Letter: Don’t silence professors

By The Daily Illini

(U-WIRE) ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Should conservative students be subjected to liberal or radical professors and their viewpoints while trying to get an education at public universities? Conservative scholar and activist David Horowitz doesn’t think so, and he is leading a campaign to have state legislatures ratify his “Academic Bill of Rights,” which he describes as a defense of intellectual diversity.

Spurred by anecdotal reports of discrimination by liberal professors against conservative students, a wave of complaints was filed against professors who allegedly forced their views onto their students. One Colorado educator received death threats after her picture was posted on Horowitz’s site for allegedly discriminating against two Republican students. She was cleared of any wrongdoing after an inquiry.

Here at UNM, of course, we are presented with studies of unknown quality claiming to identify a large majority of the faculty as Democrats or liberals.

The question is: Even if one accepts such contentions about the political character of public universities, so what? As long as professors do not discriminate for or against students – for political proclivity, religion, race, gender or any other reason – what difference do their characteristics make?

How many Wall Street bankers are Chomsky-reading lefties? How many drill sergeants in the Army are atheistic communists? Public or private, no institution has an obligation to populate itself with a 50-50 split of political allegiance. There are a variety of factors – pay, value systems, etc. – that play into the makeup of any profession, and no amount of complaint will change that.

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Obviously, this sort of ingrained institutional bias cannot allow itself to translate into discrimination. But it is ludicrous to demand a silencing of viewpoints at work, as I’m sure President Bush, who regularly leads his cabinet meetings in prayer, would agree.

So, should students have to sit through a class in which a professor expresses different, even offensive viewpoints? Of course. Challenge and critical-thinking skills are what they pay for.

Staff Editorial

Daily Lobo (U. New Mexico)