Teachers Often Carry Politics into Courses, Study Shows · 07 December 2004

Filed under: Press Coverage

By Rachel Zelkowitz--Emory Wheel--12/07/04

A new study shows that nearly half of the students in America's best colleges think professors bring politics into the classroom, sometimes unnecessarily.

In a survey commissioned by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, 48 percent of students polled deemed campus presentations on political issues "totally one-sided."

A similar proportion - 42 percent - said reading assignments on controversial issues are also unbalanced.

Additionally, 46 percent of the students said their professors "use the classroom to present their personal political views."

Emory students were among those polled in the study, although specific results for the University were not available.

Most University members interviewed said they have not experienced political bias in the classroom.

"I have felt that some professors are open about their political views," College junior Alexis Hauk said. "But I haven't really felt attacked by professors' viewpoints ever."

Barkley Professor of Political Science Alan Abramowitz said he does not know of any professor who uses the classroom as a platform.

"I have never heard of professors making students feel they have to agree in order to do well," he said. "I've never been aware of any discrimination - in hiring, tenure or decision to accept students to the graduate program - where political views were discussed, let alone taken into the decision."

The new study bolsters arguments by some conservatives that professors at U.S. colleges unfairly politicize their subjects.

College senior Brice Strickland said he has had professors who "looked down" on students who made conservative comments.

"I was advocating a Republican platform and a professor completely cut me off," he said. "But socialism and communism comments are fine to say."

A student at Georgia Tech filed a grievance with the university against a political science professor in April after the professor reportedly remarked in a debate about President Bush's health care policy: "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."

Georgia legislators passed a resolution on March 22 recommending the adoption of an Academic Bill of Rights to stop professors from unfairly grading students whose political views do not coincide with their own.

The resolution would only apply to public institutions.

"Nothing in this resolution shall be construed as interfering with the right of a private institution to restrict academic freedom on the basis of creed or belief," the resolution states.

Leading the charge for such a bill is David Horowitz, a conservative speaker who visited Emory twice in the last two years to denounce the University's alleged liberal bias.

One study found a slant among some Emory professors in their support for candidates or political parties.

According to data gathered by the Center for Responsive Politics, Emory professors' financial contributions to Democratic campaigns were seven times greater than those to Republican campaigns.

The center showed that by September, Emory professors had contributed $35,250 to Sen. John Kerry's presidential campaign and $2,750 to that of President Bush.