Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Lecturer misses the mark

I wrote a column March 6 about the “Books Not Bombs” protest,
where I criticized, among other people, Susan Pastor, who teaches
two women’s studies courses, for canceling class in favor of the

This column has attracted a great deal of attention, being
referenced on the front page of the New York Times, the Washington
Post, the Weekly Standard and many other papers around the country.
Ms. Pastor and I were interviewed by the U.K. Daily Telegraph.
Tuesday of this week, a piece by Doug Moe in the Capital Times
discussed the March 6 column, and Ms. Pastor had some interesting
things to say.

First, I owe Ms. Pastor an apology. I incorrectly referred to
her as a professor. Rather, she is a lecturer and a Ph.D.
candidate. I called her a professor, because I call all those who
teach courses professors; this, however, is technically


Responding to canceling her classes the day of the protest, Ms.
Pastor said in the Cap Times article, “Whether I held class or not,
a political statement would be made. The issue is not whether any
decision or situation is political. The issue is whether people
like the politics involved. If they do, they don’t see the decision
as ‘political.’ If they don’t, they cry ‘politics!'”

Ms. Pastor just does not understand.

Holding class on the same day as a protest is being held is not
making a political statement. Had Ms. Pastor held class, the only
statement she would have been making was that she was going to do
the job for which she was hired and she was going to follow the
very clear UW policy stating classes were not to be cancelled due
to the protest.

Ms. Pastor may have not used lecture time to express her opinion
on the war, but by allowing a student to announce the “Books Not
Bombs” protest and then stating class would be cancelled that day,
she made her opinion more than clear.

If every professor or lecturer were to cancel class every day a
protest was held in Madison, we would be lucky to have class ten
days per semester.

I have strongly and proudly supported this war against Iraq. A
war that Ms. Pastor calls a “gross violation of international law”
and she says has made her “deeply ashamed of my country.”

Had I agreed with Ms. Pastor about the war, or had Ms. Pastor
cancelled class for a “pro-war” rally, my criticisms would be the
same. The political beliefs an instructor has should have nothing
to do with hosting a class they are paid to teach and students pay
to attend.

Whether an instructor has the title “professor,” “lecturer” or
any other, he or she is expected to abide by university policies. I
researched section 8.02(a) of the Faculty Policies and Procedures
for UW-Madison and could not find an exception that allowed
instructors to cancel class for protests or to make a political

If an instructor would like to discuss the war with Iraq or any
other current events, they should have the right to do so, but the
instructor should do so as it relates to the specific course he or
she is teaching. For example, an instructor who teaches in the
business school should discuss, if he or she wishes, the costs
involved with the war and the effects that could have on the world
and U.S. economy — not whether this war is in accordance of
international law. Likewise, if Ms. Pastor wants to make a
statement or talk about the war in class, she should have a right
to do so, but it should be done so in the context of the courses
she teaches. Ms. Pastor certainly could discuss the terror women
had faced under Saddam Hussein’s regime. She could discuss the
torture chambers, the rape rooms and meat grinders Iraqi women were
subjected to.

I am not trying to tell Ms. Pastor or any other professor what
they must teach, but I do believe instructors have an obligation to
teach the subjects they are being paid to teach — and no more.

I am not in Ms. Pastor’s class, and I did not contact her for
this article. But if she hasn’t apologized to the students in her
classes, she still needs to, and I encourage my editors at the
Herald to give her space on our pages to issue such a

Ms. Pastor is not a professor at Madison, but I believe she may
be eligible to apply once she completes her dissertation. I would
hope the university will think long and hard before hiring her or
any professor who displays no respect for university policy or the
students who pay to get an education at this fine university.


Matt Modell ([email protected]) is a
senior majoring in journalism and political science.

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