Finding a place for political views

We’ve all heard this disgruntled defense at one point in our college careers — university professors have a liberal bias.

The argument has proven not to be too far off. A 2005 study by political science professors from three major Canadian and U.S. universities, reported that 72 percent of those teaching at American universities and colleges are liberal and 15 percent are conservative.

As that disparity continues to bring concern to right-wing students and citizens alike, more studies are being done about how that large gap in political views affects students’ academic freedoms.

But studies were not enough for Christian DeJohn. He believed his grades had already been affected by a left-leaning faculty.

The Temple University student sued the university and two of his professors last February arguing that those professors had hindered his master’s degree in history after he complained about anti-war e-mail messages that were circulating in the history department, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education.

The professors fought back, arguing in court that DeJohn’s troubles arose from his own faults, not their liberal political views.

After only a day and a half of testimony, a federal judge dismissed the lawsuit last week.

DeJohn, the student, had been deployed to Bosnia in 2002 as a sergeant in the Pennsylvania National Guard. While serving, DeJohn reported that he received numerous e-mails on the history department listserv which were decidedly against the war.

The student initially argued that the e-mails had come from professors in the Temple history department, but lawyers later realized they had been sent out from the James A. Barnes Club, a graduate-student history association.

While DeJohn should have gone through the university before taking such a drastic step as suing the entire history department (most universities, like Kent State, have a process students can go through if they feel they are being slighted academically by certain professors’ opinions), his case brings up an important question: Where do politics belong in higher education?

It doesn’t sound like DeJohn had sufficient evidence behind his claim that he wasn’t able to attain his Master’s because he didn’t want to receive anti-war messages, but it was not appropriate for him and students with views similar to his to have to receive such blatantly liberal e-mails through an academic-based group.

College is a place where politics are huge. Here, most students figure out where they stand on issues and policies. It’s unfortunate if they are being exposed to too many of one side and if that side is forced by their professors — no matter what side the professor is on.

It’s hard to document if this is a problem on universities. For example, Kent State has a reputation of being a liberal campus. We think professors are smart enough not to let it affect how they grade an individual student, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen.

Regardless of the dismissal of DeJohn’s case, it should make professors and students more aware of the political rhetoric being spewed in classes. No student should feel pressured or embarrassed by a professor because of a certain political belief. And we bet it does happen more than you’d think.

The above editorial is the consensus opinion of the Daily Kent Stater editorial board.