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Sunday, April 14, 2024
The Eagle

AU classes unbalanced

Last spring, a clear divide emerged on campus over the war in Iraq. A handful of professors canceled class to vocally oppose the actions of the Bush administration in shrill, partisan terms. Some professors attended a teach-in that slammed every aspect of President Bush's foreign policy in the least objective, most divisive way possible. This was not a scholarly debate: the echo chamber of speakers all agreed that the war was immoral, and no one provided a contrary view. The speakers' worldview was well summed up by history professor Peter Kuznick, who said: "Clearly people who are educated and have a more profound sense of ethics are very uncomfortable with the Bush administration's Iraq policy." In Kuznick's view, anyone who supported the war in Iraq is not an ethical human being. Any student who agreed with the Bush administration's policy must feel like a pariah in his classroom. Does this sound like a "disinterested pursuit of knowledge" to you or do certain powerful faculty members have an agenda: to use your $30,000 tuition for political and ideological propaganda?

The lack of intellectual diversity on campus is not just anecdotal. Kuznick's marginalization of those he disagrees with often feels like the norm, not the exception on AU's campus. Textbooks that portray Israel in the most unflattering and unfair terms are often assigned in many international studies classes. One prominent Justice, Law and Society course is based on the assumption that mental illness is a myth. Several microeconomics professors assign books by radical MIT linguist Noam Chomsky as the crux of the course's curriculum.

There are many other examples that should outrage both fair-minded liberals and conservatives alike. This week, our newly-formed AU Students for Academic Freedom launches a campaign to examine the state of debate at AU in our classrooms, bookstores and public forums. This is not about censoring any one voice-it is about freeing other voices from censorship.

Our group's mission is simple: we stand for fairness and inclusion in higher education. This is nothing novel. This point was affirmed by the American Association of University Professors in 1915 and reaffirmed in 1967 at the heart of the Vietnam War. We believe that including a multiplicity of mainstream views benefits the learning experience. Indeed, without them, you cannot have critical thinking. As David Horowitz recently said, "You can't get a good education if you're only told half of the story."

Most professors-at least, from our experience-are outstanding teachers who deserve our admiration and respect. Sadly, like in any other profession, the bad apples create problems for everyone else. Most businesses are not corrupt, but after the Enron scandal, all big businesses were viewed unfavorably. When Jayson Blair plagiarized in the New York Times, it affected everyone working for the paper. Every professor who works hard to teach their students should be angered by their colleagues who cheapen academia by politicizing the classroom. Many professions that impart knowledge and information have a code of conduct for employees. Journalists, for example, cannot ethically attend political rallies or let their personal biases affect their reporting. While it is perfectly fine for professors to express their opinions, they have a professional responsibility to engage all students.

Bias at AU is not just limited in the classroom. Other on-campus events have been marred by radical political agendas. Campus chaplain Joe Eldridge used his office in Kay Spiritual Life Center last spring to protest the Iraq war and organize an overtly biased political conference on campus. Left-wing protesters stormed into a College Republicans meeting last semester, trying to physically disrupt a meeting instead of engaging their opponents in debate. Simplistic catch phrases have become substitutes for actual thought.

This is what sparked the creation of the AU Students for Academic Freedom. We are Democrats, Republicans and Independents who are hungry for new knowledge. The negative environment we have allowed at AU is antithetical to academic freedom and intellectual diversity. No student should feel unwelcome in a course because of their political views. It may feel great when a professor scores a debate point against a less-articulate student, but that's merely a cheap thrill. Faculty and students, join us in our fight for something far more important than any one issue: the integrity of the University itself.

Students for Academic Freedom are: Josh Kraushaar, a senior in the School of Communication, Matt Conti, a senior in the School of Public Administration, Bob Nardo, a senior in the School of Public Administration, Zach Constantino, a junior in the School of International Service, David Hodges, a junior in the School of International Service, and Karen Fischer, a sophomore in the School of Public Administration.


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