cecil

    I no longer recognize my alma mater. 5 years ago Ben Carson, M.D. gracefully withdrew as commencement speaker because some on campus protested his espousal of Christian beliefs. Yet, they wonder why I no longer donate to The Johns Hopkins University.

    • Libby

      More people should withhold money from their alma maters. That’s the only way we can fight them.

    • nn

      Find the grain in the pyramids yet lol

  • lgp

    I believe Monty Python covered this previously, in the Worlds Funniest Joke sketch.

    • JDNC12

      Thanks for multiple laughs. Hope no one was offended.

  • sammy sammas

    All the apologists crying out that the joke wasn’t a reference to truck-driving terrorists but was about how trucking jobs can’t be outsourced and that liberals are “too biased and must see everything in terms of race” — you’re wrong, and it’s just another example of someone making a bigoted joke and then not owning up to it after getting called out for it.

    A simple google search shows that the joke dates back to at least 2011, and the original punch line is: “I told them I was suicidal. They got excited and asked, ‘Can you drive a truck?’

    Obviously, they weren’t excited because “trucking jobs can’t be outsourced.”

    In this reddit thread from two years back, a few people didn’t understand the joke, but for those that did, the meaning was clearly related to terrorism.

    In fact, a Canadian politician had to apologize after making the same joke in 2011, using the original punch line.

    At the very least, I would hope that my professor was competent enough to use google if he had any questions about whether he should be telling the joke in a classroom full of students.

    • Ghost of Eazy E

      Yet trucking jobs will be mechanized

    • john Diamond

      so making fun of terrorists, and the jihad is the same as insulating all Muslims? Why? Please show your work!

    • tommy mc donnell

      were the students that were offended supporters of terrorism? humor used to a valid teaching tactic.

    • LudicrousSextus

      Anybody actually bright enough to use Google could simply save the tuition required to attend a wadded panties ‘university’.

    • Whyallmen?

      God forbid anybody tell any offensive joke ever.

      You don’t understand comedy theory, obviously.

    • Fabio Paolo Barbieri

      Canadian politicians as role models. That’s a new one.

  • Madame Two Swords

    Honestly, whatever one feels about this teacher, if they did not realise racist undertones of this joke, they were either in denial or not particularly clever. “It’s about outsourcing!” No, it’s not. This is why it’s important that the man calling is “suicidal” and that the man at the call-center is not in Mexico or China. And the assertion that “you people [whatever politics you disagree with] see race in everything!” could be easily met with the counter-assertion “you people don’t see race in anything.” This, of course, doesn’t mean the person telling the joke was necessarily racist, but the joke itself, in its writing and intent, is most definitely a reference to terrorism. This is a very dumb point to be arguing!

    • Grumpy Cat

      Swords are phallic symbols.

    • ricardo grande

      “the joke … most definitely a reference to terrorism”

      Question…..references to terrorism are grounds for suspension?

    • john Diamond

      Islam isn’t a race ,so its not a “racist” joke and insulting the jihad is not the same as insulting all Muslims…unless you believe all Muslims support terrorism? Is that what you think? Shame on you. See how easy it is to declare bad faith on the part of others. You sound foolish.

      • Janice the American Elder

        Terrorists are not Islamic. I keep hearing that all of the time. So, if someone seems to be advocating terrorism, they are obviously not Islamic, therefore the joke has nothing to do with a person’s religion.

        Philosophy class finally paid off . . .

        • john Diamond

          The Islamic Jihadists doing all the killing disagree with you and are quite clear they are killing for Allah. Feel free to disagree with them, but I believe them.Bali, Philippines, Australia, china, Chechnya, Russia, Jordan, Canada, Spain, France, the UK, the us, Yemen, Israel, Kenya, Somalia etc etc etc Just some of the many countries that have been victims of the world wide Islamic jihad. These aren’t baptists doing the killing for Jesus. Ignore facts at your own peril. Best regards

    • tommy mc donnell

      is it “racist” to be against terrorism?

    • Whyallmen?

