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Is it proper for university instructors to actively voice their political views?

BY DI EDITORIAL STAFF | APRIL 19, 2010 7:30 AM

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YES

At one point or another, we have all been in a class where our instructor has decided to share her or his political beliefs. As a conservative, I am all too familiar with the gripes from my ideological side about liberal instructors butchering our side of the argument.

To my fellow conservatives and anyone else feeling misrepresented: Study up, then speak up. The First Amendment gives people a right to say what they want. Limiting what an instructor says or does not say in class does not foster a strong civic society.

For this reason, I don’t have a problem with instructors actively voicing their political views. Political discourse in academia is a necessity, and I’m comfortable with it as long as instructors are respectful of the other side and make honest efforts to portrary the other side’s view on the issue.

Even when an instructor runs for an elected office, such as Rob Gettemy from the Tippie College of Business, I don’t think anyone has crossed the line.

For one, at least you know for sure where your instructor falls on the ideological spectrum. You won’t be misled in class because you know exactly where he or she is coming from.

This leads to the other side of this issue. When professors do not make their personal views clear, this puts everything from the course into question. As a student, am I to treat my professors’ lessons as fact or just a political belief?

For all those reasons, I always want to know where my instructors are coming from, and I don’t care how they do it. Just as it is their right to hold those beliefs and even run for office, it is my responsibility to know where they are coming from to inform my own political beliefs.

If you do that, chances are you will also be able to offer better refutations of the other side’s argument if the opportunity ever arises.

— by Jonathan Groves

NO

Political discussions in academia can get hairy in a hurry. It only takes one student who feels he or she is being taught in an unfairly biased setting to raise serious questions about the subjectivity — and by association, quality — of a university’s education.

It is for this reason that instructors at any university should personally hold themselves to the highest degrees of neutrality while teaching.

It is asinine to assert that professors will be able to remain completely detached from political debate and stone-faced regarding potentially controversial issues. Still, instructors must make every attempt to check their political leanings at the door. Their professional position of providing information to students means that they are subject to certain guidelines that foster a fair and accurate learning experience — which includes teaching fact, not opinion.

Potential for ideologically driven obfuscation is apparent in nearly every line of study, and Rob Gettemy’s situation is certainly no different. I make no charge against Gettemy personally; I would simply point out that his position is one that is especially sensitive.

As a vocal supporter of the Tea Party movement and a candidate for the U.S. Congress as a conservative, his views regarding business and government relations (which pertain directly to his area of instruction) have the potential to be politically charged.

Some may argue that political commentary in the classroom is acceptable when each side is given a fair shake — but who is to decide? Clearly, my idea of a fair representation will differ from someone else’s. So assuming that instructors are capable of properly balancing opposing views is unfair.

Instructors should not be denied the right to hold their own political beliefs, and they have every right of free speech that is afforded to all Americans — outside the classroom. But when assuming the role of an instructor, they must change hats and leave their political beliefs at home.

— by Tyler Hakes


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