La Profesora Abstraída

Weblog of Michelle Dion, Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science, at McMaster University. My blog has moved to Visit my other website.

Tuesday, April 06, 2004

Here we go again. This recent article in the local Atlanta Journal Constitution, owned by Cox Communications (which owns 17 newspapers and 25 non-dailies, among cable and other media outlets), was written by two Georgia Tech students in response to the article run last week in the AJC regarding academic prejudice at Tech.

Here are the highlights of the article by Doug Gladden and John Putrich:

.....To recap the story, a Tech professor is accused of saying to a student: "You don't know what you're talking about. George Bush isn't doing anything for you. He's too busy pimping for the Christian Coalition."

As students in that class, we feel obligated to speak out on behalf of a professor whom we believe to be fair and highly capable. It doesn't matter whether or not we agree with what she said. What matters is that alleging "indoctrination" or "discrimination" based on the remark she made is nothing more than a political witch hunt.

The professor was reviewing for an upcoming test when two students decided to engage her in a debate that had nothing to do with the topic at hand. Keep in mind that these same students have previously started discussions on current events rather than the course material. They routinely tried to steer these discussions to get an opinionated reaction from the professor.

After they made their point, the professor replied with her own view, and then encouraged the class not simply to be flag-wavers for any party, but to learn about and support issues rather than a party platform. The professor's remark was much more a way to end the debate and return to the material in the course rather than an attempt at indoctrination....

...The reality is that students on this campus are starting a "Students for Academic Freedom" organization and are desperate for a test case. The student filing the grievance had stated, upon failing her first test in the class, that she thought it was due to her political views. We would suggest that the grade had nothing to do with political opinion and everything to do with the student not knowing the material on the test.

You can read the full article.

For those that aren't familiar, Students for Academic Freedom is an organization that is interested in making sure liberal professors don't indoctrinate our youth.

I'm not sure if the organization was really founded by students or just David Horowitz, who also wrote the Student's Bill of Rights. I'm not sure that's the Bill of Rights that my students would have written. At Tech, they'd like their profs to show up prepared, show some interest in them, and teach. They are smart enough to not be indoctrinated.

But I digress.... The Students for Academic Freedom website has other useful information like "How to Research Faculty Bias." I thought this might suggest that students look up our scholarly research and try to find hidden agendas.

But no, the SFAF wants students to investigate our private political preferences. The site encourages students to look up the political affiliations of professors through voter registration records (with helpful advice, like, "start with literature and comparative politics" and "try to include one science or technology department" with a handy list of the science departments to include). The research design is not exactly bias free, since they are encouraging students to "oversample" fields that are likely to have more lefty profs and under sample the righty sciences.

Not only do they encourage their students to do all this important (biased) research, but to share their results:

Once returned from the registrar’s office, enter the party affiliation in the Excel file, and email the results in an attachment to: Your contribution and hard work are greatly appreciated, and will be acknowledged.

Great. Encourage students to "investigate" and intimidate their professors.

However, if the folks at were really on top of things, they would know that:
1. Most of that info is available online.
2. That is a great tool for that type of research.

Luckily, here at Tech, the climate is pretty conservative, since we've got all those engineering types on campus. In fact, one of my students told my class that he saw a Math professor tear down posters that he was hanging for a peace rally in the spring of 2003 (i.e., height of the Iraq conflict). No, that's not intimidating....(and yes, he had permission to hang the flyers up on campus).

Just food for thought.

I gotta get back to my Midwest paper.

posted by Michelle @ 9:45 PM,


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