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.
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.
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.
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 inappropriate, is 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.
USC class of 2012, Political Science