By Georgeanne Barrett
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Monday, November 1, 2004
Teachers have tough time keeping mum near Election Day
The presidential election tomorrow has some students feeling pressure from professors and teaching assistants who make their political views and opinions clear to students.
Official policy at the UA states professors should not impose their personal or political views and opinions on students. However, in the politically charged atmosphere of this year's election, some feel pressure from the political views of professors makes deciding who to vote for more difficult.
William Dixon, head of the political science department, said faculty members try not to influence students on partisan issues.
"I suspect it is difficult for professors to talk about specific issues without their own opinions coming up," Dixon said.
Kim Shorkey, a secondary education sophomore, said she has a class where the teaching assistants have expressed their personal views on the presidential election.
In her political science class, she said the professor has exposed students to each candidate, but the teaching assistants have openly expressed their opposition to President Bush.
"The TAs are pushing Kerry," Shorkey said. "The TAs feel Kerry is the more hip college student candidate."
Dixon said he believes most faculty members in the political science department have encouraged students to vote in this year's election, but have tried to stay away from recommending a particular candidate.
"We always try to maintain a distance or recommendation for a political candidate," Dixon said.
Dixon said he thinks it has been rare that a professor expressing personal political views in the classroom has offended a student. He said this is because different people could have different perceptions on something a professor might say.
He also said he feels this particular election will be especially interesting due to drastically split opinions about the presidential candidates.
"All signs point to a high-turnout election," Dixon said. "It will be interesting to see how young new voters turn out."
Shorkey, who described herself as "strongly Republican," said it is interesting for her to watch the students' reactions when the issue of politics arises in class.
"Republican students feel they have to get into defense mode," Shorkey said. "The TAs really don't know more than the students."
Though Shorkey said she sometimes feels she has to be in "defense mode" in class, she said hearing the political views from the professors and teaching assistants really does not bother her too much.
"That's college," Shorkey said. "We pay to be here, and they are paid to be here. If someone has a problem they should go to a different type of school. This is what you should expect at an institute of higher education."
Loran Candlish, a pre-business senior, has never had a professor who openly expressed their political views in class.
Candlish said everyone is entitled to their own opinions, so he would not be upset if he had a professor or teaching assistant who expressed personal political views in class.
"I wouldn't mind," Candlish said. "But I do think it would generally be more professional if they didn't, though."
Megan Lichter, an undeclared freshman, said she has a Hebrew professor who very clearly states her opinions about who she feels should win this presidential election.
"A classroom is not the right place for it," Lichter said. "Maybe in a class like American politics, but not in a language class. It just isn't applicable."