Our campus made national “news” a few weeks ago. But if you’re not a follower of Breitbart.com, Accuracy in Academia, Campus Reform or Fox 11, you probably missed it. But don’t worry: you didn’t miss anything important. Because it wasn’t even close to being real news.
It was a report, spread by those outlets, used to publicly shame and digitally flame a CSUDH professor for conduct they believe illustrates the liberal indoctrination of hapless, defenseless students across the country.
The professor in question, who we will not name because her name has already been dragged through the digital mud through thousands of inflammatory comments, teaches a political science class, American Political Institutions that, according to Fox News, this semester explores how President Donald Trump was elected. The website www.campusreform.org, received a copy of the professor’s unofficial syllabus. For your convenience (and because it kind of nails it) this is a sample of what it contained:
“Future generations will wonder how the people of what was once considered the greatest democracy in the world elected a white supremacist, misogynist, narcissistic, volatile, belligerent, uninformed, stubborn, failed businessman and orange reality star to the highest office…”
If you laughed while reading that sentence, don’t worry: most of us did as well.
Now, most of us know, and respect, that professors have wide latitude in how they teach their classes and complete control over their own freedom of expression in classroom materials, such as syllabi, as well as lectures. And let’s not forget that nothing in that unofficial document says that any student who disagrees with her opinions will fail the class or be mocked or given a poorer grade. Nor is it stated that students who disagree with her cannot engage her in class, or that a portion of a syllabus, official or not, in a class that apparently deals in some fashion with current events just isn’t really news.
But, none of that mattered. For these and other so-called alt-right outlets, with their history of sowing distrust in America’s higher education system, as well as science, legacy media, fact-checking and anything else that does not align with the constant stream of misinformation and outright lies they disseminate, had found another convenient target to blast as an example of liberal brainwashing in academia, and to use as a dog whistle to summon a like-minded audience.
And the dogs came a-running. In thousands of comments ranging from uninformed and ignorant to mean-spirited and plain hostile, readers on Breitbart and other sites savaged the professor, the university, all California universities, and pretty much higher education, liberals, Democrats and anyone who dares criticize President Trump in general.
Which is to be expected, considering the base audience. In 2018 America, it’s only news if people are talking about it, the louder and more frantically, the better.
The CSUDH Bulletin absolutely stands by the professor’s right to include whatever language she wanted in the document. We stand for academic freedom, just as much as we stand for freedom of students to question, challenge and engage with their professors. But, at least one student, the one who contacted the Campus Reform website, which actively solicits students to contact it with any “stories” concerning the “liberal bias and abuse against conservatives on America’s colleges and universities,” decided to not be a student. They decided to be something else.
They decided to be a leaker, which some might call a tattletale, a squealer (or a certain type of small rodent), sending a portion of a syllabus to a website, which would be picked up by similar sites, that they probably fully knew exists to condemn any and all who don’t subscribe to its obviously biased agenda.
This whole debacle wasn’t news. And the only reason we bring it up is a reminder that an education is only as good as what we, as students, put into it. Be active participants in your own education. Engage. Question. Debate. Challenge. Be respectful and professional, but speak out and stand up for what you believe, realizing that others may have differing opinions. And, if teachers are persistently caustic, or rude, or absolutely intent on stomping out opposing views in their classroom, then take appropriate steps. If other students agree with you, or even if it’s just you, contact the department chair or type in “student grievance procedure CSUDH” on Google. Hell, get on ratemyprofessor.com.
We believe this student did a grave disservice to his or her education, by acting like a snitch and using the internet to hide behind. Feeding faux news to websites just so trolls can pat themselves on their backs and take another crack at a left-wing California university? We all deserve to be better than that.