Professor Charged With Battery for Slamming Shut Student’s Laptop Acquitted By Jury

August 27th, 2011

I previously blogged about this bizarre story. It seems a Georgia jury wasn’t convinced a battery took place.

A Georgia jury has acquitted Frank J. Rybicki, assistant professor of mass media at Valdosta State University, of battery charges related to his shutting the laptop of a student in one of his classes in March.

Rybicki denied hurting the student’s finger, as she alleged, but said that professors have every right to shut a laptop when a student violates class rules or is rude by surfing the Web rather than using a laptop to take notes. Valdosta State, which removed Rybicki from teaching duties (but didn’t change his salary) after the incident, has cleared him to return to teaching. However, in July, before his trial, the university informed Rybicki that this academic year would be his last.

This case was about much more than battery. It was about old school v. new school approaches to education. Instead of embracing this new technology, the professor (of mass media, oddly enough), forcibly rejects it:

Rybicki said he thought the real issue in the case was the right of a professor to maintain the classroom as a learning environment. He said that he realizes that some students disagree, and tell him things like “I paid for this class so I should do what I want.” But Rybicki said that what a student pays for is “for me to teach,” and that means setting some standards in the classroom.

“Students need to realize that even if they pay tuition, they are in a class with other students, in a class that is being guided by professionals,” he said. “I’m ‘old school,’ I guess,” he said.

What a teacher-centric view of education. Students don’t pay professor to teach. They pay a school so they can (or not) learn–on their own understanding.