Letter to the editor: Students are not being "brainwashed" just informed

In an Op-Ed piece last week, professor Caleb Stewart Rossiter asserted "AU's 'Green Teaching Certificate' promotes bias." As the manager of the Center for Teaching Excellence's Faculty Corner, which administrates this program, I feel that professor Rossiter misrepresented the intent of the Green Teaching Certificate.

This voluntary program for faculty was created in conjunction with the student group Eco-Sense as an attempt to give "green" courses a familiar face on campus. The focus is not specifically on global warming but rather sustainability and conservation of resources. Beyond that, there are more than forty items on the list of things a professor can do to get a Green Teaching Certificate. Of these, he or she must make an effort to do only 11 of them. The two mentioned by Professor Rossiter are not requirements. They are simply suggestions for courses in which this type of content is appropriate.

The Green Teaching Certificate is in the second semester of a yearlong pilot project. The feedback we've received from faculty has been overwhelmingly positive. We certified 48 professors in the fall and 65 so far this semester. We've also encouraged participants to provide feedback so we can make the survey as responsive to their concerns and as inclusive of their ideas as possible.

As part of this process, the two items discussed by Rossiter were added this semester by a professor who teaches classes in environmental issues. Namely, these were that a professor "require students to undertake actions to reduce their ecological footprint [and] encourage students to pressure their congressional representatives to enact environmental protection measures." The wording of these questions is admittedly provocative. In consultation with other faculty members, we decided last month that the phrasing would be changed on subsequent versions of the survey. We agreed that they didn't accurately reflect the voluntary nature of this program. I could have explained all this to Professor Rossiter had he contacted me with his concerns. Instead, he used an editorial in The Eagle to not only express his reservations about the Green Teaching program but also to promote his own views on global warming.

Finally, I want to make it clear that the Center for Teaching Excellence in no way advocates for the "brainwashing" of students towards one political view over another. In fact, our mission is to help professors be better teachers. This includes encouraging students to think for themselves. You can read more about the true intentions of the Green Teaching Certificate here: www.american.edu/cte/greenteaching/index.html.

Kelly Nolin Manager, Faculty Corner and Certified Green Teacher

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