BRUNSWICK | A College of Coastal Georgia professor had warned students he would lower the grades of students who say “Bless you’’ after someone sneezes during class, a spokesman for the college confirmed Wednesday.
But the ban on “Bless you” was intended to stop class disruptions and is not a curb on freedom of speech or religion or any reflection of the professor’s religious or political philosophy, the spokesman said.
“The professor’s intent was to explain disruptive behavior was not allowed in the classroom,” according to a statement the college issued late Wednesday, which also labeled the prohibition on “Bless you” as an example of such behavior.
“No student has been disciplined or removed from class based on that example,” which has since been removed, the college said.
Before its removal, however, classroom rule No. 6 in chemistry professor Leon Gardner’s syllabus had served up plenty of fodder for the Drudge Report, Rush Limbaugh and other conservative commentators.
The Drudge Report cites the “Behavioral Deduction” section of Gardner’s syllabus where he warns of the time-honored response to a sneeze.
“Saying ‘bless you.’ We are taught that it is polite to say ‘bless you’ when someone sneezes. However, if you say this while I am talking, it is NOT polite, it is very rude!” the syllabus says.
The college said Gardner cited other examples that students should follow such as arriving for class on time and turning off cellphones.
Disruptive behavior can get a student’s grade docked by 15 percent with the “Bless you” shout out bringing an immediate 1 percent deduction, the Drudge Report says.
Walter L. Stafford of Pensacola, who spent time as a high school principal during his 39 years in education, said he heard about Gardner’s rule and thought he had crossed a line.
“I can understand classroom discipline,” Stafford told the Times-Union, “but these are obviously adults. These aren’t squirrelly ninth-graders.”
Gardner probably shouldn’t haven’t written down his rules because now those have been sent out to be parsed line-by-line by pundits, commentators and students for their sensitivity and political correctness, Stafford said.
Gardner should have simply told his classes their production and actions in class, including disruptive behavior, would affect their grades and moved on from there, Stafford said.
Terry Dickson: (912) 264-0405