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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

From political science to just politics

Faculty at the University of Arizona are underpaid and underappreciated, but none more so than those of the political science department. Political science faculty had to endure not only the consolidation of four colleges into one, but also the slanderous claims that they have set out to do evil by propagating their personal beliefs, rather than teach. That’s right, the so-called “”conspiracy”” is that a group of political science professors have joined together to teach — I mean indoctrinate — the next generation of leaders with liberal propaganda.   

On Monday, the Daily Wildcat ran an article detailing the registered political affiliations of political science professors, none of whom are registered Republicans. It reads, “”Of 14 UA professors teaching political science classes this semester, nine are Democrats, two have no designated political party and three aren’t registered to vote.””

While there’s clearly a Democratic majority, there are still five professors who may self-identify as Republican or conservative. Unfortunately, there was no further research into the remaining professors’ affiliations.

The usage of the term “”liberal bias”” is like the current conception of “”socialism.”” Everyone thinks they know what it means when they don’t. 

The emphasis on political affiliation distracts from any substantive discussion about politically-motivated instructional bias.

The question should be: Does political affiliation affect the quality of teaching? If so, how does it change the value of the educational experience? If there are legitimate concerns that a professor is teaching or favoring personal views over substantive, empirical subject matter, it would demand an investigation. There’s nothing improper about professors acknowledging their personal views, as long as they are not teaching or favoring their own opinions over concrete subject matter.

Registered party affiliations are rudimentary measures of political views, anyway. A registered Democrat may be a social conservative, while a Republican could be fiscally liberal. Political science courses cover a wide range of subjects, from economics to political theory to social welfare. Even if personal political views drastically alter teaching methods, a registered Democrat might teach an international economics course with a conservative bias. Those who judge professors by registered political affiliation are too lazy even to stereotype accurately.

The acknowledgement of this imbalance has gone from observation to overblown endorsement. When asked about these figures, Mike Cole, the head of the Pima County Young Republicans, said they prove a “”liberal bias.”” How shocking! Posing that question to the local head of the Republican Party is like asking a UA student if ASU sucks. It’s an overly simplistic, baiting question meant to evoke a pre-desired response.

Political science professors at the UA are neither robots nor crazed fundamentalists. Their political views and value systems are defined by their educational and personal experiences, not media propaganda or prejudicial tendencies. If they endorse a particular political view, they will not scream that you’re going to hell for believing something else. Professors stress the importance of logical reasoning and strong arguments over their personal views. Asserting that these professors are uncontrollably guided by their personal opinions is as offensive as it is incorrect.

Even more absurd than the original claims are the so-called “”solutions”” that are, in reality, more likely to compound, not alleviate this issue.

Mike Cole would like the university to make political affiliation part of the class schedule. That way, students can hope to never hear an opposing viewpoint. He also would like a university mandate to balance the political science department.

Cole said that a mandate to balance the political science is not like affirmative action for Republican professors, but rather that “”it’s just fair.”” Actually, affirmative action is exactly what this proposed “”balance”” would be like.

Merriam-Webster’s defines affirmative action as “”an active effort to improve the employment … opportunities of members of minority groups.””

1. Republican professors are members of a minority group at the University of Arizona.

2. A mandate is much more than an active effort, it’s a requirement.

So Cole wants to require the increased hiring of a minority group, yet also deny that it’s affirmative action. In fact, the only difference between the affirmative action of college admission processes and Cole’s version, is that where public universities receive federal grant money for boosting the racial and ethnic diversity of student population, the UA would simply be required to “”balance”” their political science faculty.

In terms of political affiliation, there will always be a “”bias”” one way or the other, unless a group is split exactly 50/50. Intentionally “”balancing”” any department in terms of political views is not fair because it displaces true qualifications for professors. There is nothing wrong with questioning the views or methods of teachers; in fact, teachers are paid to answer questions. To accuse UA educators of indoctrinating their students, without evidence, is at best cowardly, and at worst, completely discriminatory.

— Dan Sotelo is a senior majoring in political science. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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