“God is dead.” That phrase, from Friedrich Nietzsche’s The Gay Science, is among the philosopher’s most well known — and most hotly debated.
At Temple College, a community college in Texas, the words in the original German — Gott ist tot — have been barred from a professor’s office door. While the college says that to leave the phrase up would offend others and constitute and endorsement of the phrase, the professor and others see a double standard in place, and a violation of academic freedom.
Kerry Laird, a literature and composition professor who does not have tenure, is in his first year at Temple. He said that, as a student and instructor, he always enjoyed the way professors use their office doors to reveal bits of their personality and to challenge students with cartoons, artwork, and various phrases. So when he started at Temple, he put a cartoon up showing Smokey the Bear, a girl scout and a boy scout and the tag line: “Kids — don’t fuck with God or bears will eat you.” He received a complaint and decided that he understood why the college “might not want the f-word” in the hallway, and so he decided to put up something else.
My favorite part of the above quote, you ask? “…a literature and composition professor who does not have tenure” – so the real message of the piece is not about “academic freedom” but about “academic etiquette” – feel free to express your views on your door after you get tenure, silly!