We need to look at all sides of a situation before making assumptions

September 05, 2016

Scribe Staff

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     Many of our professors are the ones who encourage us to consider all points of view, not just our own.

     Our teachers, who hold advanced degrees, provide us with a perspective that maybe we haven’t heard before.

     On Aug. 31, an article written by University of Notre Dame student Kate Hardiman was published on thecollegefix. com regarding a leaked e-mail sent to UCCS students regarding climate change.

     The e-mail, collaborated and sent by UCCS professors Rebecca Laroche, Wendy Haggren and Eileen Skahill regarding an online HUM 3990 course, Medical Humanities in the Digital Age, stirred up controversy among students in the class.

     Although Hardiman felt inclined to mention separate, out of context portions of the email in her article, it is doubtful that every part of the message was considered.

     When tactful portions of this e-mail were taken out of context, we do not receive everything we need to develop an informed opinion.

     The picture of the e-mail message, in which the text appears so small you would need a magnifying glass to read it clearly, also hinders our ability to receive the full story.

     Several statements made by the professors in the e-mail express what the focus of their class will be and “respectfully” ask their students to drop the course if they are uncomfortable with this. They also explain that there are options for face-to-face or other online Humanities courses.

     Since then, the article was picked up by The Washington Times, which informs us that the CU Board of Regent member John Carson is questioning the intentions of the professors.

     But the issue isn’t as straight forward as we assume it is. The issue doesn’t lie with the e-mail the professors sent to their class.

     Although the article displays the e-mail sent by the three professors, it doesn’t mention or discuss the first part of the message:

     “We have received several emails from student expressing concern given their personal perspectives on climate change. Concerns about climate change, perspectives are ones your professors share along with you.”

     The professors acknowledge that there are students with different beliefs on climate change and admit that they too have personal beliefs on the subject that they share with the students.

     When the e-mail states that discussion/debate will not be open for the other side of “manmade climate change,” they express that this will cause the class to become side-tracked from the special focus of the section, not that those students’ opinions are not valued or that they do not matter.

     In other words, it’s just not the time or place.

     There are many classes at UCCS and other universities when a teacher sets a premise at the start of the semester, because they understand there are a variety of beliefs on a controversial topic.

     For example, in an anthropology class at a public university, we’re not going to learn about creationism, but rather, evolution. It would not be the time or place to interrupt the class about your personal beliefs when you already know what you signed up for.

     For these three professors, introducing and teaching students one side of climate change can be their way of opening students’ minds to a perspective they may have not thought about before.

     But the real issue isn’t that the professors set an expectation for their class; it’s the question of why the professors do not teach the other side of climate change.

     Perhaps in an online forum, it is difficult and time consuming for teachers and students to become side-tracked from the lecture and start a debate.

     Would this premise change if it were in class? Would the professors be willing to talk to students outside of the online forum or in an e-mail?

     When The Scribe asked LaRoche to interview, she said she is unable to comment.

     If students are expected to learn about this one perspective, they should also have the opportunity to learn about the opposing view.

     Not everyone who reads this article will understand climate change, but if this e-mail was necessary to send out to students, another view on the subject is obviously prevalent.

     If our professors want us to be well-rounded and think critically about what they teach us, the university needs to make sure they know that one side of an argument should be taught as much as the “other side.”

     Of course, this e-mail does not in any way stop students from getting together and talking or debating about climate change. If anything, students should encourage each other to have these discussion and debates, even if that is outside of an online class discussion board.