Thread Update: Can We Trust Leftist Professors With Our Students? Should the STATE Regulate This “Menace?”: University of Maryland student Web log. Updated 12.27.05 A.C.E.

See Link for More Introductory Angst Preceding Comments.

…While Catz says that a academic bill of rights would end substantive argument, I disagree. A bill or rights wold protect students from politically-motivated punishment from their professors for expressing an unpopular conservative point of view. Leftist professors such as Nicholas de Genova, Ward Churchill and Peter Kirstein would as well. The bottom line: policy defending academic expression benefit everyone and harm no one. Lets clean the mud off our ivory towers and make it happen.

1 I do not think the Academic Bill of Rights is necessary. I do not think I would have won the Teaching Excellence Award at a very conservative Catholic university if I tied little copies of the Communist Manifesto around the necks of my scholars and required them to recite Mao’s little Red Book. We do not need external publics to protect our students from “politcally motivated professors.” We all know that students must be allowed to express their views, be allowed to disagree with the professor and to be evaluated on merit alone.

I welcome being linked with the other two professors although I do not endorse what they always say, BUT THEIR RIGHT TO SAY IT. I am more concerned about the persecution of professors which I trust is more rampant than the ideologal “torturing” of our students.

BTW:I will be exchanging views on the Iraq war and teaching the war in Chicago on March 29, 2006 with Mister David Horowitz. Should be fun!!

Comment by Peter N. Kirstein — December 11, 2005 @ 2:15 pm

2 I think that an academic bill of rights is a good concept. Recently I was a student at a local university and noted with amazement as the professors would rant and rave about their obvious left-wing, pro-feminist, pro-lesbian, agenda at the expense of the male students unfortunate enough to be students in these classes. There was scarcely a lecture that did not smack of one of their biases. The male students, after having their ears burned and being attacked personally – ie “persecuted” – for their disagreements (most quite rational and well argued), finally realized that it was best for their GPA to “tow the line”, and put their views on the back burner with the knowledge that “this too shall pass”. At times it pays to choose your battles wisely. As far as Peter Kristein’s award, perhaps it was given with a bit of irony; or perhaps he is amazed that others can set aside their conservative Catholic philosophy and appreciate the other side. By the way I am a former liberal hippie peace-nik from the 60’s, who grew up.

Comment by marykay — December 12, 2005 @ 3:54 pm

3 Maybe I overreached a bit by labeling Mr. Kirstein as a leftist in the manner of Mr. de Genova.

Regardless of the specifics of an Academic Bill of Rights, the concept makes it a necessity as political divisions amongst individuals become more extreme. If we all “know” that students (and professors, for that matter) must be allowed to express their views, why not take the extra step of making it part of policy?

Students should not be afraid to disagree with their instructors. Professors (especially those without tenure) should be free to disagree with the opinions of their University presidents and Regents. We all “know” it should be true, but until it is explicit policy, the words mean nothing.

Comment by ETR — December 13, 2005 @ 2:20 am

4 I am struck that marykay perceives those who were influenced by the 1960s or who still possess many of the idealistic traits of that period have not “grown up.” I think the continued militarisation, racism and lack of respect for diversity in this nation are unfortunately of greater moment than the alleged immaturity of those who were in the resistance in the 1960s. It may be marykay “ironic” that I won the award but I doubt if it were meant as humour. I also for the record do not exaggerate its importance or believe it can serve as proof of anything. I do know how I teach and that I am opinionated but not preaching and always endeavor to draw students into the conversation. I don’t lecture behind a podium unless my handwriting is too small; each class has discussion; and conservative (and all) students receive As and Bs if they do the work and achieve at that level.

With regard to the other more civil and “grown up” comment, I have heard that Professor De Genova is a good instructor and is well-liked by his students. I can tell you there is nothing more gratifying when one is faced with a national inquisition as the two of us were, to have the support of one’s students. He did as I recall in testimonials.

We all hear about professors who are overbearing and not as accepting of views of students as they should be. I do think many are not “leftist Trotskyists” and I do believe that efforts to legislate balance in the classroom and “out” professors who allegedly reign over their students is somewhat of a ploy to cow or censure progressive faculty. Yet no doubt higher education can always benefit from external criticism and should be open to it.

Comment by Peter N. Kirstein — December 13, 2005 @ 4:36 pm

5 I suppose, then, that everything is meant to challenge our perceptions on the government, society, economy, etc so that we can see what our system really does to the world?

Comment by ETR — December 17, 2005 @ 6:19 pm

6 I have linked this thread on my blog too by the way so I will keep it alive for awhile as long as the comments merit response.

