Academic Freedom Fighters at Brooklyn College · 16 February 2004
By Shmuel Steinberg--The Kingsman, 02/17/04
A new club formed last Tuesday on the second floor of the Student Union Building Organization (SUBO) promises to stand up for students penalized by professors because of opposing opinions.
Over twenty students showed up to the first meeting of the Students for Academic Freedom club (SAF). The meeting was held behind the TV lounge and lasted about twenty minutes. Although the first meeting was only a formality, students involved are determined to make an impression on Brooklyn College.
A Television and Radio and Political Science major, Eldad Yaron, founder of the BC Chapter and president, did not drag the first meeting out longer than he had to. "We are dedicated to fighting political bias in the class room," said Yaron "and to protect students from political grading." The goal of the club is to ensure that students are able to speak their minds in the classroom without fear of retribution from the professor, said Yaron.
After a short speech describing the reasons for bringing the club to Brooklyn College, Yaron went through a few formalities such as bureaucratic necessities for getting funds. He announced the officers of the club, read aloud the financial obligations, rules of conduct, and concluded the meeting. Professor Sara Reguer, faculty advisor to the new club and Chairperson of the Judaic Studies Department was on hand to witness the proceedings.
Tuesday was just a warm up for the club. "Recruiting more members is crucial to the existence of the club," said Yaron.
There are benefits for clubs to be officially recognized at Brooklyn College. The most important reward is funding. After taking officers training classes the club will be able to get funds for events, a room for meetings and fliers on billboards for recruitment.
The students, in one way or another explained their reasons for joining. "It's unfair that people [students] don't get all sides of the story," said Josh Kassin, vice president of SAF. "You are supposed to be presented with all the facts and make your own decision, not be molded into one."
"The right of students to speak their minds is very important," said Ariel Lipper, treasurer of SAF.
"I find that many professors will pass you by if you have another point of view. Professors that agreed with me gave me a better grade," said Goldy Davis, secretary of SAF.
Most of the students were concerned about the "liberal bias" that they see in the classroom and they plan to do something about it. "There is a lot of political bias in the classroom and we would like to change that," said Inbala Nahum, a junior Political Science major. "I study political science and I know there is a path to change that."
The students gathered at the meeting seemed unanimous in their support for "diversity" of opinion in the classroom. "Brooklyn College professors don't want to hear what you have to say, and that's not fair," said Stephanie Simon, a junior Television and Radio major.
"Everything is supposed to be diverse, but it's clearly not like that," said Michael Friedman, a senior Philosophy and Business major. "Maybe it will scare professors into thinking about it more."
A small blue handbook was given out at the meeting stating the goals of the club. "Without diversity of viewpoint, there is no academic freedom," said the cover. The small booklet lists the mission statement of the club, campaign principles and how the clubs plans to implement their goals.
Forming a club is not the easiest undertaking. The existence of the club is the product of one person's hard work. "Yaron was in Central Depository twice a day," said Jolanda, a staff person from Central Depository, who declined to give her last name. "He worked very hard to organize this club, I am very proud of him."
SAF is a national organization with chapters in 123 college campuses throughout the United States, including Yale, Hofstra and Princeton. The website, Studentsforacademicfreedom.org explains their motivations and goals. The goal of the organization, which is "To restore integrity to the academic mission as a disinterested pursuit of knowledge" is outlined on the site.