Op-Ed: Professor's Comments Beyond the Pale

Posted Aug 14, 2007 by Left-Handed Elephant
This morning I sat in a class with over 100 other students and listened to a Distinguished Professor proceed to make a remark so offensive that I was compelled to get up and walk out of the lecture. At least five other students walked out as well.
I sat there in disbelief. I couldn’t believe my ears, my mind struggling to comprehend what had just happened.
I’m a moderate guy and I’ve grown accustomed to living among the liberals. At a prestigious private university in America, you pretty much have to. But I have always found that professors, no matter their personal views, make an effort to present multiple viewpoints. In a public policy program such as the one I’m in, it’s important to keep in mind that there are many conflicting interests in a given issue. Simply stated, if there weren’t it wouldn’t be contentious. But we reason together as colleagues and at the end of the day we sincerely remain on friendly terms.
This particular professor’s comments throughout the course have made it clear which end of the spectrum he stands on. These are private views which all persons are entitled to. But when aired while in the role of expert and professor, they generate a perception of bias that makes one question the objectivity with which one will be graded let alone the bad impression left on students from other countries.
So here’s the offensive comment and the context. While discussing Supreme Court cases such as U.S. v. Virginia, a student asked why the military was able to use gender as a discriminating factor (such as in physical fitness tests, for example). Citing the Court’s deference to military experts in areas pertaining to professional readiness, the professor said “The military can do pretty much anything it wants, except win wars.” {emphasis mine} I do not have perfect recall, and another student remembered the quote as “except win a war.” Which one you find more offensive I suppose could relate to your views on the current war.
When called to account for this remark by a student, the professor’s mea culpa was “I’m sorry you’re offended.” As many who’ve lambasted the President’s mike gaff during the 2000 campaign can attest, that’s not the same as an expression of genuine remorse.
This isn’t a neophyte professor either. He graduated from Marietta College in 1964 and earned his Ph.D. from University of Chicago in 1969. He is widely known as an expert in the field of public administration with regard to constitutional law.
I was happy to see students from both sides of the political spectrum stand up almost simultaneously and walk out. I invite all comments, but I think the defenders of his statement will be few and far between.