Last week, two Villanova professors submitted an op-ed article to the Wall Street Journal about Villanova University's "mole hunt for diversity bias". In this article, two professors from the College of Liberal Arts expressed disdain for the university's recent decision to add questions about diversity and cultural sensitivity to the student evaluations filled out at the end of each semester. Throughout the article, they argue that these questions specifically target conservative and other right-leaning professors at the university, emphasizing how 'diversity and inclusion' belittle diversity of thought, specifically when it applies to conservative individuals on campus.
However, as a student at Villanova, I wholeheartedly disagree with this argument. Questions regarding diversity and inclusion are imperative to asserting a positive and open learning environment. This does not mean that every professor has to be a diehard liberal, that professors can never teach controversial topics or issues in their respective fields, or that every individual in the classroom must be subjected to PC language...or else. Additionally, the student evaluations, also called CATS, have barely any weight on a professor's future at the university. So, if a student reports on their CATS an instance where a professor was overtly racist, sexist, homophobic, etc., it is more likely than not that the professor would continue to teach at the university without repercussions.
In this way, the student evaluations allow students to anonymously submit their opinions about the course, including the significance of the course and the quality of instruction. Yet, diversity and inclusion ought to have a voice in this evaluation, since the quality of instruction can be undermined when a professor expresses sentiments of cultural insensitivity that creates an unsafe learning environment for the students.
Professor Sheehan and Wilson argue that these questions will spark fear in professors, affecting their choices of lectures, texts, and other materials to the syllabus. They use examples of classic literary figures such as Mark Twain, Frederick Douglass, and Flannery O'Connor, claiming that professors will refrain from reading classics such as "Huckleberry Finn" because students will be 'offended' by its derogatory language. However, this is not the case for students. Students do not want teachers to stop teaching "The Gettysburg Address" or "Huckleberry Finn" because it contains racist language, and they will not be 'triggered' if a teacher brings up a controversial topic, such as race politics in America.
A good professor recognizes how to teach controversial subjects without inputting their own biases. A good professor in a college learning environment should not teach in order to force their students to agree with all of their opinions. The classroom is not a place for indoctrination.
It is frustrating when others, most people not in college, assume that universities are a place where liberal professors brainwash all of their students. They believe that that must be why students exit college as liberals...it's because the liberal professors in colleges teach 'liberal propaganda'. These statements are ignorant because they disqualify college students as adults who are capable of independently interpreting material learned in the classroom.
Rather, a liberal arts education centers around open and diverse conversations, including individuals of all different perspectives and viewpoints. Not everyone who sits in the classroom thinks the same nor do they have to. That is what learning is. And professors ought to be mindful of those differences amongst students, and those differences extend beyond more than just our exterior. Therefore, diversity and inclusion should have a voice on campus. It is imperative in order to create an open, free, and humane learning environment in which all voices are heard and respected without assumptions, bias, and ignorance.