A hot topic across the country recently has been free speech on college campuses. Last week, an opinion piece was posted in the Wall Street Journal. The piece is authored by two Villanova professors and their thoughts on the supplementary questions that have been included on the course evaluation surveys given to the students. The piece is titled "A Mole Hunt for Diversity 'Bias' at Villanova".
While the article is about a very legitimate concern that is present on college campuses today, I do not agree with the content or position of the article. I interpreted their position to be against the supplementary questions students now answer when taking their CATS surveys which now ask students to respond to the following regarding their instructor: "Demonstrates cultural diversity" and "Creates an environment free of bias based on individual differences or social identities". The authors argue that these questions make the teachers unable to teach to their full potential because now they are constantly worried about offending students, being insensitive, and including their own opinions and views into a discussion because they fear they will be punished.
I have several responses to this. First, anyone's opinions on anything and everything should be able to be dictated in a non-offensive manner regardless of the views. Teachers in particular should be able to articulate their point in a way that isn't insensitive or offensive and, in addition, I feel like creating a comfortable environment for all students in the classroom should also be a priority of college professors. Second, I think college should be an amazingly diverse world that we live in for 4 years and this is something that we all must take advantage of. Did we not come to receive a higher education to be exposed to different viewpoints and have our own beliefs challenged as we learn to defend and protect those beliefs? In other words, did we not come to college to learn and become more aware?
Our world has become hyper-polarized with both sides always wanting to blame the other with a refusal for healthy discourse. Not everything needs to be an issue or an argument because in most cases we all are striving towards the same goal. The death of the moderate in our political culture is extremely detrimental to our atmosphere. Ignorance and close-mindedness have seemed to take over and our world has and will continued to suffer.
A liberal education at the very essence of its definition involves exposure to different arts and sciences and developing intellectual thought. Why would we want to diminish that by not holding teachers accountable for providing diversity of thought in the classroom? No one should feel uncomfortable in their class or feel like their teacher is imposing their views or one point of view as the only correct one. The experience of the classroom is amplified when diversity abounds and I think everyone should be able to appreciate that.
Villanova is trying to foster an inclusive, diverse environment for the students and faculty and I think that is admirable. As a school that struggles with diversity in some ways, it is a priority that we must take upon ourselves to foster the most productive and inclusive campus that we can.