Steven Helmericks is not the victim he says he is. Do you really
think CSU would take action against an instructor at the whim of
the College Republicans? There is more to this story than that.
As a 34-year-old nontraditional student, I understand what
professionalism is in the real world. A paying customer at a
supermarket would never be told to go somewhere else if she didn’t
like the service. A doctor wouldn’t accost a patient with political
ranting about trial lawyers driving up the cost of medicine. Nor
would a restaurant manager lecture diners about invading a foreign
country, even though she or he believes we should.
These hypothetical examples illustrate freedom of speech. All
would be protected under the Constitution, but I challenge you to
find such behavior in the real world. That’s because there are
norms of professionalism in any career field – even higher
Professionalism starts with integrity, honor and respect. Unlike
the few bad apples at CSU, the College Republicans uphold these
principles. Bad apples do exist, however. To deny that is to live
in denial. To brush it aside, as Democrat Rep. Angie Paccione (HD-
53) has done, is to condone unprofessional conduct. Recently I
heard that there are instructors who sexually harass students and
grade down if they don’t comply. That is offensive and wrong! But
is it not also offensive to be told that your husband is in Iraq
for “no goddamn reason?” Is it not also wrong to be lectured, about
how the president was un-great, in a classroom that is supposed to
be about sociology?
Students in sociology learn social paradigms and models of group
theory. They are trained to become experts in this field. What does
Reagan’s greatness or un-greatness have to do with the principles
of sociology? Was it OK to use a blasphemous word that many of
faith in the class find offensive? When a student challenges this
“teaching,” is it OK for the instructor to tell the student “you
should choose a different sociology class”?
This is a public institution. We all own it. Instructors are
here for the students, not vice versa. There must be accountability
to protect students from verbal abuse and unprofessional actions,
be it sexual, racist, bigoted or ideological. No one at the College
Republicans wants to stifle debate. The CR do not condemn liberal
bias either, although we do believe in openly debating it in the
classroom, hence our logo “Fighting the Left One Classroom at a
Time.” Of course, we can only debate if the instructors allow it
and if it’s pertinent to the course. Instructors should teach
relevant course material – not use the classroom to force their
personal political beliefs on students.
Instructors should either remain neutral about their political
persuasion in the classroom or they must create a safe environment
for all points of view to be heard, discussed and openly debated.
When all else fails, all instructors should consider one word:
professionalism. When in doubt, the question should be, “Is this
the professional thing to do?”
I strongly denounce any form of harassment or threats against
Helmericks or anyone else, but I will not condone his
Go to the College Republicans’ Web site at
www.csurepublicans.com and see how we’ve addressed this situation.
Read Heather’s Schmidt’s personal account of what Helmericks did
and read the letter I wrote challenging his unprofessional
Chuck Fogland is the president of CSU College Republicans. He is
a junior political science major.