“I took an abridged version of this course by just staring at the Vices and Virtues building for three hours,” stated Peter.
Photo by Chiara Ng
Earlier this week, a group of students gathered in front of the religious studies department to protest against a “predatory act of monetizing faith and education.”
One of the protestors, who identified himself as Peter, commented on the situation: “As a student from his class, I believe that the professor shouldn’t make us buy Bibles from the bookstore, let alone one with a code inside it. Why would the professor put such an arbitrary price on faith? What if someone couldn’t afford the $59.99 price tag? What happens then?” Peter’s friend, John, then shouted, “Should’ve been worth 30 pieces of silver instead!”
The controversy stems from a professor’s request that students buy specialized copies of the Bible for his class. The professor, J.U. Dastardly, is scheduled to teach RELI 30: Greed and God, a class that all theology majors are required to enroll as per their major requirement. According to the class syllabus, all students are “highly encouraged” to buy the Bible that is currently sold in the campus bookstore as it contains a unique code to access Genesis, a third-party website that will host all required course materials. The syllabus further explained, “All assignments, correspondence, and announcements will be posted on Genesis. It is expected that you will buy both the book and the code in order to succeed in the class.” Soon after this announcement, news of this arrangement had ignited anger and protest from students and shortly from the rest of the campus, as well as a lone brush down the road.
In an interview with Professor Dastardly, he stated that the backlash was “unjust” and had escalated into what he described to be “spiteful and blatant acts of harassment.” Dastardly recalled that on last Wednesday morning, while on his way to his office, he found his door vandalized with a streak of red paint drawn across the top door frame. Only days after this incident, Dastardly found a piece of paper nailed against the door with a single handwritten sentence that read: “95 emails and you have not answered one.” Campus officials have classified these incidents as threats and the religious studies department is currently cooperating with investigators, but so far no leads have been found. The identities of those responsible currently remain at large.
The professor then stated his defense in a follow-up email: “Firstly, I would like to have it on record that my actions lie within the legal parameters and laws of this university. I could’ve had my students provide their own Bibles, or, God forbid, hand them out for free. However, I chose not to. My class focuses on the dilemma between faith, selfishness, and greed. When faced with buying the code or foregoing their education, I am fully confident that they will overcome their selfishness and choose the righteous path. This is a necessary learning experience that hopefully my students will understand even before our first lecture.” When asked if the professor would receive a portion of the sales revenue, Dastardly declined to respond and hastily dismissed the interview.
As a result of this controversy, many enrolled students have become disillusioned. According to one anonymous student, “The professor and the university at large had veered off from their original mission in education and enlightenment for a better future.” While some had already dropped the class, many more decided against it and are currently hoping for, for a lack of a better term, reformation. Through direct action and their own voices, many stand confident in achieving greater freedom in choosing their own destiny.