Take UVM Back

The market place of ideas in the college of Arts and Sciences department increasingly appears to feel more like a corner store and less like a City

Market filled with alternatives, everyday. The isle of conservatism is about to disappear with the departure of Professor Robert Kaufman from the political Science department. Kaufman, the most outspoken and infamous conservative in the political science department and probably the whole school of arts and sciences is leaving his tenure position at UVM for sunny and warm California where he has accepted another tenure position.

Whether you’re happy or sad to see him go his departure raises the question:is there a diverse enough spectrum of intellectualism in the Arts and Sciences, and would the student body benefit from substantial ideological differences among professors?

After interviewing professors from the college of Arts and Sciences it became obvious that almost all agree that professors should be hired strictly on a meritocratic system and not on personal political views. The faculty believes it would be a travesty to hire professors in accordance with their partisan affiliation because it would create a less professional and qualified staff.

Although no professor argues that personal politics should be a factor in the hiring equation many agreed that the university would certainly benefit from diversity.

Many of the professors that I interviewed admitted that consciously or unconsciously, a teacher is likely to assign readings that correspond with their own interests and beliefs. If this is true then the average UVM student is getting a reading list that is analogous to the lack of conservatism on campus.

It is ironic that all of the professors believe the student body would benefit from intellectual diversity but none are willing to concede that it views should be incorporated into hiring practices.

However, it seems obvious that if applicants are reviewed by their credentials and their published works then it must be at least some indicator of the way they view the world and thus teach a class. Yet even though this is obvious very few professors were willing to acquiesce that published articles are in any way a window into personal political ideology.

As a liberal institution in a liberal town, UVM should be obliged to recruit and search for a more diverse teaching staff. It seems plausible that if two professors with equal qualifications are up for hire then why not hire the person who might add new opinions in thought provoking classes that challenge students to question their own views. Are students not shortchanged if they do not encounter professors who challenge them intellectually, but instead receive a pat on the back for agreeing and repeating meaningless terms back?

Perhaps the University lacks a conservative staff because those on the right do not wish to encounter the type of treatment that Professor Kaufman has experienced during his stay at UVM which is colorful at best.

Although he has outraged many (faculty and students) it seems unpalatable that he has been slandered and his door graffitied with little consequence from the administration. Whether you love or hate him it is unquestionable that his teaching style is unique and varied from the rest of the Political Science department, and his classes are so sought after that students willingly pay 300-400$ for books in his class.

The University is at a great loss because of his departure. College republicans, although the minority, are still a loud voice on campus who feel ongoing deprivation with his departure. And then there are of course the liberals who take his classes to be better informed on the right wing side and find intellectual rebuttals and humbling responses to unsharpened blanket statements. Unlike anywhere else on campus a liberal student will be left wondering if what is commonly held as true in every other intellectual discussion is even right.

The University of Vermont must find a way to attract an intellectually diverse group of professors whose political ideologies and beliefs represent every corner of the field not just the left side.