CU professor Ward Churchill. Former CSU professor Steven Helmericks. Do these names sound familiar?
In the ongoing debate about academic freedom – the liberty to teach, pursue and discuss knowledge without restriction or interference from school or public officials – these professors have faced the consequences of supposedly crossing an invisible, and sometimes changing, line. What is appropriate classroom discussion and what constitutes bias?
College campuses are supposed to be a free marketplace of ideas where students can state their opinions, refute others' and in rare occasions, change their minds about certain issues. Students have these luxuries courtesy of the First Amendment. Teachers, however, are held to different standards.
University professors have a lot of power and with that power comes responsibility. While it is likely that most professors hold their own opinions on controversial topics such as politics, it's important that they don't impose their views in the classroom.
We believe that most professors at CSU are fair and reasonable when it comes to controversial issues. Rarely do we hear of professors openly pushing their "agenda" or refusing to hear a contending opinion.
But if professors have to fear retribution for every statement they make in class, we may lose valuable discussion and the opportunity to open our minds to opposing viewpoints.
It's important that professors create a classroom atmosphere conductive to learning without using their position as a platform for their personal agenda. But professors also should be able to speak freely without fear of reprisal. Only then can we truly obtain academic freedom.