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Published On: Wed, Jan 27th, 2016

UMass students rally for diversity, petition for conservative voices, debates

A student-run debate club at the University of Massachusetts Amherst recently had so much difficulty finding a professor who could argue the conservative side for one of its events that its members had to turn to Smith College, a private liberal arts school eight miles away, to secure a scholar. The group, The University Union, is a politically neutral student-run debate club at UMass Amherst, and now has launched a petition this month calling on administrators to offer more “intellectual diversity” on campus.

UMass Amherst employs some 1,300 faculty members.

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“We came to the conclusion that the petition was necessary because planning debates has been so difficult,” Owen Wiggins, a junior business management student at UMass and president of The University Union, told The College Fix in an email. “The diversity of thought among the faculty at UMass is so slim that we’ve had to ask professors from Smith College to participate in the debates we have planned.”

The petition accuses UMass Amherst professors of pressuring students into agreeing with their left-leaning beliefs.

“Professors often preach their anti-American judgments to students as final ‘truths’ — such as the view that all major world problems, from poverty in Africa to ISIS, stem from American capitalism and imperialism,” the petition states. “Professors represent their views and ideologies in ways that make it seemingly impossible for any reasonable person to disagree with.”

“Dissenters from left-liberal thought on campus are considered ignorant, intolerant, and uneducated,” it adds.

“We can have a long debate about the meaning of academic freedom, but there are students on our campus who feel pressured by professors to express liberal views in their academic work,” Wiggins tells the Fix.

“These students are unsure of where they are supposed to express their dissatisfaction. I doubt there are any students on our campus who feel pressured to adopt conservative views in their courses.”

The petition also states UMass lacks courses on world religions and free market and libertarian theory.

“We are unsatisfied with the current curriculum provided at UMass Amherst,” the petition states. “The professors do not offer a wide spectrum of courses. They do not expose students to a diverse range of intellectual achievements and schools of thought.”

The petition was launched Jan. 10 and has garnered more than 150 signatures so far, Wiggins said.

In calling for intellectual diversity, the petition points out conservative “refers not to one set of party opinions but to a broad spectrum of longstanding and respectable philosophies and traditions.”

“We are not advocating one political ideology to the exclusion of others,” it adds.

“There is a real need for conservative professors on campus,” Wiggins said in an email to The College Fix. “I am fearful of an atmosphere of non-debate and non-dialogue, not just on our campus but in the United States in general.”

“… When the university fails to provide a wide spectrum of ideologies on campus, the education ceases to exist as liberal and in fact becomes illiberal.”

 

Wiggins said his wish is that “the petition encourages students on other campuses to voice their opinions as well. All students deserve an education immersed in intellectual debate.”

 

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About the Author

- Roxanne "Butter" Bracco began with the Dispatch as Pittsburgh Correspondent, but will be providing reports and insights from Washington DC, Maryland and the surrounding region. Contact Roxie aka "Butter" at [email protected] ATTN: Roxie or Butter Bracco

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