‘Guidelines for Classroom Discussion’ Still Stifle Free Speech at the University of South Carolina
November 15, 2007
by Luke Sheahan
1. Acknowledge that racism, classism, sexism, heterosexism, and other institutionalized forms of oppression exist.2. Acknowledge that one mechanism of institutionalized racism, classism, sexism, heterosexism, etc., is that we are all systematically taught misinformation about our own group and about members of other groups. This is true for members of privileged and oppressed groups.3 Agree not to blame ourselves or others for the misinformation we have learned, but to accept responsibility for not repeating misinformation after we have learned otherwise.4. Assume that people-both the people we study and the members of the class-always do the best they can.[…]7 Agree to combat actively the myths and stereotypes about our own groups and other groups so that we can break down the walls which prohibit group cooperation and group gain.[…]
These “Guidelines” compel students to express viewpoints they might not believe and to make fundamental assumptions with which they might not agree, under the stated, explicit, and coercive threat of being graded poorly for honest intellectual dissent. Such an ideological “loyalty oath” should be anathema to any institution devoted to learning, because it replaces the process of intellectual discovery with the imposition of dogmatic political orthodoxy. Because this class is explicitly a “required seminar,” its ideological requirements violate not only the guidelines on academic freedom of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) and USC’s own regulations, but also, indeed, the Constitution of the United States.
As members of the academic community, students should be encouraged to develop the capacity for critical judgment and to engage in a sustained and independent search for truth.
[...]The freedom to learn depends upon appropriate opportunities and conditions in the classroom, on the campus and in the larger community.