A professor at North Idaho College says it’s all right to talk about executing “anyone who’s ever voted Republican” as long as it’s said with a smile.

The belief was expressed by instructor Jessica Bryan when her comments were challenged by a student, Linda Cook, who served as an aide to the late U.S. Rep. Helen Chenoweth, R-Idaho, and is a longtime supporter of the Republican Party.

Cook wrote to the school asking for a refund on fees she paid for a course taught by Bryan, after she withdrew because of the instructor’s comments. Cook told the Spokane Spokesman-Review that Bryan used every class period in the English composition course to criticize and disparage Republicans, including the suggestion of the death penalty for everyone who chooses to support a Republican with a vote.

“I signed up for an English composition course but was dismayed to receive a level of political vitriol that I believe was strictly extracurricular,” Cook said her in letter to the school.

The North Idaho College Sentinel reported that Kent Propst, vice president for Community Relations, said, “At least one of the things she wants is tuition reimbursement for that course.”

But it wasn’t known if Cook was seeking sanctions against Bryan.

Among the allegations: Bryan reported President George W. Bush won the election “because people … can’t read,” and, regarding the death penalty: “First we line up everyone who can’t think and right behind them, anyone who’s ever voted Republican.”

“Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought that anyone would take it seriously,” Bryan, who doesn’t deny making the statements, told the newspaper. “They were always said with a smile.”

She said the comments were an attempt “to get my students to think.”

Cook’s request to NIC Vice President Barbara Hanson is for a refund of the $379 she paid for the course. Officials said the school will review the situation.

Bryan said she thought Cook had enjoyed the “debate” of the classroom, but Cook said she chose not to confront the teacher during class time. “If someone’s suggesting you just be killed you don’t sit down and say ‘let’s talk,'” Cook said.

Bryan’s perception is that she was the one who was hurt.
“I do see it as an insult, personally and professionally,” she said. Bryan told the Sentinel she believes Cook is making a “mountain out of a molehill.”

The department syllabus notes that English 102 teaches “critical thinking” as well as essay and persuasive writing.

Reader Stan Hess told the Sentinel someone needs to think. “Consider, if Ms. Jessica Bryant had been a Republican professor, and had been quoted as saying ‘I believe in the death penalty … First we line up everyone who can’t think and right behind them, anyone who’s ever voted Democrat.’ What do you think the reaction would have been nationally and locally in the media? Marshall Mend, a founder of the Kootenai County Task Force on Human Rights is quoted in the Coeur d Alene Press … ‘When you say ‘kill a bunch of people,’ it’s hate speech.”

Another reader confirmed to the Sentinel Bryan does engage in “unrelated rants” but praised her for them. “It is through her sometimes unrelated rants about society that make you start to think about your very own viewpoint,” said Jake Donahue.

Still another reader, Jessyka, said something similar, describing Bryan’s lectures as “random and extreme.”

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