Liberal Classroom Bias Concern for Conservative Students · 08 February 2004

Filed under: Press Coverage

By Jen Winberry--Penn State Daily Collegian, 02/09/04

After last month's establishment of a Web site designed to field complaints about politically left-leaning professors at the University of Colorado, students and faculty at Penn State have started looking into similar options.

Students at the University of Colorado are using their Web site to document discrimination against conservative students. Their site is affiliated with the national organization Students for Academic Freedom (SAF).

Sean Clark (senior-political science) said he knows of several students in both College Republicans and Young Americans for Freedom who are looking into starting a local chapter of SAF.

"I have encountered countless instructors and professors that make it their duty to indoctrinate students with leftist ideas and fail to provide equal time in the classroom for a student to counter their arguments," Clark said.

Sam Richards, senior lecturer in sociology, said basic ideological biases are present in the classroom, but he is unsure of their effects on students.

"There is always ideological bias; no one is free of it," he said. "Everyone brings that into everything we say; it is everywhere,"

Richards said ideological bias is one's idea of how the world ought to be.

Jose Texidor, senior lecturer in crime, law and justice, expressed views similar to Clark's on biased professors.

"It is a fact that some professors and instructors are, many times, extremely one-sided in their viewpoints," Texidor said. "It is likely because their viewpoint may be the only viewpoint they know very well. They may lack the confidence or desire to gain the knowledge of various viewpoints."

While Clark and Texidor acknowledge the presence of bias in the classroom, Jessica Kasemer (sophomore-mathematics) said she has not been forced to accept a professor's bias.

"If the professor is well-respected, people will tend to listen to him or her," Kasemer said. "For the most part, nobody wants to listen to someone state his opinion unless there's a chance to argue it."

Texidor said he tries to over-emphasize viewpoints that are different from his own, so students see both sides of the issue. "I have made every effort to hear both sides of a particular argument, to present them in an objective manner and to promote no particular viewpoint or agenda," he said. "Unfortunately, because my objective approach is somewhat unique, it may appear to some that my viewpoint is a conservative viewpoint, but this is not the case."

Views on the presence of professor bias in the classroom vary from
person to person on campus.

While some believe professor bias only comes from the left, Richards said it is hard to classify people.

"No one is completely one or the other," he said. "People tend to take one side often but not completely."

For example, conservatives thought he was a liberal for opposing the war in Iraq, but many conservatives opposed it as well, Richards said.

Kasemer does not know if a SAF site at Penn State would benefit students.

"Anyone can feel as though they're being discriminated against when in reality they're not," she said. "I think something like that would bring up a lot of false claims of discrimination."