Phi Beta Cons

Prof Arrogance

Here’s a post at ACTA’s blog that absolutely must read in its entirety:

April 01, 2007

No bias here

A University of Wisconsin professor is teaching a business course called “Change and Changing Contexts of Management.” Billed as a “comprehensive exploration of organizational behavior in its complexity, noting the impact of contemporary contextual variables and delving into systems theory and the concept of the learning community,” the course finds the professor touching on controversial subjects such as global warming, corporate social responsibility, and immigration. A student notices that the professor is not handling these topics in a rounded, even-handed manner. All of the assigned readings on immigration treat the issue from what he describes as a “pro-immigration (liberal)” perspective. He writes an email to the professor, including links to sources containing alternative views on immigration.
And he gets this email in response:

I get really tired of right wing stuff. Surely you get enough of it. Do you ask for additional readings in your right wing classes. Obviously not. I resent your insulting assumption that you have the right to teach my class or that students are not familiar with right wing racist crap on immigration. Of course they are. My course is not being taught to reinforce right wing ideology. Don’t you get enough of this in other classes, or do you need EVERY class to be consistent with extremist views.

This note clearly expresses the professor’s intention not to treat controversial topics in a balanced manner–which amounts in turn to a clear expression of the professor’s intention to violate the AAUP’s stipulation that academic freedom does not permit college teachers to proselytize to students or to attack them for their views.

From the AAUP’s Academic Freedom statement: “Teachers are entitled to freedom in the classroom in discussing their subject, but they should be careful not to introduce into their teaching controversial matter which has no relation to their subject.”
From the AAUP’s Statement on Professional Ethics: “As teachers, professors encourage the free pursuit of learning in their students. They hold before them the best scholarly and ethical standards of their discipline. Professors demonstrate respect for students as individuals and adhere to their proper roles as intellectual guides and counselors. … They avoid any exploitation, harassment, or discriminatory treatment of students. … They protect their academic freedom.”
From the AAUP’s Joint Statement on Rights and Freedoms of Students: “The professor in the classroom and in conference should encourage free discussion, inquiry, and expression. … Students should be free to take reasoned exception to the data or views offered in any course of study and to reserve judgment about matters of opinion, but they are responsible for learning the content of any course of study for which they are enrolled.”
The email is also, from a content neutral standpoint, extraordinarily unprofessional and rude. No matter what one’s politics, no professor should respond to a student’s civil communication with such a blatantly nasty, loaded attack. The student notes that his grade did not suffer once the professor identified him as someone who disagreed with his politicized approach to pedagogy. That’s something. But it’s not everything by a long stretch, and the University of Wisconsin–which has had more than one recent scandal regarding its difficulty distinguishing free expression from indoctrination–should be concerned.

An extraordinary response to a student who dared to ask for broader treatment of a controversial question. The exasperation, the CAPS, the vulgarity (“crap”), and the insult (“racist”), along with the assumption that so many other classes are right-wing echo chambers, bespeaks an unhinged temperament. Maybe the student should bring the attitude to the attention of higher-ups. But then, as one commenter noted,  the professor, Dr. Betton is chair of the university’s grievance committee. 

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