University should fund Marxism class

Being associated with communism implies that one is undeniably irrational.

Diana Fu

It is fascinating how lingering Cold War rhetoric pervades our colloquial speech today. Increasingly, the post-Cold War generation has developed new meaning for terms such as Marxism and socialism. Much like words such as “gay,” “retarded” and “lame,” Marxist vocabulary has become increasingly trivialized as common derogatory terms.

As a former troupe leader in the Communist Youth League of China, I am puzzled by comments such as “What a commie,” or “Don’t be such a Marxist.” It is as if being associated with communism implies that one is undeniably irrational, flamingly radical and morally questionable.

As I get deeper into my studies I realize that a quick reading of “The Communist Manifesto” in certain social sciences classes does not really help students to gain a profound understanding of Marxism as a way to view the world. I was alarmed to find out from a classmate earlier this week that the University refuses to fund a course titled Introduction to Marxism (ID 3301), taught by Professor Emeritus Erwin Marquit.

This course, now listed as an interdepartmental study class, traces its roots to the Cold War. Marquit said the course began in the 1970s as part of the University’s “experimental program.” Not long after its inception, it came under attack by groups around the country who sent letters to the media accusing the University of giving college credit for “enemy indoctrination.” After much bargaining, the University administration finally gave the course permanent status with two conditions: It did not receive University funding and the instructor was not paid.

Thirty years later, this ugly remnant of the Cold War era still scars this higher learning institution that “is dedicated to the advancement of learning and the search for truth.” In light of the refusal to fund “Introduction to Marxism,” the search for truth has become a search for selective truths – this method teaches us to think about status quo world order questioningly but still seeks to shield us from “radical” thoughts.

What about those University-funded political science classes that teach Marxist thought? Marquit points out that the course readings include not just Marx’s classics, but also works by his revolutionary counterpart, Vladimir Lenin. So what is the difference? The University deems it “safe” to teach Marxist thought but not the ways in which a philosophy can be used to inspire a revolution.

I am not advocating that the University become a breeding ground for young revolutionaries. But I question the ethics of refusing to fund a legitimate University course that seeks to expose students to different ways of viewing the world. After all, we students pay tuition with an expectation of a truly “free” education.

Conservative commentator David Horowitz argued that college students are indoctrinated with politically liberal views. I disagree. Students do not come to the University as a tabula rasa – a blank slate ready to be indoctrinated and “fed” knowledge. No matter your political identity, your worldview is just a compilation of sets of knowledge and values you have learned from family, books and life events. In this way, we have all been unknowingly “indoctrinated” long before we come to college. Horowitz’s claims do nothing more than pit conservative students against liberal students while we are all victims of indoctrination.

The University cannot serve its mission of challenging students’ worldviews if it refuses to fund certain courses that teach alternative thinking. And we students cannot effectively struggle against this violation of our academic freedom if we remain divided along political lines.

Diana Fu welcomes comments at “>[email protected]