      It had nothing to do with terrorism; it had to do with the popular practice of outsourcing call center jobs to Pakistan and the surrounding area. And while we’re all happy these guys have jobs, it’s no consolation to the people who lost their jobs to outsourcing.

    • Fultzy

      You equate criticism of terrorism to racism. This is a very dumb point to be arguing and says more about you than anything else.

  • Ghost of Eazy E

    When I earned my degrees at Hopkins, we had professors who actually taught rather than told jokes. Perhaps, you need to learn how to properly lecture.

    • Sam

      So it’s not that the left has created millions of hyper-fragile, pitifully sensitive children who are nowhere near ready for college and who are offended by and afraid of pretty much everything, especially information.

      The problem is that the professor told a harmless joke.

      Dude . . .

    • wildcatfan1998

      What a joyless person you make yourself out to be. Lighten up and enjoy life!

    • Grumpy Cat

      I’m flagging you for “threatening content”. Tee hee.

    • Whyallmen?

      One of the best educators I ever had spent a lot of time telling jokes. Made the lessons more memorable.

    • Fultzy

      Humor is the first thing to go when socialists seize power.

    • Janice the American Elder

      I had an engineering professor who started the semester by saying that more people had died in Ted Kennedy’s car, than in US nuclear power plants. He had a waiting list to get into his classes. He was that good.

      • Shodo

        Except that he lied. Three peopled died in an Idaho breeder reactor accident, decades ago. Not counting all the radiation sickness.

    • Fabio Paolo Barbieri

      They don’t seem to have taught you enough. The notion that you can learn nothing from jokes is so ridiculous I would hardly expect someone who can read and write to entertain it. Unless, of course, he has some reason to suspect that he is the joke.

      • Shodo

        I don’t hear anything that suggests he used the joke to teach. THAT woudl have been excellent, because the existence of suicide bombers speaks volumes.

  • Les

    The most revealing part of the story is how the JHU administrators withheld notifying him until AFTER he had been met by security en route to his workplace…their mean underbelly for all to see

  • Dave Hunter

    So you can curse the president out in front of your class, but tell one little joke and you’ve created a “hostile environment?” smh

  • Universities are fascist. They punished Trent Bertrand in order to deter the other teachers, who have less courage, from stepping out of line.

    This happens at every university in the nation.

    No wonder the system is hyperventilating at Trump. His casual asides threaten their power. But, alas, Trump is the death-rattle of liberty, not our battle cry for counter-revolution.

  • QiPo

    You are lucky. I am a JH alum. Years ago I demanded my name be dropped all Alum publications because of their endless leftist propaganda. You can now re- imagine your life and seek joy and harmony for it. BTW, I also quit teaching for some of the same reasons. Happy and grateful. Best wishes to you.

  • Vince Vega
  • LudicrousSextus

    Face it America – your kids would stand an exponentially better chance at a ‘higher education’ simply locked in the nearest library for 3 years – than what’s passing for universities currently. Why three? Because ‘remedial studies’ intended to get students up to high school smarts territory – and unheard of a generation ago – are now the rule rather than the exception.

    Colleges are no longer institutions of higher learning – they’re academic administrator daycare.

  • Steven Horwitz

    I have all the sympathy in the world for people who are not given due process before being terminated. This is a huge problem at universities.

    However, I have very little sympathy for someone who thinks its acceptable professional behavior to tell that joke in class. Were I the JHU admin, I would have tried to extend all due process required and then told him that if he makes a joke like that again, he will be terminated.

    As a libertarian with 30 years of classroom experience, there’s simply no defense or justification for thinking it’s appropriate professional behavior to tell that joke in class. None. Save your defenses of free speech for someone who understands what professional classroom behavior is. We don’t need this kind of martyr.

    • History Repeats

      I’m as un-PC as you can get, and I completely agree. No teachable moment here.

      • Whyallmen?

        What’s wrong with the joke?

        • David R. Mueller

          The “teachable moment” lesson is: Grow a freaking skin!

        • Shodo

          It’s racist.

          • Whyallmen?

            So should we never tell another “Priest, a rabbi, and a leprechaun” joke because somebody might interpret it as anti-semitic, or anti-Christian?

