Oct 102004
 
Authors: Chuck Fogland

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

education.

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

unprofessional behavior.

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

conduct.

Chuck Fogland is the president of CSU College Republicans. He is

a junior political science major.

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