Students Worry About Liberal Bias · 15 March 2006

Filed under: Press Coverage

Some say political influence creeps into the classroom

By Brandon Weigel--The Diamondback--03/16/06

When Gov. Robert Ehrlich (R) came to the campus in November, he anticipated teaching students about leadership. Instead, he had a verbal spat with student members of the College Democrats in attedence.

After the debate, Ehrlich dismissed their criticism, saying college students tend to be more liberal.

Whether that is why relations were more civil when gubernatorial candidate Doug Duncan spoke on the campus Monday is difficult to conclude, but students and professors say a liberal bias is increasing in the classroom, where some students say personal political opinions don't belong.

"You go to class to learn the material, not to hear the professor's views," said senior logistics major Michael Carroll. He added there is usually nobody who can counter them because students are nervous and not as well-educated. The issue is only expected to heat up in the months leading up to this fall's gubernatorial and senatorial elections.

College Republicans president Brandon Payne said many students and professors in classes are quick to criticize and occasionally poke fun at Republicans.

"I think there's an intimidation factor where you don't want to announce that you are a conservative," Payne said.

Sophomore government and politics major Kelly Zavala said she was appalled at the reaction to negative remarks about President George W. Bush in her plant biology class.

"Students would literally cheer [the teacher] on," Zavala said. She noted one of her teacher's slide shows included a slide showing Bush as the equivalent of a monkey.

Government and politics professor Geoff Layman said if he were to criticize the Bush administration, he'd be examining their decisions as a political scientist, not a liberal.

"I think people tend to see political accounts that run counter to their own predisposition as bias," he said.

A 2001-'02 University of California, Los Angeles survey found 48 percent of college and university faculty nationwide identified themselves as liberal, while 18 percent view themselves as conservative, according to the Higher Education Research Institute.

At this university, 59 faculty members were on a party to the left compared to 10 professors with parties on the right, according to their voter registrations, said a 2001 study by The American Enterprise, a publication on politics, business and culture.

Because of the campus' apparent political leaning, many students said the remarks are usually criticism directed at the Bush administration and Republicans. However, College Democrats president Lee Fang said this criticism is not intended to make Republican students feel uncomfortable or under attack.

"If they're attacking Bush, it's because of certain policy," said Fang, a sophomore government and politics major. "It's not because he's a Republican, it's because he's a bad executive."

Other students said they thought their professors had remained objective.

Sophomore biology and mathematics major Pam Lighter, who considers herself a Democrat, said she had a class with open debates that remained civil despite political differences.

Fang said professors also criticize Democrats and added students shouldn't be so quick to accuse professors of a liberal bias.

Last month, an alumni group called the Bruin Alumni Association at UCLA tried to pay students for notes or tapes that showed teachers stating their extreme views in the classroom. Fang said he doesn't want to fall into the trap of placing censorship tags on teachers, either.

"People were trying to intimidate and undermine professors with these accusations," he said. "We have to avoid that on our campus."