New student group would investigate academic bias

Patricia Drey

They are not sure if biased professors are a problem in University classes, but a handful of students said it is worth finding out.

Approximately 10 University students are working to start a chapter of Students for Academic Freedom, a coalition of national groups that advocates viewpoint neutrality on college campuses.

David Horowitz’s Academic Bill of Rights and a similar resolution in the U.S. House of Representatives are bringing national attention to the question of whether professor bias is harming students.

Answering that question at the University is the proposed chapter’s first step, said sophomore Amy Pierce, a group member.

The group is talking with students and encouraging them to fill out reports on instances of bias, she said.

Pierce said she is not a conservative Republican, unlike many of the Academic Bill of Rights supporters.

“I think a campus should have all ideas and all theories out there,” Pierce said. “I’d like to hear both sides – or all sides.”

If students have complaints about bias, University Provost Christine Maziar said she has not received them.

“The University is a place that models not only for students but for the community that a wide range of ideas needs to be not only tolerated, but engaged,” Maziar said.

Matthew Tajbakhsh, political science sophomore and College Greens co-chairman, said he has not witnessed examples of bias in his classes.

“I’ve never seen a climate created that was hostile toward conservative students – unless you mean by hostility someone having a different opinion than conservatives,” Tajbakhsh said.

Another student, Marty Andrade, disagreed.

The psychology senior and Students for Family Values president said several of his professors have said conservatives are wrong.

Andrade said one of his textbooks advocated socialized health care and abortion, and one of his professors spoke against those who oppose gay marriage.

The issue is not whether professors are liberal or conservative, Andrade said; it is whether they present both sides.

“You can’t get educated if you don’t have both sides of the story,” Andrade said.

Students have complained that political science professor David Samuels is either too liberal or too conservative, Samuels said.

His goal is to make students think, he said, but some students enter class with set opinions.

Samuels said he wishes students who disagree with professors would question them about it, but he acknowledged that in some classes students are too intimidated to speak up.

History sophomore Aaron Solem, who is also involved in establishing the chapter, said although most of his professors have not been biased, he is committed to discovering whether bias affects others.

“Across the board there’s interest and there’s disinterest,” Solem said. “Some people say (the bill) is needed and some people say it is hogwash.”

– Molly Moker contributed to this report