Impartial instruction or subjective schooling

At a school known for both its liberal students and professors, some students question whether their tuition money is paying for the facts or a professor’s opinion.Pablo Bose, a professor in the geography department, said he thinks it’s a healthy mix of both.”I don’t believe in the idea of objectivity,” he said. “I don’t think that you can remove your own perspective on something.”However, Bose said that he does not present solely one viewpoint in his lectures.”I do think that it’s important to present multiple perspectives on especially contentious topics,” he said. “Classrooms should be spaces where there are multiple perspectives that are entertained and debated and discussed, but obviously the professor is setting much more of the agenda and setting much more of the framework for that discussion.”Bose said he never tries to push his opinion.”I make my perspective clear, but I really don’t try to push [it],” he said. “Even when I don’t really agree with other viewpoints, it’s not like I don’t talk about them. I would say that all my colleagues do the same thing. I don’t think [any of them] are trying to form a revolution or something.”Political science professor Travis Nelson said he presents information in an objective light, but does not think that expressing his opinion is a poor teaching method.”It’s impossible to be unbiased,” he said. “Everyone has some sort of bias. The more open you are about what [the biases] are, the better students can filter through or figure out their own perspectives. The only concern is the power I have, so I have to be careful about it.”Nelson likes to argue against the general opinion of the classroom to get the students to think, he said.”I think my general tendency, though, is to play the devil’s advocate role and to react against wherever the class is going,” he said. “There are times when it’s appropriate to put my opinion in there so I can engage in and become a part of the class, as long as students are in an environment where they feel comfortable challenging me.”UVM’s reputation of being a left-wing institution makes some students skeptical of professors’ lectures.”You have to take into consideration that this is Vermont, one of the most liberal states in the country,” junior Jordan White said. “You’re going to have bias all over, wherever you go. You have to go into most classroom situations realizing that you’re going to be dealing with a lot of left-wing bias. The only thing you can do is recognize that, discern it and maneuver your way through it, or not let it affect you.”White, a political science major, said that he considers himself moderate on the political spectrum and does not like to be taught information with any political slant.”If they’re giving it to you with a slant, then they’re doing you a disservice, and they’re not giving you the education you deserve. I’m not coming here to get a distorted education,” he said.On the other hand, senior English major Jae Vick said that objective teaching is not a concern of hers.”I think it’s impossible [to be objectve],” she said. “I think that if you’re trying to be or pretending to be, that it’s more dishonest than saying, ‘I have a bias.'”Vick, a self-described “an unabashed, unavowed liberal,” said she doesn’t mind if a professor’s teachings are not objective – just as long as they match up with her views.”I can say that I probably would mind [a professor] having a conservative bias,” she said.”That would probably offend me.”Certain courses even being offered at UVM can imply a certain political stance, Vick said.”I’m in a class on lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender theater, which, you know, if you were at BYU [Brigham Young University], I don’t think you’d have that class,” she said.”We’re reading plays written by queer people of color … but I can imagine that people who are invested in the status quo — white, straight, Christian, male, in power — would not like to see those perspectives.”White thinks that UVM may have more of a liberal slant due to its location, he said.”I think it’s a regional thing,” he said. “I’m sure if you’re [going to college] down in the Bible Belt, you’ll see more of a right-wing, conservative slant. You’d also have to recognize that and get what you can out of it.””UVM is a liberal school, but not as much as people think; there are a lot of conservative students, too,” Nelson said. “However, with that being said, the majority are liberal. I teach on the subject of international relations, which itself is sort of cynical and a little conservative.”Because Nelson teaches in the area of international relations, he said he thinks that many of his students take him to be a conservative.White said that his professors at UVM seem to keep bias out of their teachings.”For the most part, I’ve found my professors to be relatively objective,” White said. “It depends on the subject matter. They have a lot of control over the direction of the class, and I think it’s their job to keep it down the middle.”While it’s easy to form an opinion on a topic, Bose said, issues are not usually black-and-white.”The one thing that I’d say about most of my colleagues is that we have spent a lot of time studying a lot of these issues,” he said. “It’s hard, when you spend a lot of time on something, not to know that it’s not black and white. What I don’t have time for is offensive views that are not grounded in any reality.”There is nothing wrong with having opinions, Bose said.