      • HoustonGrandma

        Trust us. You are not un-PC.

    • Sam

      You poor thing.

    • Fultzy

      Precious Steven is more virtuous than anyone else. Listen to him signal how special he is everyone! He can lecture others about his superior virtue both from the pulpit in class and from behind his keyboard. Thank you for educating the peasants from your ivory tower.
      You are no libertarian you smug elitist fool

      • George_in_LaQuinta

        I think Steven Horwitz is James Comey in disguise.

        • nero88888

          Trump is a sexual predator, a liar, and a rapist and he’s UNDER
          INVESTIGATION. Embrace the suck you right wing low info parasite.

    • Charles Scruffy

      Nice ignorant response. See how easy it is to condemn. Now tell us exactly what is wrong with this joke.
      You are one sad Libertarian who cant take a joke in or out of classroom.

    • Janice the American Elder

      Well, bless your heart, dear.

    • 802Beagle


    • Fabio Paolo Barbieri

      In other words, I am against tyranny, but the tyrants were right in being tyrannous.

    • Shodo

      The joke was racist. (Even though i laughed.) I’d like to know what else this teacher did before commenting on what seems to be a railroad.

      • RElgin

        Actually, I would suggest that the joke is not racist but instead describes current trends in the use of overseas support personnel. Many telephone support personnel, for quite a few different industries, rely upon English-speaking telephone support centers located in India (for example). Though this “joke” is a form of hyperbole, it is closer to the strangeness of today’s world than not.

      • rsdfwd

        I didn’t know that Pakistani is a separate race. Are they not human like all others?

    • SJW_Skeptic

      You dont seem very libertarian to me. You seem like someone who has a very strict idea of what professional means. jokes can be very helpful in communication with people. The truth is now the only jokes allowed attack white men, Christians and the right.

  • DrTorch

    Well academicians, don’t say you weren’t warned.

  • hugh59

    I have a pretty fragile personality and get easily agitated. I had to learn to deal with it.

    Out here in the real world you are going to face all kinds of terrible behavior and insults. People will intentionally try to offend you in order to knock you off balance and take over a situation. Better that you learn to tolerate the minor snubs and focus your energies on fighting the important battles.

    • Fultzy

      Ditto…an issue both right and left can get behind, if they have the fortitude.

  • Fultzy

    Hyperventilating leftists of the world unite! When you show up to the rally protesting humor in the classroom, make sure you wear your vagina hats.

    • Janice the American Elder

      The vagina hats will indicate how serious you are about this problem . . .

  • Charles Scruffy

    What else is new. Liberals are the modern day fascists.

  • George_in_LaQuinta

    Best of luck to you. Orwell’s 1984 was a warning now it is being used like a guidebook.

  • Ugothniwl

    wake up America….the leftists are organized and indoctrinating children the world over….this will come to a head and it will not be pretty….but needs to happen.

    • Wake up America….the Conservatives are organized and indoctrinating children to hate people like me!

      • HoustonGrandma

        I swear you’re a troll. You can’t be serious. Look at the name, for one thing.

  • richard silliker

    My hope is for the left too continue cannibalizing its self so sane people can get on with their lives.
    Perhaps a draft for ALL youths; before they an go to university, would help. NO exemptions allowed.

    • JdL

      Slavery (which is what a draft is) is not the solution for anything.

      • richard silliker

        Okay. What do you suggest?

    • My hope is for the right & Conservatives to continue cannibalizing themselves so sane people can get on with their lives.

      • richard silliker

        Not all Conservatives are cannibals. As to the left; they are in free-fall in their behaviour too satisfy everyone’s desires and are quickly becoming irrelevant .

        • I agree with the first part of what you said, because a teeny tiny minority of Conservatives in my life are very nice to me. The right is in free-fall, because Donald Trump is their Russian baby!

          • richard silliker

            Absolutely correct from my perspective too. The right is in free-fall in response to the left in free-fall. To me the conservatives lack courage in moving away from the centre. Regardless in what you do someone will be offended. However, sacrifices are always made by someone. To stay relevant,; positions must be taken, mistakes admitted, and corrected, empathy felt , and compassion shown. You and I, both, acquiesce to the needs of others.

