SRJC teachers, students face off

Session draws crowd eager to debate letters accusing instructors of left-leaning bias

By GUY KOVNER
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

 

Santa Rosa Junior College instructors and students disputed the line between education and indoctrination Wednesday in the wake of a controversial posting on faculty office doors by student Republican club leaders.

"I feel wronged," philosophy instructor Michael Aparicio said, as he and several other instructors denounced the posting of red stars and copies of a state law against inculcating communism on 10 office doors.

Brenda Flyswithhawks, a psychology instructor, went further, calling for disciplinary action against students Molly McPherson and Danielle Carter for allegedly creating "an environment of hostility" with the postings.

The issue, which surfaced Monday on campus, prompted an overflow crowd at Wednesday's regular meeting of the Academic Senate, the SRJC faculty's representative body.

The Senate took no action, but it could come up again at the next meeting, which is scheduled for March 16.

McPherson and Carter, president and secretary, respectively, of the SRJC Republicans, said their point was not a personal attack on instructors but a protest against what they claim is a left-leaning bias in the classroom.

"I don't pay to be taught what to think," said McPherson, a political science major.

English instructor Marco Giordano, a Senate member, rejected the students' contention they had sought to start a dialogue, calling that claim "disingenuous and discreditable."

"This is a grave attack," Giordano said, on the character of his colleagues. .

Joel Rudinow, philosophy department chairman, said the Republican students' mission had "more to do with publicity and doctrinal cleansing" than with course evaluation.

Two students who said they were not members of the Republican club asserted that personal bias creeps into some lectures.

Lev Woolf, a second-year student, said even instructors who espouse an "everything is equal" philosophy still inject their own views into teaching. "They are not a pure filter," Woolf said.

Justin Salinger, a first-semester student and Army veteran, told instructors: "If you want to reach students you have to be able to give both sides."

Both instructors and the Republican club's leaders agreed on one point: the need to organize a public forum on indoctrination and education and, as Aparicio put it, "the significance of the distinction."

Jesus de La O, a retired instructor, said the issue involves academic freedom, but he also reminded his colleagues that an instructor's position can be "a little intimidating."

Academic Senate President Kimberlee Messina made no comment on the issue, and she rebuffed proposals by Giordano to meet in closed session to draft a resolution and to officially express Senate solidarity with the aggrieved instructors.

Messina said Senate action was barred by the Brown Act, the state's open meeting law, because the matter was not on the meeting agenda.

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Copyright 2005 The Press Democrat