Hands off our professors
Among the more entertaining Oberlin scandals of last year was an article that appeared on the right-wing website www.frontpagemag.com called “Radical Activist U.” The article took aim at Oberlin’s left-leaning faculty, permissive sexual atmosphere and its alleged anti-Israel, anti-American bias.
The article offended some but for most students it was simply an amusing diversion; now, however, the people who brought us “Radical Activist U” have something far more serious and potentially far more dangerous in mind.
Marxist radical turned right-wing activist David Horowitz, the founder of Frontpage, has been touring the country advocating for the Academic Bill of Rights, a law whose Orwellian name belies its radical intentions.
According to Horowitz and his supporters, American College professors spend far too much time advocating their political beliefs and not enough time teaching their subject matters. The law seeks to protect students from discrimination based upon their political beliefs and requires professors to include alternate viewpoints in the teaching of social and political issues.
The legislation also includes language guaranteeing freedom from the persistent introduction of “controversial matter” into the coursework that has no bearing on the subject at hand and requires that professors present alternate arguments to their positions.
It all sounds fairly innocuous but the bill represents an unprecedented attempt to mandate what subjects professors present in their classrooms.
Ask almost any Oberlin student and you are likely to hear a story of how their opinion on a particular issue was changed because of arguments presented to them by a particularly good professor. The quality of Oberlin’s faculty is based not solely on their breadth of knowledge but on their engaged and principled stances on important issues. While a professor’s podium should never be a pulpit, it is entirely appropriate for professors to share their opinions so long as they invite students to challenge them. There is no pedagogical experience more valuable for future leaders than having their opinions challenged by a professor.
There is certainly something to be said, however, for political diversity on campus. The large audiences who attended speeches by David Brooks and Lawrence Kaplan as well as the enthusiastic response to the newly reformed OC Republicans attest to the growing interest in conservative politics at Oberlin. There are those who say that the College needs to do a better job at presenting these viewpoints to students and this is a debate that needs to be had at Oberlin.
However, it is a debate that this campus and campuses throughout the country are perfectly capable of having on our own. For this reason, any attempt by Horowitz or legislators in Columbus to affect the political climate on our campus is entirely unwelcome
It is also contrary to the spirit of independence and self-determination that
used to characterize American conservatism.