      • richard silliker

        I notice your replies are verbatim. Just the names are changed. Thank God someone can help you. Do you have any original ideas of your own you would like too share. I look froward too reading them. Thanks in advance.

      • ahad_ha_amoratsim

        And once sane people get on with their lives, perhaps you can, too.

  • Barliman

    The actions of the university are remarkably Kafkaesque. I cant see that the professor did anything wrong.

    I think the problem here is a little more complex than left wing/ right wing. It is more along the lines of “left brain/right brain.

    he behavior of the university, reflects a culture that is heavily bureacratised, in which the adminstrators have come to believe that there is a verbal formula for everything and the world can be perfectly regulated.

    These bureaucracy driven societies exist both on the left wing and the right. The only real opposite to that mentality is Libertarianism.

    Current thinking on the compartmentalisation of brain function are tending towards the idea that the right is good at big picture thinking (ie gestalt, recognising and responding to novel, infrequently occurring situations) whereas the left brain responds more to frequently occurring problems and events, and seeks rules and patterns (right being more about the exceptions to the rule. Language, of course, occurs more frequently- so it is dominantly handled in the Left brain.
    Their actions here reflect a thinking which seeks to have a method that will familiarise everything.

    However it is of the nature of the rule driven systems of the left brain to ramify and become increasingly rigid.

    The universities, by their very nature, are very verbal, especially in the area of Western philosophy- which is over-verbal to the point of near incomprehensibility.
    ( I far prefer Eastern philosophy, such as the Tao Te Ch’ng). This tendency has been getting worse for decades, and it is rare for any product of a university arts course to be able to write with the brevity and clarity George Orwell recommended.

    However the combination of the current ascendancy of this way of thinking with the reach and control of computers, surveillance cams etc is setting us up for a situation where this mentality could become locked in to power and very hard to remove.

    Fortunately, this sort of thinking is going to fundamentally weaken the societies that it infects. It seems to me that this sort of development, combined with the effect that current technological developments have in supporting the power of the incumbents, could lead to another autocracy (maybe like Orwell’s state Oceania). I think we will have to look to India, Russia and China for a way forwards. They don’t have the sort of blockage of thinking that we are seeing in the US.

  • Vern Cox

    Hang in there Doc, I’m a 60 yr old undergraduate victim of your joke and I can attest that you weren’t far off. Have a degree in Electronic Engineering and the pantywaists that are giving you problems have brothers and sisters giving us jobs counting beans or worse. We have an extremely under-employed professional work force.

  • Marikuja

    No surprise in this story. Unfortunately universities, like prisons, are actually filled with people who believe the world outside actually cares about them. The era of truly liberal, truth-seeking education has ended and has been replaced with a sad sort of neo-fascism. It is hard to see how this trend will be reversed to some sort of freedom and opportunity for all, which, strangely enough, is still vaguely promised for all.

  • What that University did to that Professor is totally justified! I’m Muslim woman, & since I was born in 1979, many Conservatives have targeted me because my body trembles or because of my faith. If Conservatives don’t want to get treated like the way this Professor was, here’s an idea: NEVER target someone like me!

    • SJW_Skeptic

      People like you are destroying the education system. Cry Bullies with the power of abusive administration and weak leadership has stopped teaching people how to learn. They have merely taught people how to be victims and use their big brother to attack anyone who does not comply with the ever changing standards of correctness.

      • What you just said is totally defamatory against my character, SJW_Skeptic!

        • SJW_Skeptic

          In what way? Claiming victimhood and an exaggerated response to jokes and non PC language is destroying the education system. Your response is more a definition of what is going wrong with US universities. You support this attitude. I don’t. That is known as a difference of opinion. Adults have them from time to time. Most of us don’t make a federal case of differences of opinion.

          Why would anyone hire someone who will over react and cause a complete loss of productivity after a joke or non-PC language. Why would I hire anyone who comes out of an institution where they learn to be victims and cry bullies?

