Former student sues R.I. social work school

Sunday, December 14, 2008 | 3:45 p.m. CST; updated 3:51 p.m. CST, Sunday, December 14, 2008

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — A former student has sued the Rhode Island College School of Social Work saying he was punished for his conservative views.

William Felkner said after enrolling in 2004, he realized he would have to adopt a left-wing ideology to get a master's degree.

Felkner, 45, said the schoolofficials discriminated against him by penalizing his grades, filing ethics charges and delaying his graduation. He also said they denied him a chance to work on welfare reform in the governor's office.

School officials said they "bent over backward to address the unreasonable demands of a fussy and difficult student."

Professors who taught Felkner say he misunderstood the core values of the curriculum, which the school said are drawn from the code of ethics of the National Association of Social Workers.

Carolyn Polowy, a lawyer for the Washington, D.C.-based association, told the Providence Journal she can't comment on the details on the lawsuit, but did say "there is no specific political agenda" in the code of ethics.

Both the code and the college's curriculum stress the pursuit of "social justice" for the "vulnerable and oppressed" members of society. Felkner says that's code for big government programs something he opposes as a libertarian.

Officials for the School of Social Work said that relying on the standards in the study of social work "can no more be considered political indoctrination than can a medical school's adherence to the Hippocratic Oath" and that Felkner equates his right to free speech with "a claim to be able to create his own curriculum, something which is not constitutionally guaranteed."

Felkner's lawsuit isn't the first of its kind.

A Missouri State University social work student sued the school after she claimed she was retaliated against because she refused to support gay adoption as part of a class project. In 2006, the university said it reached an out-of-court settlement with the student, Emily Brooker.

Felkner describes himself as a "conservative libertarian" and says he is opposed to the expansion of government welfare programs. He says he believes "the market economy serves as the best aid to persons of every socioeconomic class, including the poor."

Officials from the social workers association say their code of ethics doesn't mandate expanded government programs.


Like what you see here? Become a member.

Show Me the Errors (What's this?)

Report corrections or additions here. Leave comments below here.

You must be logged in to participate in the Show Me the Errors contest.


Charles Dudley Jr December 14, 2008 | 4:42 p.m.

>>> Felkner describes himself as a "conservative libertarian" and says he is opposed to the expansion of government welfare programs. <<<

There is the obvious problem he does not believe in helping his fellow man even if the government is running the programs. This equates out to exclusion rather than inclusion on a very pathetic scale of ethics toward his fellow citizens.

>>> He says he believes "the market economy serves as the best aid to persons of every socioeconomic class, including the poor." <<<

In our tough economic times the government is refusing to help the auto makers but it does know the realistic responsibilities to it's citizens as a whole which alot of Libertarians do not obviously believe in as represented by this "conservative libertarian".

He must live in some surrealistic world others do not live in because last I looked most all of the major charitable organizations are sure hurting for everything so what makes this young man think that any of these could realistically provide what is needed to those who are on government aided programs?

What makes him think as well that even corporate America could help either since they are all crying for a bail out and a hand out.

This young man does not realize that it is only a small percentage of those on government aided programs who are screwing up the system and the rest are actually looking for that "hand up" to get the jump start they need to help pull themselves up out of where they are.

With the outsourcing of jobs those employment opportunities left America which would have helped those this young man is so much against.

Go thank your your government that did this for all of this mess and get off the backs of the citizens.

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro December 14, 2008 | 7:41 p.m.

"Social justice for all" seems to be the mentality I hear mostly during my Methodist Church visits. Would Felkner's fussiness also advocate that churches think and act small as well?
Shouldn't real social work include maximizing the resources of families, churches, 501c3 organizations, (the private sector), the business community and government?
What kind of "Social Worker" alienates himself?
Is the term "Libertarian Social Worker" an oxymoron just as the term "gay marriage" might be?
If this guy wants "welfare reform" without ensuring that other sectors of our society address social injustices, then maybe he picked the wrong major.
What ever happenned to truth, justice and the American way?

(Report Comment)

Leave a comment

Speak up and join the conversation! Make sure to follow the guidelines outlined below and register with our site. You must be logged in to comment. (Our full comment policy is here.)

  • Don't use obscene, profane or vulgar language.
  • Don't use language that makes personal attacks on fellow commenters or discriminates based on race, religion, gender or ethnicity.
  • Use your real first and last name when registering on the website. It will be published with every comment. (Read why we ask for that here.)
  • Don’t solicit or promote businesses.

We are not able to monitor every comment that comes through. If you see something objectionable, please click the "Report comment" link.

You must be logged in to comment.

Forget your password?

Don't have an account? Register here.