In response to Sragow video
Throughout the last few days, some people have mistakenly assumed that I want to censor professors’ freedom of speech. Not once have I ever advocated such a thing. In many cases it serves students well for professors to express their own opinions and political experience.
Nevertheless, the role of the professor should be to empower students with the knowledge to choose positions for themselves and to facilitate honest critical reasoning. I believe that an education should be earned from the bottom up, not from the top down.
The following points are at the core of this debate:
1. Professors have the right to express their own opinions in the classroom, but they should be held accountable for what they say.
2. Freedom of speech gives you the right to say unpopular things but hiding behind the banner of free speech does not entitle you to avoid being judged accordingly.
3. I did not prevent Professor Darry Sragow from exercising his freedom of speech by videotaping his lectures. All I did was put a new audience in front of what he said.
4. USC is an expensive school, and parents have a right to know what they are paying for and what their children are learning.
5. Donors have a right to know what they are funding.
6. Students should not have to choose between changing their ideology to earn a higher grade or speaking out during class and risk receiving a lower grade. (Many students are on loans, grants or scholarships that require them to maintain a certain GPA, so this choice is even more unfair to them.)
7. Sragow would have been reprimanded if he instead used derogatory remarks to vilify African-Americans, Latinos, women, gays or other minority groups. Same goes if he inferred that Muslims were sexist.
8. Since USC is a private school, it should have the final say in setting all its teaching standards.
It’s been said that Sragow is part of a program in the political science department where part-time professors of all views are brought in to teach about their own experience. However, I am not aware of any Republican professors that are as far to the right as Sragow is to the left.
Campus Reform, the group working on my behalf, contacted USC’s media relations about my video before we released it to the media. We gave them the video on April 4 and asked for a response within 24 hours. We did not get one. We contacted them several more times and never got a response. We released the video a week later.
I am not afraid of voicing my opinion. I am gifted and well-versed in politics, and I am more than capable of defending what I believe. I could have refuted Sragow’s statements during class. Unfortunately, I have been in classes before where I received weaker grades as a result of expressing opinions that contradict the professor’s.
I do not trust my grade in the hands of a professor who would instruct someone to tamper with my election information in the mail. Likewise, I would not trust a professor who says, “I encourage an open debate and active participation in my classes,” after using class time to berate those he disagrees with as stupid, racists and losers.
What happened in Sragow’s class last semester is not a rare outlier of what happens in many other classrooms across the country. The problem is that if I were to speak out against him it would not have solved anything in the long run.
At best, Sragow would likely have toned it down temporarily, only to return to his prior behavior next semester for other students to come.
I did not want to let that happen. There was a way to hold Sragow in check while at the same time sending a warning call to others of his ilk here at USC and at other universities. I felt that it was my responsibility to take this latter option, and I was prompted to videotape his lectures.
What I did required much more bravery than raising a debate in a small class. I instead took the debate to the national level, shining a light on a broader problem occurring in the United States’ educational system. Instead of changing one classroom, I changed many. But this venture has nothing to do with me. I didn’t do anything besides deliver a message. In doing so, I hope to have inspired future students who find themselves in the same situation.
I did not take Sragow’s statements out of context nor did I present anything but the truth. To attack my character is reprehensible and is a dishonest way of avoiding the content of this debate. If you are opposed to my message then tell me which of the above eight bullet points are wrong. Otherwise, the video speaks for itself.
Don’t shoot the messenger.
Sophomore, political science