Intimidation and coersion have no place in classrooms

Alex Deehring

The student-professor relationship is one of the most important connections students will have throughout their time at UW Oshkosh. Feeling that close bond with someone who is trying to help lead you to a life filled with success and happiness will lead to a better experience at college overall. When that relationship is turned into one, not based on mutual respect but instead one of conformity, this bond turns sour. With their influential position and ability to shape the minds of UW Oshkosh students, professors need to make sure to keep their ideologies out of their relationships with their students. Professors are not always so understanding and unbiased when it comes to what their students think. In 2011, a UWO professor Stephen Richards made comments promoting the recall of Sen. Randy Hopper (R-Fond du Lac). Students would be wise to recognize forced opinions that professors sometimes impose upon them. They should explore their stance on issues and form unique opinions devoid of strict ideologies. Senior Sarah Behnke said the duty of professors is to provide groundwork for students to make decisions based on what they learn. “Professors have a difficult task of remaining objective on these highly controversial topics, but I think it is crucial that they try their utmost to do so,” Behnke said. “They need to teach us the facts so that we, in turn, can go out into the world with our own opinions, instead of one that have been slanted by theirs.” Theatre major David Kurtz said students shouldn’t be intimidated when they have disagreeing opinions. “I think it’s fine to have opinions about things,” Kurtz said. “Even faculty are allowed to express opinion. What shouldn’t be acceptable is making the students feel bad for thinking differently.” Fifth-year student Ty Zimmerman echoed Behnke and Kurtz, understanding that ideologies may come up in class, but that class shouldn’t be an arena to convert people. “I guess it depends on the situation,” Zimmerman said. “If it comes up just in discussion with a student and they mention that they are of a certain religious belief or political standing then I feel like that’s just normal conversation and totally acceptable. But to use their position to push students to have the same beliefs as them is wrong.” Professors also understand the repercussions of bias in the classroom. UWO English professor Samantha Looker said there are distinctions on when bias and ideologies are alright and when they are not. “For me, there’s a big difference between lecturing students in a statistics class about the glory of your god– obviously irrelevant and inappropriate– and examining political discourse around climate change in an environmental studies class- in which, because you are human, some of your own political beliefs may slip out,” Looker said. Looker also said students shouldn’t be graded based on their opposition or agreement with professors and they deserve time to get their beliefs across. “I don’t see anything inherently wrong with letting my students know where I stand politically, and in some classes it’s pretty near necessary,” Looker said. “But that is only if I’m equally willing to give airtime to their views and if they don’t feel coerced to demonstrate agreement with me.” Simply discussing controversial viewpoints or giving specific directions is not a problem within itself. Students shouldn’t be afraid to say what they feel on issues, and respect what others have to say too. The free flow of ideas through mutual respect can only make UWO a better place to learn.