Yes, “challenging our perceptions” is exactly why I teach. I think that critical thinking requires that the accepted be challenged; that the orthodox be tested; that the canon not be canonised. Education must move beyond a mere ratification of the current order or transmitting without skepticism or critical thinking the previous assumptions. Otherwise knowledge is boring and truth is averted as an objective. This is not to deny that aspects of the current order may be positive but I think a general approach to my field of history and political science is best when it asks penetrating questions.

Comment by Peter N Kirstein — December 18, 2005 @ 8:35 pm

7 Awesome. I think that the only way people will ever learn is if preconceptions are chipped at. I also think there is a fine line between “challenging our preconceptions” and “hating us because we are conservative”.

Case in point: English Professor John Daly, who resigned after he blasted a student for announced a visit by a U.S Lt. Colonel to discuss events in Iraq.

Mr. Dalys response:

I will continue to expose your right-wing, anti-people politics until groups like your won’t dare show their face on a college campus. Real freedom will come when soldiers in Iraq turn their guns on their superiors and fight for just causes and for people’s needs–such freedom fighters can be counted throughout American history and they certainly will be counted again.

The full text of the email is here [MichelleMalkin]. It is also discussed here [GayPatriot].

This was by no means an isolated incident. Professors at the University of California moved the bar from “teach” to “train“, telling students who did not adhere to their points of view to “find other classes” to take [LA Times].

I would like to hope that these are isolated incidents. If Mr de Genova and Mr Churchill are any indication, they are not.

Comment by ETR — December 18, 2005 @ 11:44 pm

8 I do not think you are in a position to charge Professors Churchill or De Genova with bias in their teaching. That is the type of ideological McCarthyism that I am opposed to and that I was subjected to. Please cite your evidence. The fact that you may perceive a professor as radical does not mean your perception of pedagogical misconduct is accurate.

My only comment on the above case you cited, since I have not explored it, is that a professor’s comments needs to be taken in context in terms of place, circumstances and consequences. I oppose the presence of military recruiters on campus–due to their discriminatory policies toward persons of homosexual orientation– but would not directly attempt to prevent military personnel from expressing views on issues of war and external affairs.

Comment by Peter N. Kirstein — December 19, 2005 @ 8:02 pm

9 First, let me address the Daly case. I think the key sentence there is “I will continue to expose your right-wing, anti-people politics until groups like your won’t dare show their face on a college campus.” I don’t believe that a remark like that promotes an environment were students of differing opinions, political or otherwise, are free to express their views. Sure, there are exceptions, but speaking as a student I may not have the will to take that chance when my grades are at stake.

Now when we look at Mr. de Genova, we must again look at this concept of “hostile environment“. If I was a student who had family in the military, how do you suppose I would react when my professor called for them to be tortured, hacked to death and dragged through the streets of Baghdad? In the context of the events in Mogadishu, I don’t think its really possible to take that remark any other way. How can such language have anything but a chilling effect on students with military ties? There is a great disparity in power between students and professors. Such comments can easily press students who disagree to water down their opinions or thoughts when involved in class discussions to try to get better grades.

Now as far as Mr. Churchill is concerned, the University of Colorado “Report on Conclusions of Preliminary Review” references students who filed complaints that their grades were adjusted based on views they expressed in class. Mr. Churchill is also under investigation for a number of professional ethical violations, including instances of plagiarism, misuse of others’ work, falsification and fabrication of authority [Source: University of Colorado].

While I have never sat in Mr. Churchill’s class or reviewed his research personally, his peers believe he is an abhorrent academic and scholar while a number of his students have found him to be an equally abhorrent teacher. If you would actually take the time to review the conclusions of the comittee investingating him, you would have standing to say otherwise. Anyone who would think the remarks made by Mr. de Genova are anything but poisionous to academic debate is living in a fantasy. His calls for death for the men and women of the military can do nothing but cause pain for the students who sit in his class every day.

Comment by ETR — December 22, 2005 @ 8:31 pm

10 I think your “evidence” that Professor De Genova would evaluate students in an unfair manner is inferential and without any foundation. Using your logic, one could say that a professor who states that she believes in god and is a devoutly religious person outside the classroom would create a hostile environment for students of no faith. Please recall that Professor De Genova’s comments were at a teach-in. Had he called for the killings of “terrorists” and “jihadists,” you would not argue that his classroom would inferentially silence or oppress students who opposed the war and construe American actions as terrorist.

Extramural utterances are protected by AAUP guidelines and what a professor says outside the classroom can in no way be linked to what she does inside the classroom. Such efforts were done in my case and I can assure you they were of little merit. It was part of the national right-wing campaign to silence left-wing professors who dare defy the neoconservative agenda of robust militarism and unilateralism. I am not concerned about the “PAIN” of students who may be exposed to ideas and sentiments that may cause wrenching exploration of their ideas and standards. Absent any evidence of academic evaluation based upon factors other than merit, I encourage professors to stand up for their beliefs, to resist the armies of the night and to teach with conviction, fortitude and with a sense that teaching is a moral act.