          • rust

            Aw come on, Pinky Shitseski is a prime example of how society -especially WHITES- has failed needy nothings. Husband Dindu Nuffin lays in jail waiting to be paroled by white men who don’t trust him, while she shows outrage for every little perceived injustice, whether it’s losing a parking space or someone in line getting the last of something before it’s sold out.

          • ahad_ha_amoratsim

            7 will get you 12 that Ms. Pinky is a white male social justice warrior living in his mother’s basement and writing for pay.

        • rsdfwd

          Truth is an absolute defense.

    • RElgin

      Your equation of how poorly this professor’s dean acted and your perception of how “conservatives” treat you very difficult to take seriously since your description of the two is more political than personal and smell of the same nonsense that is described in this account.
      Please comment when something cogent and meaningful comes to mind – if you can manage such.

    • UnreconstructedRebel

      You are exactly the sort of un-balanced grievance-nurturing pathetic lunatic that the guy in the joke the professor told is always looking to recruit. You think you are being “targeted” because we in West believe in due process and generous tolerance of free speech, including the telling of ethnic jokes? You need to get your “trembling” hijab wearing hide back to whatever-stan you came from and tend your goats.

      • nn

        You need to get your “trembling” hijab wearing hide back to whatever-stan you came from and tend your goats.

        Nope not a racist comment at all. Gross whitey!

        • UnreconstructedRebel

          People who resort to meaningless words like “racist” every time they hear something they disagree with are people who lack the ability to muster an argument or coherent critique

    • JohnZ


    • RN

      This is what happens when you coming from another country and don’t understand the country, it is called a JOKE, nobody targeting anybody, just laughing, buy a dic

  • RElgin

    I’m very sorry to hear that your dean is such a colossal jackass.
    I simply can not understand how such a joke could be misconstrued as being demeaning nor can I understand the position of such a John Hopkins dean over such a unjustified complaint.

  • SJW_Skeptic

    The solution is the alumni call for a cull of these administrative jobs worths and tell the cry bullies to harden up. No one wants to work with people who are so sensitive that you cannot use normal language.

  • SJW_Skeptic

    The students and OIE are creating the hostile work environment.

  • Brencis

    it’s very simple, no due process implies lawsuit.

  • BarrysConspiracyWorld

    Who are these snowflakes that would complain about such a mild joke? The administration is pathetic in taking action against the professor’s reasonable response.

    Let your kids know what a cesspool of PC mind control JH has become. They are blindly marching their drones into the abyss of controlled thought in service to an entirely anti-human elite agenda. The mindless administrative tools are too unaware and too brainwashed to understand the larger picture.

    • buddhaha

      Who are the snowflakes?
      They’re not all snowflakes, I’d bet that at least one is an aggressive Muslim student, using the weapons that the University has provided him to wage jihad against an infidel who made fun of the righteous struggle to bring sharia ( whether they want it or not!) to America.

      We’ve all dealt with the door-to-door evangelical, or Jehovah’s Witness, or Mormon proselytizer. Imagine that their holy mission included “or die” in its list of actions. This IS in the tenrts of Islam, so just costing someone their job can be viewed as giving them a break for insulting Islam.

    • Summerwarmth

      Because student snowflakes are looking for power any tiny bit to make them feel proud of their patheitic lives. No comment or joke is too small for them to turn you in and try to force the university to fire you.

      It gives them their bragging rights about how they heroically stood up for X and got some one fired. Cockroaches bragging to cockroaches.

      We have always had low pathetic individuals and when totalitarian govts come into play that encourage them to destroy others then they swarm like cockroaches. There were informers to Caligula/Nero, informers to the SS, informers to Pol Pot/Stalin/Mao, and now to the DNC/SJW/Leftists.

  • Antonio

    It’s an extraordinary mild joke. I’m surprised and sad someone in the (anciently) great US can be obfuscated by it.
    Pity also for John Hopkins that was once a serious institution (I had occasion to visit a foreign antenna in Italy).

  • Zenphamy

    Maybe if quality teachers/professors left universities such as this one, instead of believing that they’re safe hanging around to watch the fire after the smoke and smell of something burning for years, that the ‘fairness’ Fire Dept. will show up and save them from getting too caught up in the conflagration–universities like this one might not be so attractive to donors and new students, even other quality professors.

