UC Berkeley, 1960. Long before the Summer of Love, a group of student activists formed Students for a Democratic Society, which would go on to protest the Vietnam war, register black voters in the Deep South and ignite confrontations on campus that sometimes turned violent. In 1966, UC students staged a sit-in around a visiting Navy recruiter. Six of them were arrested. Half a century later, just this past March, students chained themselves together on a fourth-floor balcony to protest university budget cuts.
That, my friends, is a liberal school. But Kennesaw State? I don't think so. Most of our arrests are for underage drinking. I've heard some world-class whining during finals week, but never any real protests. In fact, only two groups routinely take advantage of our First Amendment area in front of the student center. One is an extremely vocal anti-gay group; the other displays 20-foot-tall photos of aborted fetuses to push its pro-life agenda. And an American history professor once called our textbook "too political" because it covered the genocide of Native Americans from a not-sympathetic-with-white-imperialists perspective. My school is not exactly a hotbed of liberal shenanigans.
But you wouldn't know that if you got your information from that Neolithic throwback newspaper the Marietta Daily Journal. That was where Dr. Mel Fein, a tenured sociology professor, took a public stand against an issue he'd already been voted down on, the creation of a new cultural studies department. The proposal — which is currently going forward — was to unite African and African diaspora studies, Gender and women's studies, Latino and Latin American studies and four others under one department. The classes and faculty already exist. The degree programs are already in place and pumping out graduates. Putting them all together will only make scheduling easier and help with internal communication.
Enter Fein, a self-professed Neocon and regular MDJ contributor. On March 29, reporter Jon Gillooly wrote an article with extensive quotes from Fein labeling his fellow professors as "a bunch of activists" who "do not have degrees in what they pretend to teach." He went on to say that "Neo-Marxist" was too weak a word for the department, that the professors wished to "indoctrinate instead of teach" and that hiring a cultural studies graduate was like "hiring a lawsuit."
All of this makes my head spin. I am a married father of three boys. I went back to school to become a high school English teacher in order to (hopefully) better support my family. A by-product of my education is that I have become more liberal. Sorry, Dr. Fein, but traditional white middle-class values aren't going to cut it in a metro Atlanta public school. Not when my job is to prepare those students to enter a larger world, a world even more pluralistic than the one they came from. I don't see how I can accomplish that without some empathy, and I don't see how I can be empathetic without exposure to situations I never encountered as a teen.
So I'm a thirtysomething suburban liberal, and Dr. Fein is so far to the right he makes Chuck Norris look like Jimmy Carter. That's OK. There's room for both of us at KSU. And for all I know, a person with a business degree can find a job faster than a women's studies graduate. But Dr. Fein should provide some kind of evidence when he makes these claims. He should not use the MDJ as a "bully pulpit," in the words of KSU external affairs VP Arlethia Perry-Johnson, and should not attack his fellow professors. Dr. Fein should also think twice before he makes a blanket assumption that KSU's 23,000 students are too stupid and weak-minded to decide on our own what we ought and ought not to learn. Inflammatory comments like his can only hurt KSU's image as it vies to compete with GSU, UGA, and other large universities in the region.
Steven Watson is a KSU undergraduate student