I was in a class a few years ago when the professor posed a question and said, “Let’s say you write an assignment for which I give you an arbitrary grade.” He trailed off, laughed and continued, “Well, of course all grades are arbitrary.”
I don’t know why, but that moment has stuck with me and—in the midst of a contentious political season—I thought it was important to revisit it.
College campuses are consistently viewed as bastions for progressive thought and ideologies. This is as true now as it was during the 1969 student riots in Berkeley, California. As Geneseo is a state college in a conservative part of New York State, its identity is at a crossroads; it’s a progressive institution in the middle of a conservative region.
But as Geneseo touts itself as tolerant of all views, I began to wonder if the professors were as tolerant. If grades really are arbitrary—which seems truer for liberal arts majors—then is there danger in expressing political viewpoints different from what professors espouse?
Should I have spoken up when a professor in one of my classes recently told students to vote Democrat, regardless of whom the nominees are?
Make no mistake about it: Geneseo is a tolerant campus—as long as your viewpoint falls in line with the College and the professors. Websites like campusreform.org and others have shown how intolerant college campuses are toward viewpoints that, recently, are not aligned with Sen. Bernie Sanders or former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
It’s time we face reality: our institution of “higher learning” welcomes all viewpoints as long as they don’t conflict with the message or agenda of the College. I know you’re probably rolling your eyes by now and hurriedly looking to move past this, but hear me out.
The differences between Republican presidential candidates Ohio Gov. John Kasich, Sen. Ted Cruz and Donald Trump are massive. I would argue the differences are greater than they are for Sanders to Clinton. That being said, when was the last time you heard a student or professor advocating viewpoints other than Sanders’ or Clinton’s?
Never—it doesn’t happen. We’re at the point where grades are seemingly given out based partially on favor—such as a student doing the same work and putting in the same effort, but getting a better grade—and that favor lies in falling in line with the ideologies of the professor.
Our institution of higher learning is made up of professors with Ph.Ds standing up while we sit down to earn a bachelor’s degree. They speak and we listen. They give us assignments and we do them. It’s nothing more than operant conditioning.
Students and administrators across the country are so petrified to hear or see a viewpoint which differs from their own that they cite racism or sexism any time they experience disagreement.
In America, we welcome other viewpoints—including socialism, a system utilized by Josef Stalin which was responsible for over 20 million “unnatural deaths,” according to the International Business Times. Yet Sanders’ bumper stickers and ideas are everywhere. As Americans, we support his right to voice his position and platform. Do we do the same for Trump, Cruz or Kasich?
Around the campus, professors are telling us their beliefs by putting stickers on their door—such as in the political science department—or by openly saying who they support.
It’s important for us to remember that our grades are usually given with “participation” in mind. In this political season, it’s important to question what that word “participation” really means. Does it mean being in class and speaking, or does it mean getting along with the professors to get by? Remember: grades are arbitrary.