The long arm of your college instructor

Check this out from Celeste Calvitto in this morning's Rapid City Journal:
Saying that they want to ensure that a wide range of views is heard and tolerated on college campuses, a group of state lawmakers is proposing legislation that would ask South Dakota’s six state universities to report periodically on their efforts to promote "intellectual diversity."

Rep. Phyllis Heineman, R-Sioux Falls, chairwoman of the House Education Committee and the chief sponsor of HB1222, said Wednesday that the goal is to prevent situations already seen in other states where students, speakers and faculty members have been harassed because of their views.

"This is not an indictment at all," Heineman said. "For us, it is good governance."

She said there have been no such incidents on South Dakota campuses that she is aware of and that she has heard only "anecdotal" reports.

Does it seem a bit silly to you? It shouldn't. I would say I experienced a bit of it at SDSU. Not from everyone by any means. Just from my advisor.

It wasn't overt. But when he would lecture in class, he'd bring up such things as a foible of a Republican and chuckle over it in a gloating manner. A seriously gloating manner. Was it intentional stifling of Republican thought? I don't know. But it was highly intimidating to a student who needed a passable grade in that class because it was his major. You just knew that intellectually you needed to be in lock step or you would suffer.

I contrast that with another SDSU poly sci instructor, Eleanor Schwab. Eleanor had been a long time Democrat activist, attending national conventions and the like. But from my experiences, there wasn't that air of gloating about it as my advisor had. You felt like you were ok to make your argument from your viewpoint, as long as you could back it up. And that was ok.

Is the legislation needed? I don't know. But can professors in South Dakota initimidate students and stifle intellectual freedom (in my case freedom to be an unabashed Republican) ?

You bet your life they can.


Anonymous said…
I am shocked that you are even entertaining this idea. You should be mocking it.

We are going to have the government impose "intellectual diversity"? Lets also pass a bill making sure private employers hire people with "intellectually diverse" viewponts. This is stupid, and you have got to know it.
PP said…
Anon -

In an admittedly weak defense of my post, I'd point you to my ending comment - "Is the legislation needed? I don't know"

When the day is over, I would tend to concur with you that the idea is probably not needed.

But as I said, having experienced what it's trying to prevent myself, I can at least sympathize.

Aside from my own experience, I won't even go into what my little brother went through in his masters level class on womens' studies down at the U. The attitudes and unwillingness to allow reasonable dissent expressed by his instructor were at best misandry and at worst - execrable.

If there's anything to be gained from talking about the legislation, at the very least, I would hope that it makes South Dakota Universities a little more sensitive about how some of thier professors behave.

They're charged with challenging students and empowering them with knowledge. They're there to teach them how to think and reason as it relates to thier chosen profession. Not to demand subservience to thier own world view.
jack said…
Learning to stand up for yourself and your beliefs is far more important than getting a B when you think you deserve an A.

I went to college at a public University in South Dakota. There were a number of professors who saw the world completely differently than me. Without exception, every one of them encouraged me to disagree with them in class and in my papers. I did well, as I recall, in each of those classes.

Students should be challenged in college. Without question, grades should not be tied to anyone's ideology, but these are adults. If there is a problem with an individual teacher take it first to that teacher. If that gets you nowhere, take it to the Dean -- I'd bet all of the schools have processes to deal with this kind of thing. Stand up for yourself and fight your own battle. If that means you get a B instead of an A, the lesson you learn in the process will be far more valuable than any impact that a reduced grade will have.

We've got to stop telling young people that life is going to be easy , and that when you think something isn't fair you should have someone else deal with it for you. For example, a friend of mine recently hired a college graduate in Western South Dakota. She didn't get along with one of her co-workers. Instead of dealing with it directly, she had her mother call her boss! This is a grown woman having her mother call her boss!

If your professor says something that you disagree with, call them on it. Don't call your legislator.
Anonymous said…
It is true that South Dakota universities have over-educated idiots just as crazy as Ward Churchill, but come on. What the Hell do these morons in Pierre think a report will accomplish. If they want to actually change the culture of intimidating political correctness, they should encourage and support someone who is a conservative to run for governor. The governor appoints the Board of Regents who could assert some direction toward having sane individuals teaching at the college level, but that won't happen. These folks don't want substantive change, they only want to grandstand.
nicole said…
I agree with the former comment. I too attended SDSU (proudly I might add) and had several professors and instructors who challenged viewpoints but that's part of their's even advantageous to be the devil's advocate sometimes to challenge students who, prior to it, have only heard their parents' point-of-view. It helps students cultivate their own ideas about politics and social issues...and most of my professors and instructors welcomed opposing viewpoints...that's when you learn!

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