Letters to the editor

The full responses to video of Prof. Sragow

I was surprised to see a Political Science professor making national headlines for ‘indoctrinating’ students in class by ‘bashing Republicans.’ The evidence played out in an edited 15-minute video taken by a camera hidden in student Tyler Talgo’s lapel. The original video was sent by this student to a notorious right-wing website that bracketed the video with an extremely partial commentary on what the video ‘showed’. I don’t know this professor. I have never met him, nor do I know his personal views, but there is something which seems to be getting missed in the usual ‘Marxist professor’ nonsense: it is really super creepy to secretly video anyone.

I’ve noticed students making audio recordings of professors without asking, which I also think it is at best impolite and at worst a violation of trust. Videoing an educator, and sending an edited video to a smear website is not the rational response of a student who is worried about an uncomfortable learning environment: going to the Head of Department or a Dean is. Indeed secretly taping professors and students is as much a violation of a comfortable learning environment where learning can be pursued without fear or favor as anything the professor did or did not do. In my life I have had right-wing and left-wing teachers. I’ve learned from all of them. USC has both left-wing and right-wing guest teachers (their bios rather give the game away to sensitive students). And our tenure-track faculty are non-political researchers and academics. My alma mater of Cambridge is currently dealing with a professor who expresses support for eugenics and expresses racial discrimination on his website. Students complained to the student union and the administration. That’s what you do when you’re genuinely offended. Don’t drag USC’s name through the mud to make cheap political points. Especially when that’s what you are accusing a professor of doing. And videoing people without their knowledge is super sketchy. That’s a point that is always true.

Simon Radford
Graduate Student, Political Science and International Relations


Dear Professor Sragow (and the Political Science department at USC)

I am writing to you today because I love my alma mater, am a proud member of the Trojan family, a veteran, a husband and father of four potential future USC students, I care about the reputation of my University, and I vote.

I just finished watching the video recordings of your lectures to students in your political science class that recently came out in the news. As a USC alumnus it is extremely disappointing to see a professor at my alma matter spewing such vile biased vitriol in the classroom, and calling it education.

You should be teaching students about our political system, how it is supposed to work, presenting facts, not opinions, and educating students in a neutral way.  Instead you have allowed your political leanings to cloud your ability to present material objectively and are abusing your position of authority granted you by the University and parents to forward an agenda in the classroom to indoctrinate students, our children mind you, to your political persuasion.  You get an failing grade as a professor for conducting yourself in this manner, and I find your remarks in the classroom highly disturbing.

Your conduct, and the unvarnished bias you exhibit to students is prohibitive in working towards creating a healthy educational environment. One could surmise that students taking your class, who may hold opposite political views and values, wouldn’t stand a chance of being able to explore or voice their beliefs in the learning environment you have created in your classroom without the fear being labeled by you in class with a slur or punished in how they are graded.

My hope is this is isolated, and you watch yourself from the students perspective, take stock in how you conduct yourself in the classroom, apologize to USC for the losing your way in the classroom, and to students and their parents who entrust you to educate their children, not indoctrinate them. Is that really how you see your role as a professor is in the lives of students? Adjust your rhetoric to enable students to get the education they are paying USC to get. There is no shame in admitting what you said was outside the scope of what you are there to do in the classroom, changing, and moving on.

Students shouldn’t be forced to sit in the classroom and have to listen to the angry rants of an ideologue (liberal or conservative) railing against a particular political position. Instead, they should be challenged to use their minds and critically think about how they will vote in elections, the importance of voting, the real impact political power has in our daily lives and how it shapes the society we live in without the vile rhetoric. To the point…they should leave the classroom having learned something and not knowing exactly what the professor’s personal or political views are.

There are forums on and off campus, like Tommy Trojan at lunch time, for all of us to voice our views in, where people can stop, tune in or tune out, and not feel intimidated that their grades or future is reliant on them agreeing with their professor’s bias or not.

Scott Kanady
Class of 1990


Over the past 24 hours, I have watched with a mixture of horror and awe as my professor’s comments from my election law class last semester have been broadcast on The O’Reilly Factor and other conservative media outlets. My objection is not to the reaction to the comments my professor made. While I believe that Professor Sragow encouraged disagreement with his own views in class, I objected to many of the generalizations he used in the video clips. I believe that the Republican Party will not go extinct, but will instead play an important role in creating a better future for Americans of all racial makeups. My objection is to the serendipitous fashion in which his views were revealed. By using a camera to secretly videotape a professor, Tyler Talgo will deprive his fellow students of the real world political examples and academic security, which enhance the academic experience of Republican and Democratic students alike.

