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:
1. Administrative support is needed to enable rogue faculty members. For years, leftist faculty members have relied on administrative support from Deans, Provosts, and Presidents. Whenever these administrators intervene with vague statements about "academic freedom" a signal is sent to the rogue faculty member. That signal is that they may do whatever they want without suffering repercussions in the workplace. But as soon as an administrator speaks about his concerns over balancing the freedom of different parties, the professor knows she is in trouble. Anything less than full administrative support will cause the professor to capitulate.
2. Justice often follows when we obtain written admissions. One reason the president responded in such a positive way was evidentiary. This was no mere accusation. Wolfe carelessly put her remarks in writing. So there could be no denying that a problem existed. The evidence forced Capehart to make a decision. And he made the right one.
Most professors spew their bias in the classroom without recording it on the syllabus. Therefore, students have to be vigilant. When, for example, your professor tells the class (in class) to refrain from using Fox as a source, you should seek clarification via email. Something like the following will suffice:
"Dear Professor Doe: I light of your ban on using Fox News as a source, I was wondering whether using MSNBC or Al Jazeera would also be unacceptable?"
Professors are often so arrogant that they will use the classroom to pressure students into accepting their beliefs. And they are often so careless that they will repeat their errors in writing when pressed. As you will see in my next column, it can be quite embarrassing when such coercion is exposed.To be continued...