Even though colleges across America claim to have grown in tolerance over the past couple of years, the exact opposite appears to be true for those with Christian or conservative viewpoints.
Susana Asberry, a professor at the University of Washington, recently went on KTTH Radio and told host Todd Herman that institution has discriminated against for her Christian faith.
Asberry teaches English as a second language, and during a writing unit covering American slang, students learned about the phrase “bucket list.” The professor claims that when a student asked her about her own bucket list and she replied, “When I retire, I want to share the word of God with people.”
Asberry said that a student complained, and shortly afterward, the University put her on probation.
“It is very frightening. I am scared. I am disturbed,” Asberry told KIRO Radio’s Dori Monson in a separate interview.
The professor shared that the first sign of trouble appeared when she instructed her students to discuss a controversial topic in English. The topic was to be on a contentious subject matter often debated in politics. Naturally, students turned to hot-button items like immigration, gay marriage, abortion and gun control.
“In this kind of essay, writers are required to mention the opposing views,” Asberry stated. “Therefore, I was giving my students an exercise to help them come up with arguments for both sides.”
She said that she also assigned each student to come up with viewpoints on both sides of the argument in order to improve their own stance and increase tolerance.
“It shows that you are tolerant,” she said. “This is what we promote at our university — tolerance and being able to listen to others’ opinions.”
Asberry was completely surprised and blown away when she was told of the complaint.
“I have absolutely no clue where this came about … absolutely no idea where this came from,” she said.
She also stated that the allegations made against her are not only wrong, but ridiculous, as she is happily married to a black man, and has two biracial children.
The complaint also stated that while in class, Asberry made fun of the Chinese language, which she also denied, pointing out that she herself has a strong accent as she is an immigrant from Czechoslovakia.
“I was floored,” she said. “I did not know what to say. I started shaking, and it was frightening.”
Asberry told her director that she “was not against anyone.” The director then told Asberry that he did not believe her and that he believed the student.
“I am a Christian, so therefore you don’t believe me,” Asberry said. “That is exactly how I interpreted his behavior.”
Asberry mentioned that she has faced a number of similar incidents with students at the school interpreting what she views as normal Christian behavior as hateful or threatening.
“I was concerned about her and I was trying to comfort her because she shared some very private information with me,” Asberry said. “And I just said to her, simply replied, that in difficult times I pray. I never said the words ‘God’ or ‘Jesus’ or anything.”
After this, she was summoned to yet another meeting during which she was informed that she was reported for violating the school’s non-discrimination policy.
Not only was she given a strict warning, but she claims that she was interrogated on her faith practices. She was asked if she ever showed her faith in an outward fashion, and specifically if she read her Bible on campus. Asberry said that it reminded her of when she lived behind the Iron Curtain as a child.
“It was almost as if I was reading some forbidden book … this is exactly what the Soviets did,” said Asberry.
After escaping a communist regime as a small child with her mother, Asberry feels that she is re-living the past.
“I don’t hide my faith; my faith is not something I’m ashamed of,” she said.
Asberry pointed out a double-standard that exists on campus: The university has specific areas that are dedicated as prayer areas for Muslim students.
“If I were a Muslim teacher, I don’t think they would forbid me to pray between classes and pull out my rug,” she noted. “It ought to be my right to read my Bible on campus. Not in class of course, because that is not my job – my job is to teach English.”
Asberry believes that if she is in her car, or taking a lunch break, she should be able to practice her Christian faith as she pleases.
“I never knew that this was a crime,” she said.
Because she is on probation, Asberry has been assigned to attend a workshop that teaches “tolerance.” Alarmingly, she says the workshop reminds her exactly “what the Soviets did to my parents.”
Asberry loves teaching English, and working at the University of Washington, but lives in a constant state of fear of what she sees as the clearly intolerant agenda of certain UW students and administrators.
“Right now I am scared. I am going to work with an upset stomach,” Asberry said. But she added, “I’m trying not to think about it – I’m just trying to do my job.”