The University of Southern California has attracted a world-class political science faculty in large part by recruiting professors with considerable experience in the political world. These professors bring deeply routed knowledge in both campaign politics and government administrations to the classroom. They enrich their classrooms not by pontificating lofty statements on political theory, but by sharing their own, often partisan, experiences. In order to succeed as teachers, they need to be able to use examples and operate under the assumption that their comments will not be broadcast to potential enemies. At USC, stories from Republican and Democratic professors alike have taught me the value of understanding the rules of the game, hanging a lantern on your potential weaknesses, and finding a passion that resonates across party lines. I fear that in the future my professors will worry about sharing sensitive information, and I will be deprived of much of the richness of my academic experience thus far.

Perhaps even more importantly, my growth as a student depends on being able to take risks and push myself academically. Part of the beauty of learning is that sometimes it comes through failure. In this new technological age, the idea that all of my in class comments could be secretly recorded and broadcast to future employers through facebook or the blogosphere is offensive. USC has an obligation to protect their students. No student is going to feel comfortable arguing a new philosophical viewpoint, trying to say anything remotely intelligent about Ulysses, or discussing sensitive issues like race and gender if their views are not treated with discretion. Tyler Talgo’s actions are an affront to his classmates trust and the academic security, which ultimately facilitates the kind of bipartisan discussion he claims to seek.

If we truly hope to create an academic community where everyone feels comfortable expressing their views, we must fight to create trust and honest discussion. My hope is that the university will take steps to protect the integrity and security of their students and professors alike. American innovation and success is not built on a stifling big brother climate but instead on the free flow of discourse and ideas.

Andrew Myers


As a Conservative, USC alumna and former board member of the USC College Republicans, I was less than thrilled to see a video of my former professor Darry Sragow, in the same class that I took, bashing Republicans and making false and disparaging accusations about Republicans.

However, I’m also less than thrilled with the students in the class.

Conservatives know that many of our professors hold radically different views. We come into political science course expecting that the professors will go on liberal rants – that’s not unusual. It becomes a problem when our views are silenced or when it affects our grades, which can be dealt with after the course. Speaking from experience with Professor Sragow, this is not the case.

While I do not condone Mr. Sragow’s statements, and obviously his comments were over the top (and much more severe than when I was in his class), I think that Conservative students need to stand up and engage in debate when their beliefs are challenged. Secretly recording videos to expose a professor, even though his statements were inappropriateis doing nothing to help the Conservative cause.

As Conservatives, we have an advantage in a college classroom because the bias we so often see is an opportunity to strengthen our arguments and learn how to communicate better. We don’t need to silence the opinions of Liberal professors, we need to debate and engage – Because at the end of the day, our ideas; ideas of limited government, personal responsibility, and individual liberty, are better. We can never communicate this if we refuse to speak up and let our classmates a different point of view. This is part of what we as College Republicans do.

While I think Professor Sragow might want to tone down his rhetoric, I think the responsibility lies with USC students to challenge Sragow’s accusations. When I was in his class, he made similar remarks and I regularly challenged him to the point where people laughed at me because they expected me to respond and argue.

Professor Sragow always welcomed debate and discussion and approached my comments with a dry sense of humor (that was indeed often partisan). Some students may not be comfortable in such a situation, but I think that students (especially conservative students) need to understand how important voicing their own views are in the classroom.

I don’t know what the university plans to do in response to this incident, but I will be very disappointed if Professor Sragow’s free speech is inhibited in any capacity, and I absolutely do not think he should be reprimanded for someone else’s decision to not speak up.

Conservatives, we are all about personal responsibility; it’s time for us to engage, not silence.

Emily Schrader
USC class of 2012, Political Science


10 replies
  1. ab
    ab says:

    if that dude had substituted “women” or “black” for the word “white” in his bullshit he would be fired immediately and you know it.

  2. fucon
    fucon says:

    Tyler is a coward, he couldn’t defend his worldview to the class or the professor.
    As a grandchild and child of professors at four prestigious institutions, all of whom happen to be liberal, what Tyler did is rude at best and dishonest at worst. The video was edited so it isn’t fair to draw conclusions about the entire content of the course. But let’s actually examine the statements that are supposedly so offending. Which party obsessively blocks comprehensive immigration reform, constantly puts voter ID laws that would predominately affect non white people, and passes hateful amendments banning the loving union of gay men and women?
    It should be clear to rational people that the republican party is a racist, homophobic organization. I have no problem with people being fiscally conservative though I think it is cruel and a terrible way to run a country, but socially conservative people are hateful and hypocritical.
    So I don’t think the professor was wrong about anything. Tyler should grow a pair and stand up for his shitty ideology.

  3. sad day
    sad day says:

    Dear current students,
    please remember, when the Affordable Care Act starts 2014, you, the current students of USC, will be paying for this professor’s chronic care bills and his social security forever….but, he can not teach you that or you would not vote for his ideas.
    Your generation has been sold-out by the boomer generation who have not saved a dime nor taken care of their health.
    And everyone is worried about videotaping? just wait for these bills to start rolling in, the country is broke!

