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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Taking responsibility for your decisions

“I don’t think we disagree that this class should have been held.”

Mariamne Whatley, Women’s Studies Department Chair, referring to Susan Pastor’s decision to cancel her Women’s Studies courses for the March 5, ‘Books Not Bombs’ protest.

Ms. Pastor, a lecturer who cancelled two lectures and two days of discussions because of the ‘Books Not Bombs’ protest, has told Letters & Science Dean Phil Certain and Women’s Studies Chair Mariamne Whatley she cancelled class for “pedagogical” reasons.


What does this mean?

Well, Ms. Pastor did not return e-mails I sent to her asking for comment to this story, but she told one student in her class who expressed concern, “It is my understanding that students from several high schools will be converging on Bascom Hill beginning in the morning. I am not sure the situation would be conducive to education even if I did hold class.”

Her argument for canceling class appears to be that there might be a distraction. She had no specific reason to think her classes would be disrupted, but she didn’t want to take the risk.

Why? If it wasn’t a political decision, why not hold the class and then if there were distractions from loud protesters, dismiss class early if it was clear nothing could be accomplished.

Pastor also said she didn’t believe many students would attend class, but she did not ask the students, and it seems to be a stretch to believe a vast majority of students would unilaterally skip class.

It doesn’t appear that even one other faculty member who teaches the nearly 1,200 classes on this campus shared her sentiment that class needed to be cancelled.

She denies to her bosses that the reason for the cancellation was political, but the Women’s Studies department has a policy that if announcements are made before, during or after class, then students from an opposing viewpoint must be allowed to make announcements as well.

This is a fair policy. For Ms. Pastor to allow the announcement for the ‘Books Not Bombs’ protest was reasonable, but, as she told one student, “There would be an implicit political statement in not having allowed the announcement, as well as in allowing the announcement but holding class.”

I take issue with this statement. To say there would be an implicit political statement by allowing the announcement but holding class demonstrates that this was indeed a political decision. This is also a concern for Certain, who said he strongly disagrees with the second part of her statement as well, and it did not appear to be in line with the Women’s Studies policy.

Certain went a step further in discussing faculty who use their class to make political statements. According to Certain, “It is totally inappropriate for a faculty member to lecture on the war if it is not germane to the class.”

Whatley acknowledges that Ms. Pastor did not follow the proper procedure in canceling her classes, but says Ms. Pastor is compensating for the cancelled class.

Ms. Whatley has communicated with the student who complained, and the student claims Ms. Pastor, immediately following student-announced information of the protest, said class would be cancelled so her and the TAs would have time to prepare for the protests.

Ms. Pastor told Ms. Whatley she cancelled class because of the potential distraction the protests could have on her class (apparently even for a class scheduled two hours before the appointed time for the protest).

Ms. Whatley says her investigation is done, and she believes Ms. Pastor’s statement that the decision was not political. Ms. Whatley interviewed no one else, and it does not seem that is a thorough investigation. She said only one student complained.

Ms. Whatley may not believe this is a serious incident, but she should take it more seriously. It is her responsibility to enforce the rules set up by the Faculty Senate.

It appears Ms. Pastor broke more than one policy, and she needs to accept responsibility instead of trying to make excuses to cover up her mistake.

Some may believe this issue is being beaten over a dead horse. Maybe it is. Ms. Pastor isn’t the first or the last faculty member to violate a university policy.

The point is that faculty members must try in earnest to educate students, not indoctrinate them with political ideology. I have heard many complaints by students who say their professor spends a great deal of time discussing how the war in Iraq is horrible and how Bush is stupid.

These points are almost always irrelevant to what is being discussed in class and only hurt the reputation of the professor in the eyes of their students. Whether it is an African Studies professor, a math professor or Women’s Studies professor, if the politics aren’t relevant, keep them out of the classroom. And if you are going to make decisions based on your political ideology, prepare to accept any potential consequences of your decision. Too often today people take a position that “it was everyone else’s fault except me.” Professors must take responsibility for their actions, and if there are consequences, be willing to live up to them.

Certain may have said it best: “There are a lot of screwy viewpoints on this campus, there are a variety of opinions on this faculty, and I can’t be responsible for them all.”

He is correct, but maybe people, faculty and students could start accepting individual responsibility for their own viewpoint.

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

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