By Shane Dale
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Friday December 6, 2002
For one reason or another, there seems to be a disproportionate number of left-leaning professors at America's universities.
The UA is no exception. If I've attended a college course that was taught by a right-wing instructor, it's news to me.
But the issue isn't that some classes are taught with a liberal bias; much more simply, it's that they're taught with any bias. Period.
Some professors make at least some semblance of an effort to lecture without exposing their political views in the process, but either don't try hard enough or are simply incapable of doing so. The effort should be appreciated nonetheless.
Others expose their ideology without inhibition, believing that it's unimportant to remain neutral because they don't think their own opinions are enough to make a meaningful impact on their students' views.
That's certainly fair enough. But there's still something to be said for those professors who not only attempt to keep students in the dark about their politics, but succeed in doing so.
There are some outstanding professors at our school ÷ yes, a few have decided to stick around in spite of the budget cuts ÷ who deserve special recognition. Students who are looking for unbiased instructors in courses where bias can and will be relevant should make a note of these names:
Scott Desposato, political science ÷ Want to know how to conduct or interpret a political poll of any kind? Turn to this guy; he knows his stuff. But even more than that, he knows how to present his material without giving a hint of suggesting which way he'd respond to those polls.
Desposato, who teaches "quantitative analysis of political problems," has been all over the world producing polling data, spending a good deal of time in South America, particularly Brazil. And for the record, he's not a big fan of those second-rate charts and graphs you see on the front page of USA Today. Seek out Desposato's course if you're not a big fan of bias ÷ in polling or otherwise.
Peter Goudinoff, political science ÷ A former senate minority leader in the Arizona state Legislature, Goudinoff has a little something working against him in the neutrality department: Anyone who keeps close track of Arizona politics knows he's very much a partisan Democrat. But if you didn't know his party affiliation going into his U.S. and state constitution classes, you wouldn't know going out, either.
Goudinoff is prone to making jokes at the expense of both parties, but he does it in such a way that you can't tell which party he dislikes more. His no-nonsense approach to teaching and his direct sense of humor also make for an entertaining 50 minutes.
James Mitchell, journalism ÷ The former television-news anchor-turned-lawyer-turned-press-law-and-mass-communications professor has had ample opportunity to present his political views in his classes, but has never tipped his hand in the slightest as to which way he leans. Last semester, when a former CBS reporter wrote a tell-all book exposing what he perceived as
a liberal bias in the mainstream press, Mitchell brought the issue up more than once in his lectures, and presented both sides of
the argument even-handedly, allowing the class to make up its own mind.
Mitchell has won the journalism department's Hugh and Jan Harelson Excellence in Teaching Award two years in a row. His fair and balanced approach to teaching is, without a doubt, an enormous contributing factor to his success.
Thomas Volgy, political science ÷ Think Goudinoff's at a disadvantage? Try keeping your ideology a secret after serving as the mayor of Tucson. Regardless, Volgy, who also ran for Congress and gave Jim Kolbe a run for his money in 1998, has done a masterful job of maintaining an impartial approach in his international relations course.
Volgy takes everyone's thoughts seriously and considerately, whether we're discussing the international theory of realism, liberalism, constructivism or any other "öism" under the sun. Volgy is another master of his subject ÷ and neutrality in teaching his subject.
There's more than one field of study where political prejudice is relevant and commonplace. Any professor who can successfully and consistently keep his or her political views out of a lecture is a unique and special find.
If you're taking or have taken a course taught by such an instructor, please let them know ÷ and better yet, let us know.
These individuals warrant a great deal of appreciation and respect. And other students need to know who they are.