In the Loop: Professors should wait to be asked about politics

Whitworth students have no doubt experienced an extensive variety of discussions surrounding the 2016 election and its results. On Facebook, with their friends, with relatives at Thanksgiving. And in the classroom.

We can understand that professors have strong opinions, and the classroom is often a great environment to discuss political issues. However, it is the opinion of this editorial board that professors should only make their political views explicit if it is relevant to the class and if the student asks. Otherwise, it is too easy to turn their position of authority in the classroom into a pulpit.

The desire to share political opinions, especially in this controversial election cycle, is understandable. Politics are a huge aspect of every person’s life, and almost all of the policies discussed by politicians in election season are directly applicable to at least some of us. College campuses are unique and valuable learning environments that are arguably perfect for political discussions and sharing perspectives.

I think it could cause students to feel like they need to think the same as their professors. Every professor is in a position of power and they should not use that to influence students’ political beliefs.
— Whitworthian survey respondent

We are not saying that political discussions are negative. In fact, political science professors, and arguably others, would be remiss in avoiding the topic. In any field, from English to chemistry to economics, connecting political topics and policies to coursework can be an excellent way of teaching and making classwork relevant to students and current events.

We do think it is a great idea to start discussions about politics and/or the election in class, especially if it can be related to the coursework. Additionally, as one survey respondent suggested, students and professors of the Whitworth community can always further discussions outside the classroom. Problems begin to arise, however, when the professor uses the classroom as an avenue for advancing his or her own political opinions.

Professors have a right to express their political views; however, their expression should never hinder the learning of a student or interfere with a student’s ability to express their own opinions.
— Whitworthian survey respondent

Consider what might happen if a professor began class with a “rant” against a particular candidate, as several survey respondents claimed their professors did after the election results last month. By making their views immediately obvious, the professor could potentially ostracize any student in the class who disagrees.

Hopefully, students can recognize that their professors have biases, just as students do. But it is much more difficult to recognize that when it comes from an authority figure.

No because they are biased towards a specific economic policy or idea. They express their views so strongly that it changes my perspective of how i see them and it makes me feel uncomfortable.
— Whitworthian survey respondent

Knowing they are in such disagreement with the professor, students could hesitate to participate in class with alternate perspectives. They could worry that they would be graded differently from other students. Most importantly, they could become concerned that their learning environment is coming from a biased perspective, and that they are not getting a complete education of the issues.

Especially in the Core program, political interludes can be problematic. There is rarely an opportunity for Core students to speak during lecture, especially in 150 and 250. Discussion of where a politician might lie on the ideological scale? By all means, professors should encourage understanding of political systems and ideologies and facilitate educational discussions, especially considering the context of Core.

However, pointed comments about a candidate in a lecture to nearly 200 students is an unnecessary bias that doesn’t allow for discussion of the issues, and instead polarizes students. Core is structured to push students’ ideological beliefs and help them construct their foundational ideas about the world, which often involve politics. However, at a university that preaches inclusivity and acceptance, students should not be isolated by ideas in a classroom where they cannot express their own.

It is of course up to professors to decide how to talk about politics for their own classes and classroom environments. To some extent, we trust Whitworth professors to use discretion to decide what is appropriate and how to use their very influential positions. We also encourage them to consider how vocalizing their opinions, and especially discouraging opposition to their ideas, may affect the students’ learning environment.

 

Editorials in the "In the Loop" section reflect the majority opinion of the Editorial Board, comprised of five editors.

Contact Katie Shaw, the opinions editor, at

kshaw17@my.whitworth.edu

 

Letter from the editor on opinions

Karlin Andersen
Editor-in-Chief

The views and ideas expressed in the opinions section are held by the author and the author alone, as stated on page 2 of the paper and at TheWhitworthian.news under “about us.”
Those views do not necessarily reflect the views of The Whitworthian, its staff or its editors. Pieces published in this section are opinion pieces. Thus the pieces reflect the ideas, views or arguments of the author.

Opinions expressed in this section do not reflect the ideas held by Whitworth University, its administration, faculty or staff. The Whitworthian operations and publications are separate from Whitworth administration oversight and the paper prides itself on allowing free speech.

Letters to the Editor also are not endorsed by The Whitworthian — though those chosen for publication typically reflect the majority opinion expressed through comments and letters received by the editor-in-chief.

Opinion pieces are constructed, written and edited differently from articles in other sections. Opinion pieces have a distinct argument and inherent bias that is made clear to readers within the first paragraph.

Traditional news stories strive to be objective and share the story from all sides. Opinion pieces are sheer argument. They are meant to persuade in an unobjective manner that demonstrates to readers a clear cut point. Some are more successful than others.  However, opinion pieces should not be read or judged in the same way as a news story should be.

 

Contact Karlin Andersen at
kandersen18@my.whitworth.edu

Editorial In the Loop: What are Whitworth writers doing?

We don’t know, but they’re not writing for us

The Whitworthian is the most accessible and useful practical experience for writers at Whitworth.

Students of any major and experience level can join, and it does not count for overload credits (meaning that you do not have to pay, even if you are taking 17 credits already). Writers for The Whitworthian gain invaluable experience writing on a deadline for an editor, and making connections throughout campus (not everyone can get an interview with Beck Taylor as a freshman). The Whitworthian even offers paid positions.

Possible benefits are personal as well as professional. Working for a college newspaper allows students to forge friendships, discover interests and practice time management.
And yet, only four people are officially on our writing staff this semester.

Writing for The Whitworthian is great for students of any major, but it is practically essential for journalism and mass communication majors. Presumably, what we do at The Whitworthian is literally what many of the students of those majors are getting their degrees to do.

Of our six content editors, three are communication majors. Of our four writers, three are communication majors. This means that only six of the 61 declared communication majors enrolled at Whitworth write or work for The Whitworthian. That is not including the 34 communication minors, and those who have not declared a major this early in the year.

Those numbers also do not consider the 93 declared English majors. Even if a student does not intend to go into journalism, having a semester’s, a year’s or four years’ worth of published work is an excellent résumé and experience builder. Additionally, many authors get their starts in newspaper settings.

Natsihi is another avenue for writers on campus, and is a valuable experience as well. We have great respect for the content and design work they do and for the value of the yearbook.

Although we think that The Whitworthian is a more realistic representation of a reporting job (we have much faster deadlines, longer and more difficult story assignments and a good representation of newspaper environment), writing for Natsihi is a great experience for many of the same reasons that The Whitworthian is.

Communications and English students should be writing for some publication on campus. And yet, Natsihi only has six writers. 

Again, students of any major are welcome and encouraged to join. Art students can create graphics or illustrations that will be published in print and online within a week. Political science students can express their varied views in the Opinions section.

Incidentally, if you have ever been upset because you think some group on campus is not getting enough attention, maybe the lack of attention is due to a lack of personnel.

We get that it’s a lot of work. Trust us. We understand that better than anyone. But especially for students in majors such as communication and journalism, English, political science and other degrees that depend on good communication skills, students should try to get as much experience (in interviewing, writing and editing work and communicating) and published work as possible.

Additionally, the more writers we have, the less work it makes for the rest of the staff, and the better the paper becomes. The blankness of this page is a statement, yes, but also a very real reflection of how difficult it is to fill an eight page newspaper with only four writers.

Please, if you readers have ideas about why no one wants to write for The Whitworthian, we’d love to hear. Write a letter to the editor. At least we’d have content.