    Maybe take a lesson from Jordan Peterson and his battles with the snowflakes at the University of Toronto. We each must draw a line beyond which we’ll no longer retreat or we’ll find ourselves backed up against a cliff’s edge and sooner or later be pushed over. Our principles and values will no longer mean anything as we fall to our demise.

    • bdavi52

      Read “Submission” by Michael Houellebecq, if you’d like a bleak, but calmly horrifying sneak preview of the world we are eagerly embracing. Welcome to Dhimmitude.

  • disqus_F0Ssep5YfU

    By Odin, i am so incredibly happy i live in Norway 🙂

    • JohnZ

      Soldiers of Odin!

    • spudwhisperer

      Doesn’t look like much to be happy about. That joke would probably get you in trouble in Pakistani Norway.

      Islam is the second largest religion in Norway after various forms of Christianity….The vast majority have an immigrant background, with Norwegians of Pakistani descent being the most visible and well-known group.[citation needed]

  • JohnZ

    The First Amendment is under attack from both the left and the right as well as from the government stooges in Washington. College and university campuses have become cesspools of Marxist style PC and the infantile coddling of certain students raised in poor home environments ( liberal parents).
    The right wants to outlaw any speech derogatory to the heroes(cops) as well as any to the tweeting idiot in the White House.
    Take for example a recent incident in South Carolina where a 1000 anti-KKK protestors were routed out of a park by a police force heavily armored and armed using teargas and pepper spray. The idea of freedom of speech is becoming a defacto crime as the government continues to shred the Constitution and the Bill Of Rights. Even posting such responses as this will get you and me noticed, recorded and saved for later use, possibly prosecution for posting dangerous ideas. There is already a call for investigation into this incident by civil rights groups.
    Groups such as the ACLU and the Rutherford Institute are having to work overtime because of the government’s war on the American people.
    John Whitehead’s book, “Battlefield America” , the war on the American people goes into great detail how our rights are being snuffed out in the name of national security.
    Please check out the Rutherford Institute
    I have been making monthly donations since March.

    • HoustonGrandma

      Mostly the left, though.

      • JohnZ

        Yes but…….the Rethugnicans in congress are in lockstep to criminalize the BDS movement. Furthermore in state legislatures Rethugs are moving to criminalize negative speech about cops.
        The Rethugnican party is just as guilty as the Dems.
        So don’t attempt to make them look like saints when they are not.

        The Rethugs are no more libertarian than the Dems. Both parties are no friend of the Constitution nor the Bill of Rights.
        Their voting record speaks volumes.

  • bdavi52

    First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
    Because I was not a Socialist.

    Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
    Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

    Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
    Because I was not a Jew.

    Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.


    And here we have arrived, quiet & cowering, thankful only that They have not yet come for me.

    And yes the joke was rude…yes it engaged in various racial & religious stereotypes… yes we could have, with half-a-brain, predicted entirely that someone would be offended and complain…but at the end of our Kneejerk Tizzification the answer must be, must always be: “So what?!” Three people were offended, so what? They wrote 3 complaints, so what?

    If only Prof. Bertrand worked for an Institution of Higher Education — dedicated to the proposition that free speech is fundamental to free inquiry which is fundamental to the pursuit of Truth — if only. If only he worked for such a University in the United States, itself founded on such beliefs, a place which guarantees the God-given right to offend — if only. If only we had the courage of such convictions and the willingness to say to the Snowflakes: GROW-UP!

    If only…
    Here in Wonderland we simply hope the Red Queen’s not pointing at us when she shouts, “Off with his head!!”

  • Laurence Jarvik
  • HoustonGrandma

    I’ll betcha all three of the complainers were female. I know my own sex.

  • nn

    Sure a joke for you, now Imagine being muslim , middle eastern, really any minority group here and hearing white people make these same shtty “jokes” that deal in racist tropes every flipping day, then come back to us mayo sack white male! Why’d the white male shoot up a school? stay tuned for the punchline!

  • Xin Chen

    great! this is some diversity stuff from jhu.