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George Washington U. Prof: Don’t Ignore Republican Students

George Washington U. Prof: Don’t Ignore Republican Students

“one-sided politicization”

Nikki Usher teaches media and public affairs at George Washington University. She recently wrote this article for the Chronicle of Higher Education:

Don’t Ignore Your Republican Students

My concern? That the one-sided politicization of the assignment has resulted in a hostile classroom environment (digitally rather than physically) for conservative students. If Republican students feel silenced as members of a campus political minority (and research suggests they might), how are they being affected by the explicit takedowns of their political beliefs on our class hashtag?

During the weekend of President Trump’s executive order banning travel into the United States by visitors from seven predominantly Muslim nations, my progressive students were tweeting, retweeting, and subtweeting quite actively — sometimes on the class hashtag and sometimes on their own — against the new presidential administration.

And some of that made sense in the context of my class. One student, for example, posted a picture of a protest against the ban, and was quite right to point out that many of the protests have been planned thanks to social media. Another student pointed out the significance of the national-park Twitter account that briefly went “rogue” when it posted facts about climate change.

In fact, almost any news event can be discussed through the prism of social media because our president uses Twitter to communicate to the public.

Learning to express one’s opinions effectively on social media is a life skill, but I’m also aware about my responsibility as the professor to rein in the conversation in order to make my course — online and in class — a space where all students feel comfortable sharing their views, and not just the progressive ones.

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Comments

I taught Constitutional Argument & Research for ten years, and my students never knew my political views. I wanted robust discussion and respectful disagreement on a wide range of topics affected by the Constitution (which is to say, most everything). I didn’t want students to formulate and write arguments that they thought I wanted to hear, but rather, their own arguments that they could support with evidence found in their research (part of my job was to teach them how to conduct and cite research). Only once did I have a student who dropped the class because she didn’t want to hear the views of those in opposition to hers. Students asked me to reveal my opinions, but I felt it unwise to do so because agreeing with me was not the point of the class.

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