With regard to Ward Churchill, I am unaware of ANY investigation past or present that is based upon inappropriate evaluation of students. In fact his teaching has not been an area of investigatory activity. You neglected to mention that gratuitous charges of ethnic-identity fraud have been dropped. You neglected to mention that charges of copyright infringement have been dropped. The other areas that you cite are still under review. You are accurate there.

Again I appreciate your interest in such matters. We need more students who are active intellectually who probe the dimensions of teaching and academic life. I am sure you are a stellar student and if you were in my classes, you would be assessed on merit even if you were in ROTC or an active member of the military. Yet I would reserve and indeed insist upon my rights to advocate a position without fear of sanctions or persecution. Click the Link to my name and you will see the latest in my case.

Let Freedom Ring!!

Comment by Peter N Kirstein — December 23, 2005 @ 9:57 pm

11 Peter,

I don’t think that Eric here was focusing on the supposed pain of the students “exposed to ideas and sentiments that may cause wrenching exploration of their ideas and standards.” It seems you like to equate the advancing of a leftist point of view as the manifestation of critical thinking, which of course we know is not true.

It is certainly a leftist pathology to state that there is no fixed truth, when in fact the principle of absolute uncertainty is the very canon that so-called “critical thinkers” like to advance. I’m glad to at least have had the great fortune of having a philosophy professor who described critical thinking as the search for truth, whether it reinforces or breaks down established canon.

As for your mentions of McCarthyism, I don’t know how you would define the phenomenon, but Joe McCarthy targetted people whose points of views he disliked and declared them agents of the enemies of the state. When we have Iraqi bloggers being accused as clandestine CIA agents, this is McCarthyism. When we have American newsmen accused of being peons to the administration, this is McCarthyism. And ultimately accusations of McCarthyism are almost parallel to Godwin’s law; it shuts the debate by levelling unimpeachable charges.

Earlier, you say that you defend Mr DeGenova’s right—no, license—to speak such things, and yet in this last comment you defend his actions by presenting a hollow argument of equivalence, making assumptions of Eric that are both baseless and unfair. It is certainly clear that your definition of Freedom is far from what I have grown to understand it to be. Your freedom rings without responsibility, it is license for the sake of license, devoid of accountability towards the consequences of one’s words and actions.

Comment by O.F. Jay — December 25, 2005 @ 12:51 pm

12 “Eric” and “O. F. Jay” Nom de guerres I presume. But to the points of the latter. I will let the former speak for himself which he does with aplomb.

Critical thinking does have, if not definitionally, at least practically a progressive hue. After all the canon was developed by European-centric, male-centric elites that controlled history, and wished to control the future by defining the parameters of appropriate exploration of knowledge.

I think the right has adopted a new scare tactic. Accuse progressive faculty of abusing students and legislating remedies to prevent the victimisation. These anecdotal instances in which professorial misconduct may have occurred, require investigation through grade-grievance procedures, peer review of assignments and evaluation, with all due process guaranteeing the academic freedom of an instructor which includes the presumed authority in evaluating students in a course of her responsibility. AAUP guidelines are explicit in the evaluation of students based upon merit, performance and not political affiliation or extraneous factors.

When professors are targeted, due to ideological predilections, as biased toward students without any proof, it is McCarthyism. When professors are suspended, indicted, fired, threatened due to unpopular antiwar speech, that is McCarthyism. When there are well-funded efforts to purge the left from academia, that is McCarthyism. When legislatures begin to examine the “ideological neutrality” of higher education, which could lead to auto da fes and presumably sanctions based upon personal belief, that is McCarthyism.

When the right attempts to take extramural utterances, that are issued OUTSIDE the classroom, and draw baseless inferences about the conduct of the academician INSIDE the classroom, it is nothing more than an effort to destroy and eliminate members of the professorate who dare challenge and articulate views that the purgers don’t embrace.

I received a “B” in a graduate seminar, perhaps the only one among a sea of “A” in the course, which I have always felt was the result of my political activism. It has rankled me for years. I would not have sought legislative relief but had I attempted to pursue a remedy, I would have gone through the university channels of grade grievance. I felt persecuted but it is possible I was not. I may have simply performed at a level below an “A.”

Comment by Peter N. Kirstein — December 26, 2005 @ 9:53 am

13 Correction: noms de guerre
Godwin’s Law: when persons criticise Israel, at some point they are labelled anti-semitic. It is the basest, cynical attempt to squelch criticism.

Comment by Peter N. Kirstein — December 27, 2005 @ 9:20 am

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