Professors deviating from lessons to express personal, political views not worth tuition

Jenelle Gewell | News Editor

I have always thought the college classroom was a place to learn from a professor who went through years of school to be a master in a subject.

I never expected the classroom to be a place where I would be bombarded with opinions about political, religious and sensitive social issues from the professor.

I expect debates between students about these issues maybe in a political science class or a class about society but not in any other class.

Another thing I never expected was to be made to feel like a social outcast by my professor. It came as a shock to me while sitting in a lower level communications class to hear my professor begin to make snide comments about a certain political party.

I began to feel uncomfortable; even though I am considered a political fence-sitter, I tend to lean more to the side the professor was criticizing.

If this were a class where the students were supposed to debate or argue their political opinions, I would have spoken up, but because this was a lower level communications class I did not think it was appropriate and did not want to steer the professor off of the lecture.

Even though I showed this restraint, other students did not and began to chime in their own snide comments and jokes. We got off topic and instead of learning about stating sources correctly in a speech, the class ended up discussing why certain political leaders were idiots.

I am paying $262.20 per credit hour to learn about how to give a speech, not about my professor’s political opinion and certainly not to have the classroom turn into a peanut gallery for malicious political statements.

I felt the professor was completely out of line bringing this topic into a class that had nothing to do with politics and not controlling it once it got out of hand.

This is an issue I have continued to experience and I have discovered I am not the only one who has experienced this. APSU and many other universities endorse academic freedom.

APSU, in fact, has a specific policy for academic freedom, policy 5:063. Tristan Denley, APSU provost, explains, “The faculty member is entitled to freedom in the classroom in discussing his or her subject, being careful not to introduce into the teaching controversial matter which has no relation to their subject.”

My public speaking professor was exercising his right with academic freedom but did not show caution when introducing controversial matter or restraint.

The political comments had nothing to do with the subject and the class was not brought back on subject. The time was not used for lecture, but rather for expressing political opinions.

Professors and students, I am asking to please keep this expensive education on track. Show restraint when opinions are expressed in class where the opinion has nothing to do with the subject. I want the education that I am paying for. TAS


  1. Keith Gipson says

    You’re here to be educated. Your role is not to dictate the substance of the class. I don’t believe I will ever use most of what I learn here but that is education. You were in the minority, how pitiful. You are not always going to be in the majority, or be a part of a winning team, or even come out on top, you have to accept that and not be a sore loser. That’s something you learn in college, along with writing reading, and arithmetic. Instead of speaking up during class you found it more appropriate to write about it in your column ….I’m not sure that’s standing up for yourself, to me it seems as if you’re hiding behind this paper avoiding a dispute in the classroom. If your views/beliefs are so dear to you shouldn’t you defend them right there, right then? Finally, if you have an issue with the substance of education you are getting you can exercise your consumer power and choose another school. We all have that right.

    • Jenelle Grewell says

      I appreciate your feedback and your point of view. However, I feel as if you are missing the point of this column. I expect political debates to be heard in a political science class but not in any other class. You do not pay for a math class and learn spelling, so why should I pay for a biology class and listen to everyone argue politics? When I want to debate politics I will do it on my own time, not on the time when I paid to learn about how to do my career.

      I am all for bringing different opinions to the table, but I am not for letting the class turn into a debate team about something we are not supposed to be debating about. Debating about your interpretation of a theme in a piece of literature in a literature class? Yes. Debating on if abortion should be legal or not in a literature class? No.
      Discussing any subject that has nothing to do with the class is counterproductive. If I am taking Spanish 1010, I expect to learn basic Spanish so that way I can move on and take Spanish 1020. If in Spanish 1010 we discussed animal rights, how am I ever expected to pass Spanish 1020?

      I hope after reading my response you understand this is not about my exposure to different opinions. I am an active college student and this is about receiving the education in the subject I pay to learn about.

    • Meg gupta says

      Keith, believe it or not, sometimes professors would take it out on a student for disagreeing, even in subtle ways. After all, they have the power to grade that student in any way they desire. The fact that she chose to express herself here instead of there is, in fact, her privilege.

  2. Mac says

    OH NO!!!! You were exposed to a different point of view other than your own!!

    ***GASP*** What is the education system coming to? How dare they expect students to “think outside the box” and venture outside their comfort zone! Has TBR been notified so they can address this travesty?!

    • Meg gupta says

      Yes, Mac, that’s the idea IF you are in a class called “Professor’s Opinions”. I had a Pol Sci class and my professor didn’t get into what his political leanings were. The point is to give the students information and yes, educate them. It’s not to barrage them with your own opinions but to allow them to think for themselves. There’s a big difference between throwing your opinions around and making a jokefest of it with students who agree and putting factual info out there that gets students thinking. If you want to do a professional job you keep your specific opinions on hot topics to yourself. Having the students discuss is one thing. Joining in and adding to it with specific opinions – especially intense ones as stated in this article -are not considered good academic ethics.

  3. Sarah says

    I agree with Jenelle. Why should you pay for a class to learn something that you are not being taught? This isn’t about “being exposed to a view other than your own.” I’m sure Jenelle would be glad to hear about other views as long as they related to communications. The classroom has turned into a place where the professor has a captive audience to indoctrinate, rather than a place to teach the subject he is supposed to be teaching. It’s funny how the two above comments don’t mention any of the points made in Jenelle’s article. Also, the fact that other students chimed in with rude comments and jokes could be considered bullying.

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