Wednesday, February 23, 2005

It never ends, does it? 

When will professors ever stop trying to use their classrooms as places to force change. At Rhode Island College, a social work student who did not want to take part in an assignment in his "Policy and Organizing" class (I am not making that up!) because of the ideological bias of the assignment and program, was told he should consider leaving. After the student had acquiesced, he wrote a paper that argued against the position of the group he joined. The paper was failed by the professor, who wrote, �Regardless of the content, application of theory, and critical analysis, you did not write from the perspective you were required to use in this academic exercise. Therefore, the paper is must [sic] receive a failing grade.�

RIC is a state university. In a state university, can a faculty member require a project that has ideological positions with which the student does not agree? Does academic freedom for faculty allow a professor to require the perspective from which a student can write a paper?

There's much more to the story. FIRE is representing the student, and on their blog Robert Shibley notes,
The real genesis of Felkner�s problem is that he believes that some government social welfare programs�specifically, some programs that RIC�s social work faculty supports�don�t help the poor, and, more generally, that he is more �conservative� in his views than the average social worker. RIC�s School of Social Work has made it quite clear that holding beliefs not in lockstep with those of the school is out of bounds, and it is backing up this stance with real penalties.
There's a similar story from the Social Work department here at SCSU, but I'm the wrong guy to tell it. Here's hoping Scholar Jack can catch us up.