Kentucky Part-Timer Ken Hardy & the “N” Word
by Marla Kay Houghteling
WORDS ARE IMPORTANT to Ken Hardy; he doesn’t shy away from the difficult ones. He’d like his students to have this same respect for language. In the summer of 1998, he was teaching an interpersonal-communications course at Jefferson Community College in Louisville, Kentucky, where he had been an adjunct since 1995. Scheduled to teach three courses in the fall, he was subsequently stunned by a message from the academic dean that there were no classes for him. The college would claim that low enrollment in one class and reassignment of two classes to a full-time professor resulted in its decision.
But Mr. Hardy believes the real reason stemmed from an incident in his summer class which set in motion a debate over the meaning, and the very existence, of academic freedom in Kentucky. Mr. Hardy is now suing the college for violating his free-speech rights. Nothing in his background suggested that controversy would embroil him. He was born in Highland Park, Illinois and grew up in Illinois, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. He began his academic career in 1984 as a teaching assistant at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, where he graduated with a B.A. in
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