Feb 042004
 
Authors: Robert Lee

Every spring and fall we use Ramweb to register for classes. The

fortunate students get to register for math, engineering and

biology courses. They tend to not have an issue with academic

freedom, because the subject matter acts as a way to prevent their

professors from using the lectern to silence ideological dissent.

The unfortunate students in other studies don’t have the luxury.

Academic freedom to some is a way to justify conservative intrusion

into the classroom. To those that understand it, and have

experienced their freedom being stripped from them by overzealous

professors and instructors, the controversy looks much

different.

Is there really a problem with academic freedom at Colorado

State University? The answer is undeniably yes — the persistent

neglect of diversity in discussions of opinion, ideology and belief

is an affront to the purpose of our institution. To what extent

such silencing happens is hard to ascertain, but the students at

CSU are making it known that such acts happen.

Opponents of academic freedom on campus seem to rely primarily

on two arguments. First, they say complaints about “academic

freedom” are nothing more than an attempt by conservatives to

conduct a McCarthyesque witch-hunt for liberal professors. It is

true, liberal professors stand to be impacted, but only because

they dominate disciplines that are up to wide interpretation. It’s

hard for a professor of engineering to use his class on building

materials as an excuse to attack Bush’s reconstruction policy in

Iraq.

Whether or not they admit it, liberal professors in studies like

political science, sociology, economics, philosophy and a host of

others use their classrooms as forums of criticism for conservative

policy and thought. Many of these professors believe so strongly in

their beliefs that it only seems logical their classroom is a

proper place where conservatives can be criticized. Kati Borden,

the vice-chairman for the Massachusetts Alliance of College

Republicans, said “Harassing conservative students and mocking

their points of view is a serious violation of their academic

rights. If a university is

truly going to be a marketplace of ideas, then all points of

view must be

presented and respected.”

The second common criticism is that there isn’t much of a

problem, and if there is, proper channels of seeking remedy exist.

I’ve experienced quite the opposite. Why should I, in a Central and

Eastern European Politics class, have to put up with tirades for 20

minutes about Governor Owens? A simple geography class taught many

of us that Colorado is a bit far from Europe. A student at Metro

State College of Denver had to sit in a classroom where the

professor said, “If I was a conservative, I would shoot myself.”

These are professors making these comments, in a location where

students should feel free from intimidation. I ask would you make a

comment supporting conservatives in front of someone who said that

they should die?

What remedies do exist at Colorado State? The more appropriate

question is, what effective remedies are in place? None. You have

the option of filing a complaint with the department chair, and one

CSU student in the past was told that if enough complaints

accumulated then the matter would be looked at. Other forms of

discrimination have very scrutinizing processes to ascertain the

truth about such claims, such as bodies like the Office of Equal

Opportunity independent of the academic departments.

Whatever the discipline, whoever the professor, every student

has the right to be given a balanced, fair and appropriate

education. Consistently, they are not. The liberal professors at

this university who are complaining may do well to stop claiming

McCarthy is after them and listen to their students. The three

letters P, H and D don’t give anyone a right to intimidate others;

the same way a title of Senator didn’t give a man over fifty years

ago the right to persecute communists. Academic freedom belongs to

all individuals in this community we call Colorado State

University. The time is now to start living up to its mission.

Robert is the vice chairman for the Colorado Federation of

College Republicans. This is the first of his biweekly columns for

The Collegian. He can be reached at roblee@holly.colostate.edu.

 Posted by at 5:00 pm

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