Teach Don't Preach

(first appeared in the Arizona State University Web Devil 2-14-03)


by Ryan Alexander


To the Editor,


"It's people like you who will pay for this," said Terrie Hurt, an instructor in the ASU Women's Studies department, to the females in her audience. Her comment was in reference to the Bush Administration's plan to appoint Dr. W. David Hager, a conservative Christian, obstetrician-gynecologist, to lead the Food and Drug Administration's, 11-member, Reproductive Health Drugs Advisory Committee. Ms. Hurt believes that this appointment has the potential to wreak havoc on women's rights and access to quality healthcare, and that Dr. Hager's nomination should be loudly opposed.


While I also oppose the Hager nomination, I must take issue with Ms. Hurt's method of political advocacy. Instead of making her case at a symposium or a rally on campus, on Wednesday, she chose to use her Women's Studies 300 classroom as a pulpit to mobilize other people.


"I'm hoping you tell two friends and they tell two friends, like a commercial, she said.


One might suggest that Ms. Hurt brought up issues relevant to women's studies. This is valid and true. The problem is that she did not use the discussion to lead into a lecture or broader discussion of course material. She co-opted her students' time to advance a political agenda.


Half way through class, realizing there would be no lecture or testable material to take notes on, or perhaps (I hope not - for Ms. Hurt's sake) feeling annoyed or uncomfortable with the political nature of the discussion, two students walked out!


No matter where faculty views fall within the political spectrum, this kind of behavior is unacceptable and highly unethical. How are students supposed to feel safe when faculty behaves in such a way? If faculty, unethically, espouse their political agenda in the classroom, what's to stop them from being unethical in assigning lower grades to students who disagree with them? 


I think that Ms. Hurt owes her students an apology for abusing her position.


Thank you.