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There was an answer (only viewable to 10k+ users) that uses both expletives and suggests a pretty extreme form of student teacher interaction. This answer has been flagged a number of times as being offensive. The flags require the diamond mods to make a decision. We can do nothing, delete the answer, or warn/suspend the user.

Expletives are not appreciated on SE, and may be against the rules: Are expletives (cursing, swear words or vulgar language) allowed on SE sites?. Do we want a no nonsense you curse you get warned policy or do we want to be a little more relaxed?

Are extreme views that do not single out individuals or groups offensive and warrant the deletion of an answer?

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    As a sidenote, that question has not exactly brought out the best of this site. Until now, I did not even realize how many terrible answers this question has attracted by now. – xLeitix Aug 7 '14 at 21:49
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    @xLeitix that is because my answer is so good why would anyone read any further :) – StrongBad Aug 7 '14 at 21:59
  • @xLeitix - We definitely get our share of bad answers. The community tends to flag them pretty quickly, though, so the truly inappropriate ones get removed fairly quickly. – eykanal Aug 8 '14 at 0:43
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    @xLeitix I agree that this question is very bad. Full of pseudo-psychological gibberish, horrible advice and opinions. I wonder if the mods shouldn't kill it with fire. – Cape Code Aug 8 '14 at 17:41
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    @Jigg with 45 up votes and a single down vote and no votes to close, I would hope that none of the mods would act unilaterally and close the question. – StrongBad Aug 8 '14 at 18:17
  • @StrongBad I know, my question was more rhetorical. I guess I'm just not in phase with this community as much as I thought. If this kind of content becomes the norm, I will leave (not that anyone cares off course). – Cape Code Aug 8 '14 at 18:20
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    @Jigg - While I definitely agree with StrongBad that we would never remove a question like that, sometimes I do wonder who all these people are who upvote questions like the linked one. – eykanal Aug 8 '14 at 18:30
  • Can you clarify whether the answer you refer to is still publicly visible? – E.P. Aug 12 '14 at 10:46
  • @episanty it has since been deleted. I am hesitant to repost the offensive material since I do not think there is anything specific in it, but rather I am interested in the general issues raise in my question. – StrongBad Aug 12 '14 at 10:54
  • I understand that. But in the interest of clarity you should either post a screenshot of that post, or clarify in your question that it is now unavailable to <10k. (please.) – E.P. Aug 12 '14 at 11:10
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Thanks for asking this question. I was about to open up a meta thread on the same topic. I flagged the cited answer as offensive, and I commented:

I have flagged this answer as "offensive / abusive". I did not do this because of the use of words like "damn" and "asshole": these do not offend me (and do not offend most adults I know). Rather it is because the answer explicitly advocates that a teacher hate a student. As a former student and current teacher, I am certainly offended by this, and I hope others agree.

Professor Ismail responded with the following comment:

@PeteL.Clark: The correct way to express violent disagreement with an answer is to downvote it, not to flag it as offensive. I also find the thoughts expressed repugnant, but I am quite sure you can find many faculty members who are cavalier to the whole concept of mentoring.

This confuses me. As indicated, I did find the answer offensive. The text for this flag reads:

it is offensive, abusive, or hate speech This answer contains content that a reasonable person would deem inappropriate for respectful discourse.

This is a faithful description of my feelings about the answer. (I am making the implicit assumption that I am "a reasonable person". If I am mistaken in that, please do let me know!) This leaves me confused at the transaction. It might be that the moderator in question simply does not agree that the answer is offensive -- reasonable people can, and do, disagree -- in which case I understand why the flag was declined but not the comment: just because a flag is declined does not make it not "correct". However, the comment also expresses repugnance. It is my understanding that "repugnant" is a synonym for "offensive", so given that Prof. Ismail feels this way, I am confused not only by his explanation but by his declining of the flag.

Added: As one might have guessed from the comments above: no, I do not feel the need for a "no nonsense you curse you get warned policy". No academic I know includes "curse words" in their writing without a good reason. But some academics do include curse words in their writing (I have done it on occasion). The syllogism ends: we have good reasons for doing so. An outright ban thus seems "unacademic" to me.

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  • About expletives: if you could formulate your post without them, then they should be removed. We are not a bunch of teenagers who need to swear to look cool. In that particular answer, the sentences " there are a lot of assholes out there" could easily be replaced by "there are a lot people who enjoy harassing others" without any loss of accuracy. However, swearing alone might not require a deletion, and the post could be edited.

  • About that particular answer, the abusive flag is also related to the content itself: "Straighten up yourself, get confident and make your student's life a misery, until he learns that he's the puppy-dog."; "Fight him with your weapons you've got as a teacher, hate him."; those are abusive statements.

  • The combination of these two elements makes the post offensive/abusive, and if you add the fact that the user has no reputation, I believe this answer is a troll, not a genuine but poorly formulated answer, and should be deleted. The comment from the poster confirms that feeling.

  • While the statements are suggesting the OP be abusive to the student, I am not sure the comments are abusive. – StrongBad Aug 7 '14 at 21:59
  • @StrongBad Let me push the reasoning to the extreme: if the OP was suggesting to go and kill the student, it still wouldn't be abusive to the OP, but I don't think we would want to have a post like that. – user102 Aug 7 '14 at 22:03
  • I agree, your extreme example, and likely the actual answer, deserve to be heavily down voted and possibly deleted by the community. What I am struggling with as a mod is if it really qualifies as abusive or possibly not an answer. – StrongBad Aug 7 '14 at 22:08
  • @StrongBad I know the feeling :) For what it's worth, if I could vote for the deletion already, I would do so. I don't think it's just a wrong answer (like this one), it is also content we should not have. This is not genuine, this is a troll. – user102 Aug 7 '14 at 22:12
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    Excellent answer. If you see swearing, edit it out. If the answer is still offensive, then it's time to flag it. – eykanal Aug 8 '14 at 0:44
  • Well, I'm not sure that answer like "Fight him with your weapons, hate him, ..." qualifies as offensive in the sense of SE site. We might strongly disagree with such behaviour, downvote it, consider it low quality. But as aggressive I would qualify aggressive in sense like "you are an asshole", "the other answers are bullshit" and stuff like that. – yo' Aug 12 '14 at 21:35
  • @tohecz: I think it's abusive more than offensive. Telling someone to hate someone else is not constructive, and that's never a good advice. Someone following that advice literally would be abusive. – user102 Aug 12 '14 at 22:36
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I'll state in an answer what I suggested in a comment; if you see expletives, simply edit them out. They do not belong in any answer, and the same point can invariably be made without the cursing. If, after editing, the answer is still offensive, then it's time for the flag.

In this case, as Pete points out in his answer, even after removing expletives the answer is still advocates that it is appropriate for a teacher to hate a student. That's pretty offensive, bring out the flags and it will be dealt with.

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Answers that merely run against general sensibilities should not be flagged as abusive or offensive. The correct way to handle such questions is to downvote them. However, questions and answers that clearly are hostile to a particular individual or group of people can be marked as abusive or offensive.

As for the matter of cursing, I think having a somewhat flexible policy is OK. It may be appropriate to have a mild profanity in context. (If people are squeamish about using them, they can always obfuscate.) However, "hard" curses and profanities should not be allowed, and should be subject to a warning.

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    I downvoted this because it runs against general sensibilities. ;-) – David Ketcheson Aug 9 '14 at 19:46

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