Professors discuss array of topics in symposium event

Derek Lenehan

Professors from three states discussed some problems and proposed possible solutions on the topic of “Democratic Debates Over Mental Illness, Academic Freedom, Global Warming, and Public Space.”

Sarah Newman, associate professor of rhetoric at the University of Minnesota, Marlia Banning, assistant professor of English at Kent State, and John Ackerman, associate professor of English at Kent State, each presented their opinions on different issues in the Kiva yesterday. The three professors spoke to a mixed audience of students, faculty members, administrators and community members.

Newman, who presented first, argued that students with Tourette’s Syndrome should be covered under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). She said students who have Tourette’s are currently labeled as suffering from an emotional disorder, while in reality it is a neurological disorder, and should be treated as such.

“There is no cure for TS,” she said. “If there were, most Touretters wouldn’t have it the other way.”

Newman provided examples of students who have Tourette’s and did not receive special attention. She mentioned a girl with Tourette’s who blinked so frequently she broke blood vessels in her eyes, making reading in class a challenge. Another example was a student who could not take proper notes because he constantly crossed his fingers.

Banning discussed cultivated uncertainty in regards to the Academic Bill of Rights as well as government reactions to global warming.

“We seem to live in a world where views count, not facts,” she said.

Banning said the Academic Bill of Rights is directly aimed at removing liberal bias at universities, and it inserts doubt into educational institutions.

White House officials editing documents to insert doubt about global warming and a memo from Republican consultant Frank Luntz encouraging party members to take advantage of a “window of opportunity to challenge the science” of global warming were two of the several examples Benning provided to show the government actively conjures doubts about scientific facts.

“These actions have chilling effects on the reception of results,” she said. Benning then pointed out that Luntz was also critical to the creation of the Academic Bill or Rights.

John Ackerman spoke last, discussing the city of Kent’s regression from community activity, citing the Haymaker Parkway, poverty, isolation of individual families and less attractions downtown as time progressed as reasons.

“Alcohol was always an incentive to go downtown. That too was hindered when the drinking age was raised,” he said.

Ackerman appealed for an increased presence of art and cultural centers in Kent, and the creation of a “creative economy” based around arts.

Contact academic affairs reporter Derek Lenehan at [email protected].