Northern Arizona University is in the news once again for less-than tolerant behavior exhibited by professors towards students. Not known for its great scholarship, NAU’s less-than-scholarly scholars seem to have little understanding of academic freedom.
In March, the school earned negative publicity when Campus Reform, a website dedicated to exposing “bias and abuse on the nation’s college campuses,” reported on the case of NAU student, Cailin Jeffers. According to the report, Jeffers received a lower grade on an essay because she used the term ‘mankind’ when referring to humanity. Teaching Fellow, Professor Anne Scott, told Jeffers that ‘mankind’ only refers to men.
As reported by Campus Reform, specifically Scott advised Jeffers, “I will respect your choice to leave your diction choices ‘as is’ and to make whatever political and linguistic statement you want to make by doing so,” the professor wrote. “By the same token, I will still need to subtract a point because your choice will not be made in the letter or spirit of this particular class, which is all about having you and other students looking beneath your assumptions and understanding that ‘mankind’ does not mean ‘all people’ to all people. It positively does not.”
This semester, Scott is teaching ENG 299- Literature and the Human Condition and ENG 560 – Literary Criticism and Theory, according to school records. Texts for ENG 560 include, Critical Theory: A Reader for Literary and Cultural Studies, which “presents a provocative mix of contemporary and classic essays in critical theory. From the foundational ideas of Marx and Freud to key writings by Fanon and Foucault, the essays in this collection represent the most influential ideas in modern critical thought and in the contemporary interpretation of literature and culture.”
Due to the fact that Scott’s curriculum vitae and any scholarly work seems to be unusually and completely unavailable to the public or even other academics, and the courses she is teaching, one can only surmise that she is a critical theory adherent.
Given the little information we have about Scott, who did not respond to our email asking for information, we must assume that in her world the word ‘mankind’ does not mean all people. Therefore, her statement that: “‘mankind’ does not mean ‘all people’ to all people,” is positively correct.
While the vast majority of people accept Merriam-Webster’s definition of ‘mankind’ as “the human race: the totality of human beings,” too many of the less-than-scholarly scholars at NAU reject the values, and therefore the language of the vast majority of Americans.
Here’s the rub: the professors don’t have to accept it, but kids have nowhere else to go. They are stuck. Our universities and the Arizona Board of Regents have done little to ensure that there is diversity of ideology. They have done less to ensure that our professors understand and are committed to academic freedom, and all that that means.
| 2016-2017 ABOR Approved NAU|
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The truth of the matter is that our universities’ leaders and the members of the Board of Regents focus solely on wealth and prestige generating research, while offering too many students classes taught by less-than scholarly scholars that may result in a earning a less than valuable or marginally valuable degree.
The banks love this arrangement, the lazy academicians love it, and the students are robbed by both.
At the same time, students will either seek higher ground in institutions of higher learning that support different prisms and languages, or develop the condition known as the Stockholm syndrome. Unfortunately age, experience, and viable alternatives makes them vulnerable to bonding with their captors. There are those students, like Jeffers that can find value in any academic setting and will find a way to make the best of the worst circumstances.
And there are worse circumstances. In February, students had to endure the ranting of unhinged “educators” in the Political Science department during a “Specter of Fascism.” At that event, professors repeatedly compared Donald Trump to Hitler and the Nazis, according to Campus Reform.
“Criminology professor Ray Michalowski later called Trump the “rapist in chief” of our country while discussing modern uses of the word fascism, after which he concluded that Trump may well be a “neo-fascist” and prospective totalitarian dictator,” read the Campus Reform report.
Those enlightened educators allegedly attacked a conservative student. “Melissa Miller, a political science student and Campus Coordinator for Turning Point USA at NAU, told Campus Reform that she attended the event and left near the end, but returned to the room moments later to witness criminology and criminal justice professor Luis Fernandez calling her out by name, telling the audience that she is a paid employee for Turning Point, and was only there to film the event.”
Whether it is calling students out to embarrass them, or forcing students to regurgitate the instructors’ rhetoric, too many students do not feel that the universities are offering them a place in which they can speak their language.
Arizona State Representative Bob Thorpe, who served as the Chairman of Higher Education for the past two years stated in response to the Jeffers’ story, “I am no longer shocked by the actions of the easily offended progressive-left, which seems to dominate our taxpayer-funded public colleges and universities. They appear less interested in fostering self-reliant, open-minded students. Instead, they are absorbed in promoting their personal, liberal ideologies that culminate with graduates, saddled with immense student debt, who sometimes appear more brainwashed than educated.”
Students like Jeffers simply want to attend schools that do not forces them to conform to liberal and social justice beliefs, rather than allow them to decide what they want to believe on their own. There are many students, who believe that what they have experienced is a form of brainwashing and have been punished for not submitting to it.
They simply want them to be able to choose what they want to believe rather than be forced into a certain viewpoint by the university. They are the self-reliant, open-minded students to whom Thorpe refers. How are their wishes unreasonable? How can we deny them? Who are we to deny them? Who are these third-rate less than scholarly scholars to sit in judgment of their values and their language that reflects those values?
For those on the left, like me, who experienced classrooms in which a free exchange of ideas was allowed without repercussion, what is currently happening to conservative students is an affront. We recognize that we do speak a different language and only by allowing all of us to share ideas through our common language can we begin to learn, understand, and even empathize. Isn’t that the goal?