Nov 172008
 
Authors: Jim Sojourner

Following the completion of the polarizing election season, the nonpartisan CSU Center for Public Deliberation held a forum Monday night to encourage public deliberation on issues affecting the Fort Collins community, including a student discussion on the role of political opinions in the classroom.

A group of about 15 CSU students deliberated in a small, sweltering room at the Hilton Fort Collins over how their professors’ political biases should and do enter into their classrooms.

While, as senior speech communications student Ashton Gansar said, “a lot of the way people got their information was classroom discussion,” the students had variety of opinions on how personal politics should enter classes.

Students were quick to say that barring professors from interjecting political biases is not an appropriate solution.

“Plato would be rolling in his grave,” Nick Hanson, a senior speech communications major, said about the idea of disallowing the discussion of certain political issues.

However, disagreements did arise on how far a professor should be able to go, as well as how to make sure students are treated fairly for expressing opinions that dissent from their professors’.

Some students said they felt the right to freedom of speech should be protected at all costs, and Gansar said it is the responsibility of students to research opinions that differ from their professors.

“I think if we have time to upload 25 pictures of Facebook, we have time to research,” Gansar said.

Others, however, said professors have a responsibility to their captive audience to do their best to present varied opinions on any given issue.

Sarah Rieves, a senior speech communications major, said presenting multiple sides to an issue “keeps professors accountable for what they’re saying and also encourages discussion.”

“If we want to encourage people to think for themselves, we should present both sides and let them choose for themselves,” said Brady Stambaugh, a senior speech communications major. Other students expressed concerns that students may not be treated fairly for expressing an opinion differing from their professors.

Many in the room admitted they had written papers with positions they personally disagreed with “just to get a good grade.”

Others said students should be allowed to voice their opinions, but said many do not because professors try to embarrass dissenters in front of their peers.

Kristen Jones, a senior speech communications major, who spent two years at the CU-Boulder, said, while at CU, one of her papers was graded down because her moral opinions differed from her professor’s. She said, ultimately, the experience prepared her for life in the real world.

“Especially when I was at CU-Boulder, I got blasted, but it was good because it prepared me for later in life,” Jones said about her more conservative opinions.

Ultimately, students agreed politics should only be discussed in certain contexts.

“If (the class subject) is not discussing political matter at all, it doesn’t need to be in the classroom,” Hanson said.

“Spending a half-hour discussing politics in a (non-political) hour-and-a-half class is ridiculous,” said sophomore business major Danielle Harper.

Senior Reporter Jim Sojourner can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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