Conservative watch dogs says list helps students select unbiased instructors
A group of conservative students at the University of Texas in Austin has compiled a watch list of liberal instructors that the group claims is designed to help students select their spring classes.
The list ranks professors from diverse fields, including journalism, sociology, government, and African-American studies who, according to the Young Conservatives of Texas at the University of Texas, push an ideological viewpoint on their students that amounts to indoctrination.
According to the group’s website, a professor’s inclusion on the list is not based solely on a professor’s political stance, nor because professors present political opinions in class. Instead instructors are targeted depending on “whether the professor respects and strives for intellectual honesty in his or her classroom through presenting a fair and balanced delivery of information that is not crafter to produce a certain mindset within the receiving students.”
A journalism professor, Robert Jensen, was included on the list for his course “Critical Issues in Journalism.” “Jensen introduces the unsuspecting student to a crash course in socialism, white privilege, the ‘truth’ about the Persian Gulf War and the role of America as the world’s largest prominent sponsor of terrorism,” the watch list says. “Jensen is also renowned for using class time when he teaches Media Law and Ethics to ‘come out’ and analogize gay rights with the civil rights movement.”
In a telephone interview, Jensen denied explicitly covering the issue of gay rights in his class and he stated that he does not purposely come out to his students. Jensen said that his instructions to students about covering questions of a sexual orientation stem from when a former student once asked Jensen if it amounts to libel to print that someone is gay. Answering the question, Jensen said that for a plaintiff’s libel suit to be upheld, the allegations must be false. Jensen shared that he told his students that in that particular case he said, “I couldn’t sue because I am.”
Jensen acknowledged that professors often talk about their personal lives in class, discussing information about their children or spouse. Such information is tacitly acceptable for straight people, said Jensen. “I don’t see what’s wrong with that. It’s a trivial question. Straight people do it all the time,” he said. For his part, Jensen does not identify as gay, but as bisexual.
Jensen challenged the conservative student group’s assertion that professors should steer away from expressing their personal political opinions in the classroom and welcomed the creation of the watch list in the hope that it will spur discussion among a student body that, according to Jensen, is politically apathetic. Recently, Jensen wrote a column in the Houston Chronicle in which he said, “Every decision a professor makes has a politics” and “If the professor’s views are safely within the conventional wisdom of the dominant sectors of society, it might appear the class is apolitical. Only when professors challenge that conventional wisdom do we hear talk about ‘politicized’ classrooms.”
Another professor on the watch list, Rhonda Evans Case, who teaches Civil Rights Constitutional Law was also included on the watch list, but was given billing in the “honor roll.” Hers was one of three names of professors who embody an intellectually honest classroom, according to the website. “I wasn’t sure how to take being on the honor roll for the Young Conservatives,” Evans Case said. “I am a socially liberal, yellow-dog Democrat.”
Evans Case said that she primarily focuses on race when discussing civil rights, but has included the Supreme Court case of James Dale, a gay man who was prohibited in New Jersey from being a Boy Scout leader. “The movement for gay civil rights has politicized the subject,” she said. Evans Case believes that professors should not use their classroom to propagate adherents to their views, but to challenge students’ perspectives whatever they might be in an attempt at vigorous intellectual discourse. For the benefit of class discussion in one class with several outspoken conservative students she did not hesitate to openly express her liberal views.
Evans Case said that despite her seemingly favorable mention, she opposes the list. “Students should not steer clear of a professor because of views,” she said. “Education is all about learning about different views. They should at least challenge themselves.”
Jensen and Evans Case disagree with the conservative students’ assertion that the University of Texas campus is “largely liberal.” The university has a very large faculty, some with strong conservative views and ties to the Bush Administration, Evans Case said. She dismissed any notion of liberal bias on her campus.
“Universities as hot beds of radical liberalism at state schools?” Jensen asked. “Forget it.”
Austin Kinghorn, the Austin campus chairman of the Young Conservatives of Texas curtly responded to an e-mail query seeking his comment with: “I don’t think so.”