  4. trojanStudent
    trojanStudent says:

    I find it confusing that so many are opposed to videotaping lectures. What do these professors have to hide? If they would be ashamed or embarrassed if the content of their lectures were to be shared outside the classroom, I’d argue that they are not teaching, but most likely pontificating partisan sludge.

    Aside from obvious practical reasons for recording lectures (re-listening later, while reading notes, can be a great way to internalize the material), it lends credibility to the institution and the program. Many reputable institutions (i.e. Stanford) make many lecture videos available online, for free, to both students and the community. That’s what an institution aimed at education should be doing. I’m not sure where it comes from, but these comical claims about a “need for privacy” for these professors is completely ridiculous ous and borderline insane.

    • USC parent
      USC parent says:

      trojan student,

      The issue is not “privacy”, but trust, respect for the professor an the academic culture of USC and in this case with the obvious hidden, political agenda of the student.

      USC, like Stanford, offers degree programs online. My understanding is the USC student in question sent his surreptitious video to a highly partisan “faux news” stations likely with the intended highly inflammatory result.

      Inviting a Faux news level of discourse into the USC academic environment degrades intellectual inquiry as shown by many, though not all, comments in the original Daily Trojan article. Many claim “HATE” and malign Dr. Sragrow, but even when questioned providing no specific objectionable content.

      For instance, Ann Romney is claimed to “attacked”, though Dr. Sragow states she is probably a nice person, but one that most American’s cannot relate to as she looks like she belongs in a country club. This is a generous appraisal since many USC graduates in L.A. and other areas, along with Bain Capital executives, likely belong to country clubs, but how many have horses in the Olympics? How many Americans can afford a trip to the Olympics, an Olympian horse, or even a horse (much less a house)? An Olympian horse is not a WallMart of even Target item.

      I encourage USC to take mesures to address the offending student’s behavior. Trust and respect for opinions that differ from your own, whether from a professor or fellow student, are essential in a classroom. The intent of highly polarized news/”entertainment” venues are not educational. Perhaps the student might explain to the USC community what his intent in bringing the video to a biased “news” source was and why he did not talk to the professor in class or during office hours, his advisor, academic dean or other students. All have a right to know.

      • trojanStudent
        trojanStudent says:

        Clearly we have very different views over who is “wrong” here.

        What prompted the student to react as he did? Feelings of discomfort and frustration due to a lack of real “teaching” by this “professor.”

        Don’t shoot the messenger. This student exposed a real and significant problem with the way some of these classes are run, and I hope improvements can come of it.

        I’m thankful to be in a major that focuses on transferring knowledge and furthering ability rather than subjecting students to biased rants. Hopefully I don’t run into any of these nutjobs in my GE courses.

  5. USC parent
    USC parent says:

    USC has shown a remarkable drive towards and has achieved academic excellence over the past decades. The academic profile of students (SAT’s, accomplishments) has risen markedly and the acceptance rate has dropped substantially. USC is no longer labeled the University of Spoiled Children–a moniker for a party school for the rich, white and privileged.

    Many of the comments posted recently, to me, reflect the worst of the USC of the past. Comments reflecting the beliefs of those who seemingly expect to being able to bully and buy possessions, people and yes, elections, ranting and outraged because they no longer can. Ask Sheldon Adelson, casino owner, what his 60 million bought in the last election–not a presidency or one regional election. Not even Wayne LaPierre and the NRA leadership, the epitome of very angry, old white guys are doing so well buying and bullying elected officials and the American public.

    To those behaving like the school yard bully who has just been whooped, stop trying to kill the messenger. Sragow’s message is neither original nor new. Surely you have read or heard it before directly from esteemed leaders of the Republican Party after the last elections. I applaud the centrist leadership of the Republican Party taking a careful self-examination and acknowledging America has changed and they have not. Perhaps more rank and file Republicans need to do the same as well.

    Yes, USC has grown and changed as it continues its march toward greatness, along the way attracting many of the best and brightest students and faculty. I congratulate USC and applaud the change, though recognize it is difficult for some.

    • sad day
      sad day says:

      Oh please, shame on you. Stop trying to move the debate. Very old technique.
      This is TOTAL HATE. Shame on you trying to blame the student.
      No critical thinking, nothing but hate.

    • Current USC Student
      Current USC Student says:

      USC parent,
      University’s are designed to educate – that means fostering an atmosphere where critical thinking can be cultivated. Nothing the professor ranted about provided any level of education, and those that did attempt to debate him, received snide responses in return. If the professor wants an atmosphere of debate, he should perhaps work on developing the ability to appear neutral (or play devils advocate for either side), while encouraging students to explore their thoughts. What this pitiful excuse for a professor has focused on is indoctrinating his class with his left-ist, emotion-filled demagoguery. Those who lack the ability to debate, turn to personal attacks.

      If USC has grown and changed “in it’s march toward greatness”, as you say, then what is your definition of greatness? Telling students what to think rather than helping them develop critical thinking skills is hardly a characteristic of greatness. I applaud this student for taping this vile example of “Higher Education.”

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