Maybe they think it’s appropriate, maybe they don’t see us as a captive audience, or maybe George Bush is the funniest man alove, but USM professors espousing their political views in the classroom is a practice that divides our community along it’s political fault lines, and often shifts focus away from the subject at hand.

This practice is forgivable within some departments. I’m not advocating the suppression of free speech within the class, I just ask the fine faculty of USM to recognize that you only have our attention, and a face-to-face chance to educate us, for three hours every week.

If you think it’s appropriate to use this time to share your own political views, tell a corny joke, or otherwise induce a mumbled, half-hearted grumble of laughter, go ahead. Just please remember, we are paying to be in your class. USM students with families or working that full time job would agree; time is money.

The world can be politically correct to a fault sometimes, but outside of political science classes, excessive Bush-bashing can get out of hand, and no zinger or clever jab at W is worth making a student feel ostracized for their political belief.

And I’m just not talking about passing comments, which eat up about as much class time as that one obligatory cell phone buzzing in someone’s bag. It’s when professors, perhaps powerless against the appeal of showing their favorite YouTube video on a big screen, take up our class time, sharing candidate propaganda to a forcibly-captive audience of students being graded for their paying attention.

It’s pretty easy to get a feel for the political climate on campus this fall. Just look for the “Susan McCain Collins” scrawled in chalk in front of Woodbury, notice the Obama buttons fashioned to backpacks and purses, try to find any McCain paraphernalia among the crowd. It’s a liberal campus, but it doesn’t have to be an intolerant one.

It’s especially hard for a newspaper editor trying to find a conservative voice to balance out the Free Press’s perspectives section. Columnist Dustin Gilbert stirred up a lot of controversy last semester with his “From the Right” feature, and this paper rarely receives so much reaction to anything it prints.

Walking around campus, hearing whispers of “Gilbert” and “Free Press” on the tongues of USM students was gratifying as a writer, but I soon realized that while the readership ate up this weekly peek at the right, their comments or letters to the editor were rarely anything more than a personal attack on Gilbert.

I think professors have played a part in creating this atmosphere of intolerance. In two years at USM, I have not heard one conservative view shared in a classroom setting, and I can’t believe there are so few conservatives on campus.

What’s more likely is that those who lean to the right feel uncomfortable outing themselves in public. USM needs to remember that the basic tolerance we give to every strata of our community should not been dismissed when politics come into play.

I have enough confidence in the decency of the average student to think that they wouldn’t stand by while another minority group is attacked, but all pretense of civility is thrown out when politics comes into the equation, and this is no how we build respect on campus.

Thank you for reading,

Matt Dodge

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