Are IU Professors Liberally Slanted? · 28 March 2006

Filed under: Indiana, Press Coverage

Some students take issue with professors' classroom politics

By Peter Stevenson--Indiana Daily Student--03/28/06

When Lauren Smith walked into her School of Public and Environmental Affairs class in the fall of 2004, she was expecting a math test.

Most of the questions were straightforward, but the last question of the test asked who she would be voting for in the 2004 presidential election.

"It almost looked like (our political views) would factor into our grade," said Smith, a member of several conservative groups on campus.

Smith's experience highlights a growing trend on college campuses: concern among some students, especially conservatives, that some of their professors allow their political views to seep into their teaching.

Nationwide, student political groups have started to speak out against biased professors, saying it's unfair to teach only one side of the political story.

A group at UCLA called the Bruin Alumni Association paid students to collect information on biased teachers and even compiled a list of the 30 most biased professors at UCLA.

"We're facing an exploding crisis of political radicalism on campus," said BAA President Andrew Jones on the organization's Web site. "It's endangering the very core of UCLA -- ­the undergraduate experience."

The state of Pennsylvania held hearings after a group at Temple University complained of liberally biased professors, but no legal action was taken because only one student testified that he had encountered a political bias in the classroom.

Most of the objections around the country have come from conservatives, who have long argued that tenured positions are dominated by liberals who present a one-sided, or at least incomplete, view of history, economics, political science and even literature. Conservative students have become more willing to challenge what they consider the prevailing views on campus.

While the issue is not a hot topic of debate at IU, some students say they think it can be a problem. Several IU students said they aren't afraid to speak out against professors they consider to be biased.

"If they're taking a biased view in the classroom, they're not a professor at that point. They're a person in a professor's position," said IU College Republicans President Shane Kennedy. Kennedy said he has taken several political science classes and never had a problem but knows other IUCR members have had problems.

"I think it's unfortunate that teachers are allowed to teach without a balanced point of view," Kennedy said.

IUCR member Cody Griner said he has had several biased professors and feels like his education might suffer from not hearing both sides of the story.

"I could always tell that they (certain professors) were leaning to one side," Griner said. "It didn't make me feel uncomfortable, but I felt like I was missing something from not hearing both sides. Students need to speak out, but it's hard to do that when you know (the professor) is the only person making decisions about your grade."

Other students, like IU College Democrats President Emma Cullen, said it's more important that professors challenge students' beliefs and make them defend their positions.

"The best professors that I have had are the ones that challenge my beliefs, that always make me defend my argument," she said. "They require me to know both sides of the argument."

While IU students haven't spoken out specifically against biased professors, the political bias issue hit IU with full force last year, when conservative activist David Horowitz proposed his academic bill of rights at the IU auditorium.

Horowitz's bill, which was introduced but not passed in the Indiana State Senate, asked for students to be protected from biased professors and a wide range of views to be represented.

Kennedy said even though the bill wasn't passed, professors should remember that their job is to teach a course, not an ideology.

"Students are here to get an education, not to have their views dictated to them," he said.