Professors abuse their power with Peace Project

Opinion Editor

The Sept. 27 Peace Project, organized by members of the Art Department, is a prime example of political indoctrination in the classroom and the inability of the average student to effectively combat it. The ability of professors to coerce students into supporting certain political views is not only antithetical to the idea of academic freedom in a university, but reflects poorly on the department and staff that engage in the practice.

The Peace Project is blatantly political. It is in effect a protest against the presence of the ROTC on campus, a perennial source of angst among the more radical leftists on this campus. This can easily be seen from the location chosen for the project, which was placed right in front of the ROTC bungalow. Clearly, the organizers wanted the cadets who are enrolled in the ROTC to have to pass the display when they went to meet with their commanding officer.

What message exactly was intended to discourage them from joining the Army? The content of the Peace Project largely involved dressing up those small green army toys that are sold by the bucket in various “peaceful” guises, a good portion of which involved cheerleaders, ballerinas and other poses.

But were the students who created the figures featured in the Peace Project really that excited about what they were doing? Professor Edie Pistolesi seemed to think so, since no students expressed misgivings about the project to her. And, after a discussion involving, what else, the presence of the ROTC on campus and military recruiting practices, all the students heartily endorsed the project.

After all, as Stefanie Thomas, one of the students involved in the project was quoted as saying, “everybody- wants there to be peace.”

How likely is it that all of the students in the class, many of whom had members of the military in their family, were persuaded by the eloquence of their professors to drop all their objections to the project? Not very likely, according to one anonymous student who professed to feeling “intimidated” into silence.

What is far more probable is that students who objected to the anti-military bent of the project kept silent rather than risk the wrath and disapproval of their professors and peers. Most people do not like conflict or lack the knowledge necessary to debate effectively against passionate advocates of a particular view.

I have seen this numerous times in my own disagreements with professors in the classroom. After a particularly heated discussion, I will have classmates approach me and say that they agree with my views. I invariably ask them why they did not say anything and stand up for what they believe. They always reply that they are nervous about speaking in public, or that they do not want to get on the professor’s bad side.

This is probably what happened in the case of the Peace Project. Those students that had objections to the project were likely cowed by the fierceness of the advocacy coming from the professors and their supporters. That this project was a mandatory assignment makes it even less likely that students would protest against it and hazard a bad grade. They stayed silent rather than risking their grade and their reputations.

Ultimately the problem with political advocacy in the classroom is that students of these professors are a captive audience and have little choice but to agree. Professors will invoke free speech and academic freedom when they defend themselves against charges of bias, claiming their critics are trying to suppress First Amendment rights.

In the end, professors who impose their political views on their students are the ones suppressing the free exchange of ideas and limiting academic debate. This is good neither for the students nor the university. Professors should stay away from political advocacy and stick to providing their students with the tools and knowledge necessary to succeed in the outside world.

Sean Paroski can be reached at sean.paroski.240@csun.edu