"Ask God What Your Grade Is"

Ashley Thorne

Jonathan Lopez, a student who was shouted down by his professor when he defended Proposition 8, is suing LA City College, with the help of the Alliance Defense Fund. We heard it first from David French at Phi Beta Cons:

Shortly after election day, one of Lopez's teachers told his speech class that any individual who voted for Proposition 8 was a "fascist bastard" and argued that supporters of traditional marriage valued animals more than people. A few weeks after this declaration, Mr. Lopez gave a speech (in response to an open-ended assignment) in which he discussed his Christian faith and read from a dictionary definition of marriage. His professor interrupted his presentation, called him a "fascist bastard," invited offended students to leave, and then (when no one left) terminated the class. Rather than grade his speech, the professor told Lopez to "ask God" what his grade was...When Lopez complained to the dean and the professor threatened Lopez with expulsion.

Printed smartly on a wall at LA City College are the words, “Free Speech Zone.”

The story has now made mainstream media with an article in the Los Angeles Times and NBC.com. The article in the Chronicle of Higher Education leaned against Lopez, emphasizing quotes from the college dean, who said that Lopez’s speech was offensive to other students in the class (although no students were offended enough to accept the professor’s invitation to leave).

NAS sees this as an unambiguous case of a professor abusing his authority by shutting down a student for expressing a non-PC opinion, and then seeking revenge when the student complained. It is yet another example of ideology’s suffocating grip in the academy, stifling the freedom that should characterize an atmosphere of learning. Jonathan Lopez’s treatment by his professor is an exceptionally vivid instance of something that is widespread on our campuses, though usually more difficult to pinpoint. We hope his lawsuit breaks through to those don’t think suppression of students’ intellectual freedom is a significant problem on campus. At our national meeting in Washington last month, AAUP president Cary Nelson reversed his old position and declared that students really don’t have academic freedom. It appears that at LA City College they don’t. What do we call it when professors interrupt, excoriate, and attempt to punish students for expressing an opinion at odds with the professors’?   Perhaps we should advise Jonathan Lopez, “Ask Cary where your academic freedom is.” 

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