Oct 042004
Authors: John Eichmiller

The events in the past week at CSU involving sociology professor

Steven Helmericks show the danger of politics controlling our

classrooms. Instead of encouraging the ideas of free and open

debate in a public forum, the university took a step in the

opposite direction when the part-time professor stepped down from

his teaching position because of concerns for his safety.

Helmericks apparently made the mistake of sharing his opinions

on the war in Iraq and of the Bush presidency during his sociology

class. Yet, his opinion was evidently more than one student could

handle. Heather Schmidt, whose husband was serving in Iraq at the

time, took up the issue with the professor, who stated he respected

her views and did not mean to offend. What was said during a second

exchange after class is disputed. However, it does appear that in

one form or another, the idea of finding a different class that the

student might find more agreeable was presented.

The need for open communication is imperative in the classroom.

The importance of the teacher and student being able to disagree

and discuss differences of opinion goes back to Plato and

Aristotle. Helmericks floating the idea of the student switching

classes if his views were too intolerable was not out of line.

Students regularly search out certain professors or switch to

different sections of a class to seek an atmosphere that is


However, that a teacher on campus would publicly state an

opinion so far removed from their own was more than some people

would tolerate. Despite the fact that the incident was isolated and

that there were numerous students to account for the teacher’s

credibility, the witch-hunt was on. One of the first to cast a

stone was Chuck Fogland, president of the CSU College


Fogland, in a rolling diatribe to sociology department Chair

Louis Swanson, accused the professor of being both a communist and

promoting fascism. Being that the right-leaning Fogland is a

political science major, one would expect him to understand the

duplicity in being both a communist and a fascist at the same time.

Technicalities involving grammar do not appear to be a Republican

strong suit at the moment, however.

The letter rambles on, accusing the professor of “assaulting”

the student and threatening to use all available right-wing powers

if his demands were not met. Fogland also included a recommendation

that the teacher be sent off to Berkeley or Beijing. While failing

to explain the reasoning, Fogland may be at issue with good

football schools and/or Chinese people. To view this, as well as

another piece of classic literary work directed at professor

Helmericks, all are encouraged to visit the CSU Republicans Web


Republicans have no problem lately kicking open Pandora’s box

(i.e. Iraq), and this would be no exception. Now students leaning

to either side of the political spectrum have a powerful tool

against teachers from whose favor they fall. When faced with the

prospect of an unattractive grade, one can claim to be the victim

of political discrimination. The days of open, thoughtful public

debate among those from differing political, as well as social,

standings at this state institution may soon be coming to an end.

But, according to Chuck Fogland, at least we will finally be able

to enjoy a “safe environment on campus.”

Yes Chuck, then your ears will be safe from hearing others’


J.P. Eichmiller is a junior studying journalism. His column runs

every Tuesday in the Collegian.

 Posted by at 5:00 pm

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