Last week, after returning from an interview on a network that makes liberals cringe, I came home to an inbox full of emails. Usually, when I come home to a full inbox, it’s because a professor has done something stupid and people want me to write about it. This was no exception. A professor at West Liberty University had banned Fox News as a source and told her students that the "biased" station makes her "cringe." That kind of thinking is common among professors. But few professors are stupid enough to reveal it in a syllabus.
Stephanie Wolfe, a visiting assistant professor at West Liberty, made her own bias clear when she told her students orally that they could not cite the news station in any of their work for the semester. The problem was that she also put the following in her syllabus: "The tagline 'Fox News' makes me cringe. Please do not subject me to this biased news station. I would almost rather you print off an article from the Onion (sic)."
For those who did not miss the irony, "bias" occurs when someone allows an emotional inclination to interfere with the ability to process information. So the good professor banned Fox for being "biased" one sentence after she admitted that her emotional inclination impedes her ability to process information presented by Fox. Why not ban herself as a biased source of information?
Of course, putting this in her syllabus was stupid. But it brought about a good result. Students were able to share the information with others, including Fox News. That resulted in a rare national television appearance by a university president willing to express his concerns about academic freedom. In fact, President Capehart handled the situation perfectly by registering a concern that Wolfe's exercise of academic freedom was infringing on the academic freedom of her students to "gather information and look at as many different sources as possible on any side, before you reach your opinion."
Shortly after these remarks were made, Professor Wolfe reversed the ban and recognized her students' legitimate interest in examining different points of view - even those that do not comport with those of the professor. For this reason, I plan to contact the university using this link. It will be a rare opportunity to thank a university administration for doing the right thing. Even if you don't have time to write West Liberty, you've learned two things by taking the time to read this column: