Professors must be impartial regardless of politics

We have gone to war, but how Professor Rosalyn Kahn of Citrus College used her classroom as a tool to advance her leftist agenda prior to President Bush’s decision may shock some readers — then again, maybe not. Kahn, an adjunct professor at the California school, assigned to her students the extra credit task of writing letters to President Bush, weighing in on the then potential war with Iraq. The only problem was that she made it explicitly clear that letters must only be against a possible war; no letters supporting the war would be given credit.

Extra credit assignments such as these have a sort of tradition in the Speech 106 course taught by Professor Kahn, a required course for students wishing to transfer to a California State University school. In another uniform-thought experiment, Kahn made it clear that credit would only be given to students that expressed the importance of adjunct faculty when writing to California Legislator Jack Scott.

However, cracking down on university absurdities seems rare. In recent memory, we at UCSD had the Quincy Troupe scandal, where the administration’s unwillingness to fire Professor Troupe because of application fudging fortunately ended in his resignation.

But if you’re looking for action, the Citrus College case needs a little outside pressure — a little F.I.R.E., so to speak — to warm the administration’s behinds.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, a watchdog group dedicated to academic freedom in higher education, has responded to the call of duty to protect dissenting students in Kahn’s class and to ensure her actions do not go unpunished. Before their joining, Kahn would have received only a slap on the wrist, followed by a recital of the ever-popular mantra, “”I’ll never do it again,”” and pushed on her merry little way to “”teach”” in more discreet ways.

According to United Press International, Samuel Lee, the associate dean for Language Arts and Foreign Languages at Citrus College, has said that the school did attempt something along these lines to remedy the situation. And if remedying the situation means doing nothing, they were well on their way to wrapping it up!

F.I.R.E. joined the fight against Professor Kahn after being approached by a student in Kahn’s speech class. Chris Stevens contacted F.I.R.E. about the questionable class activities and further charged the professor with devoting “”the first 10 minutes of every class … to her political agenda,”” reported The Chronicle of Higher Education. F.I.R.E., armed with Mr. Stevens’ information, notified the administrators and are now pushing for a more satisfactory conclusion to the episode in thought control. And the college definitely needed some nudging in the right direction.

After being contacted by F.I.R.E., Louis E. Zellers, president and superintendent of Citrus College, wrote a letter conceding the charges brought against Kahn by her students as true, and said that the college would “”sanction Professor Kahn in an appropriate manner.””

“”Professor Kahn gave students an extra credit assignment to write a letter to President George W. Bush protesting the possible war with Iraq,”” Zellers wrote. “”Students were clear in their understanding that they would only receive credit if they wrote ‘protest’ letters. Students were told that those who wrote letters expressing alternate views (including support for the war) would not receive credit.””

It seems F.I.R.E.’s quest is starting to pay off. Back when the story broke in early March, a slap on the wrist would be all Kahn would receive from the administration. But as time surely rolls on, so does justice. Kahn is now on administrative leave from Citrus College. And with F.I.R.E. chasing her, we can be sure she does not do her students the intellectual injustice of creating a uniform class code of thought at Citrus, or any other institution of higher learning.

Rosalyn Kahn still doesn’t get it, however. With the allegations affirmed by both F.I.R.E. and the president of the school, among others, she called the accusations “”untrue”” and still sees herself as innocent. In what can only be described as childish spin, Kahn cries “”wolf!”” one more time.

Forcing others to falsely espouse beliefs they do not hold is inconsistent with my practices as an instructor,”” she said. “”I would not, and did not, penalize students who expressed views contrary to my own.””

Possibly she’s trying to parse words. Indeed, the assignments were extra credit, therefore she can be said to have not penalized students with dissenting opinions, but rather rewarded those with acceptable ones. However, Professor Kahn’s problem is much bigger than a simple parsing of words; it is one of whether she wishes to obey the American Association of University Professors academic freedom principles, largely accepted by universities and professors as governing their code of conduct.

According to AAUP’s Statement on Professional Ethics, professors must “”avoid any … discriminatory treatment of students.”” Ms. Kahn has engaged in discriminatory practices merely by rewarding those with similar beliefs. To reward the support of certain ideas and not others is the essence of discrimination, not to mention the fact that it is entirely and coldly closed-minded.

Further yet, the AAUP’s Freedom and Responsibility Statement makes perfectly clear that “”[s]tudents should not be forced by the authority inherent in the instructional role to make particular personal choices as to political action or their own part in society.””

Having an assignment only accepted if it exposes a certain view is no doubt part of professor Kahn’s attempt to excersize influence over the personal political choices and ideology of her students, and no amount of sly technicalities can get her out of this one.

Ms. Kahn, you have been caught red-handed, violating not only general moral principles but also the AAUP’s principles on academic freedom — and you still wish to play around like a child who has raided the cookie jar. Your parents have walked in, crumbs are all over your clothes and mouth, all the cookies are gone, and I suppose you’re going to say that the one-armed bandit did it. Childish behavior such as this would not be accepted from students, and it sure enough will not be accepted from those teaching them.