A Purdue student walked out of her class furious, but also a bit confused about what just happened in class.
Hannah Smith, a freshman in the College of Liberal Arts, said when professors go too in depth with their own opinions on global topics, it makes her uncomfortable enough for her to not enjoy the course.
“It’s not the professor’s job to say what he or she wants to say during class,” Smith said. “But rather they should explore the different viewpoints and examine the consequences of each action.”
With numerous courses at Purdue that deal with important economic and social issues, some students take these classes to hear what the professor has to say on certain subjects.
Angelica Duran, an associate professor of religious studies and comparative literature, said it might not be smart if professors spend time talking about their own views when they can talk about the whole picture.
“Classroom time is so brief to try to engage in the content, methodologies and academic matters, that dwelling on personal opinions might be a misuse of time,” Duran said. “When students ask my opinion, I instead go to the board and offer opinions, both pros and cons, and try to offer even other alternatives about the topic so that we can talk about the degrees and kinds of evidence for those opinions.”
Smith remembers one specific day when her professor expressed his views on a certain topic which made the class feel uneasy.
“It seemed like he didn’t care what he was saying and that’s what made me particularly mad,” Smith said. “Just because you’re a professor, that doesn’t mean you can say whatever you want and get away with it.”
Aaron Hoffman, an associate professor of political science, said it all depends on how the professor approaches the topic and if it is appropriate or not.
“When I offer my own views in class, I try to be clear that the views I am offering are my own and do not necessarily represent the authoritative answer to an issue discussed in class,” Hoffman said.
Zach Collins, a senior in arts and sciences, said he gets to know his professors a lot better when they express their own opinions, because it shows what issues matter to them and what they’re passionate about.
“I’ve taken a some political science classes and my favorites were the classes where the professor would tell us what he thinks about a certain policy or issue,” Collins said. “I think it broadens people’s open-mindedness, and it forces them to think outside their comfort zone.”
Duran said it’s important for professors to be sensitive due to the diverse learning environment Purdue offers.
“All topics must be discussed in an atmosphere of mutual respect and sensitivity,” Duran said. “Given that my aim is to help all students be leaders amid diverse cultures in and outside of the classroom, and given that non-standard English can be confusing to some or cursing is offensive to others, I am very careful with my word selection.”