Letter to the editor
Intellectual diversity lacks at UW-River Falls
April 13, 2012
I read with interest the Voice’s story about my talk at UW-River Falls last week (“UW-Madison Professor Imparts Knowledge about Free Speech,” March 30). The story does a good job of discussing issues relating to the status of free speech in higher education today.
I was also impressed with the students who turned out for the talk, who were responsive and asked good questions. I did, however, expect students to raise concerns and ask questions about the status of free speech and the diversity of ideas at UWRF itself. After speaking with several students after the talk and Q & A were over, I wished that such questions and concerns had been raised.
Such students did not say anything critical about the right of students to engage in free speech at UWRF, which was good news; but several did claim that some of their classes are very ideological and one-sided, especially regarding the collective bargaining dispute.
Some even related stories of extra credit being given for attending anti-Walker rallies in Madison, while not providing such credit for other political activity. I cannot attest to the veracity of such claims, though I had no reason to question the integrity of the students who brought such cases to my attention.
Some students also related that they were afraid to raise such concerns after the talk because of the presence of faculty members in the room. If such claims have any merit, it would behoove the University to engage in constructive self-analysis and criticism, as students deserve intellectual diversity and more balanced pedagogy.
Donald A. Downs
Professor of political science, law and journalism