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04/01/2003 Entry: "Censorship at Irvine Valley College"

"A vice president at Irvine Valley College has warned professors not to discuss the war in Iraq in their classrooms unless the course is directly related to the issue, a suggestion that several professors say infringes on academic freedom."
Professors at California College Protest Administrator's Warning Against Discussing War

This is going a bit far even in sunny Irvine. Thanks, C, for the heads up.

http://chronicle.com/daily/2003/04/2003040103n.htm if you have a subscription

Professors at California College Protest Administrator's Warning Against Discussing War

By SCOTT SMALLWOOD

A vice president at Irvine Valley College has warned professors not to discuss the war in Iraq in their classrooms unless the course is directly related to the issue, a suggestion that several professors say infringes on academic freedom.

Dennis W. White, the vice president for academic instruction at the Southern California community college, said he was responding to complaints from students when he sent the e-mail message to deans and department chairs last week. In it, he wrote: "It has come to my attention that several faculty members have been discussing the current war within the context of their classrooms. We need to be sure that faculty do not explore this activity within the context of their classroom unless it can be demonstrated, to the satisfaction of this office, that such discussions are directly related to the approved instructional requirements and materials associated with those classes."

Gregory Bishopp, an art history professor and president of the Academic Senate, said that Mr. White's message was a violation of professors' academic freedom and that the war was certainly a suitable topic for classroom debate.

Glenn R. Roquemore, president of the college, said the message was just an exchange among the vice president and the deans and was not a new official policy. "This college certainly approves of discussion about war by faculty and their students," he said. "It's not the policy of the college to stifle freedom of speech in any way."

But in an interview on Monday, Mr. White said that while he would "rewrite it more sensitively," he stood by his memo. He argued that the war could be an appropriate topic for discussion in certain courses, including those on cultural anthropology or political science, but not on mathematics.

And even in those courses where the war is a reasonable topic for discussion, he said, professors should refrain from stating their personal views. "Outside the classroom, they're free to say whatever, but for a faculty member who has a captive audience to say they are for or against the war is not appropriate," he said. "Inside the classroom, the professor is supposed to be sharing a scholarly, balanced review of the material."

Mr. White said his concerns weren't limited to the war. When asked whether he would frown on a professor in a criminal-justice course expressing an opinion on the death penalty, he said, "Yes, for me, it would be problematic."

Mr. Bishopp balked at the idea that professors shouldn't express their opinions and joked about whether a "balanced" review meant that courses about the Second World War should be taught from Hitler's perspective. "We're not the League of Women Voters," he said of faculty members. "We're not here to represent anything with any degree of neutrality."

Wendy Gabriella, an anthropology instructor at the college and a lawyer, has sued the college seven times in the last five years over such issues as student demonstrations and open-meeting laws. She said she was dismayed by the latest flap.

"The problem is Dennis White is in charge of the First Amendment on this campus," she said. "So faculty members are wondering what we're supposed to say. How do we make sure that Dennis White deems our conversations appropriate?"

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