Letter to the editor: Students should question biased instructors

By Allison Egrin | 9/18/16 11:40pm

Editor's note: This letter to the editor is in response to professor David Alvarez's letter to the editor, which appeared in the Thursday, Sept. 15 issue of the Lanthorn.

To the Grand Valley State University professors who put their own political opinions and agendas in front of teaching their students:

I think it is safe to say the No. 1 reason students choose to come to college is to get an education. They want to study topics that will further their academic journey, leading them down the path to a future career. A student comes to learn from the best and brightest faculty and staff, a crucial component in the collegiate experience. 

Here at GVSU, our staff and faculty members rank as some of the best in the world. We have professors who work tirelessly to make sure their students are receiving an outstanding education. We have scientists here paving the way for the future and authors of books that will be used to teach the next generation of scholars and visionaries. That’s very important to the Laker experience, because we value the education we’ve worked so hard to achieve.

However, at this point in time, I don't feel like I can say all professors teaching at GVSU share those values with their students. While the professors I’ve had here have been incredibly helpful in pushing me to think harder and do better, I frequently hear about faculty members who sit in a lecture hall with their classes just to spew out their political agenda, “teaching” their students one side of a narrative while completely ignoring the other side. Faculty members should have opinions, that is how they continue to drive their research, but I find it disappointing that professors would want to disadvantage their students.

In the end, that's exactly what they're doing. They're not teaching, they're pushing their students further from the truth, harming their educational journey. I was reminded of these faculty members after seeing professor David Alvarez’s “Response to ‘Interfaith speakers discuss finding solutions for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict’” in the Lanthorn Thursday, Sept.15. 

Alvarez wrote at length about how the discussion that was had at the event sponsored by the Kaufman Interfaith Institute and the Hauenstein Center for Presidential Studies was something that “frames the issues in ways that contribute to a misunderstanding of what’s at stake and therefore to the perpetuation of the problem.” 

He continues to talk about the discrimination Palestinians face on ethnic grounds in Israel and the colonization of Palestinian lands by Israelis. After reading this piece, I was left wondering where the other side of the story was? 

Everything mentioned in this response talked against Israel, without one mention of the Israeli experience. Regardless of your opinion on this political matter, shouldn’t we be talking about both sides of the story? 

Please remember that professors’ opinions are not necessarily facts. As a student community, we need to talk more about these faculty members that are putting their opinions before the quality of our education. We need to call out articles and viewpoints like this.

I want to continue the conversation about this issue because this is not the first time I have heard of Alvarez only focusing on the Palestinian narrative and not the Israeli side. After hearing from friends of mine enrolled in Alvarez’s classes, they left each class feeling more confused and less educated on the subject. Their English class quickly turned into a political science course based on Alvarez’s one-sided view of the conflict in the Middle East. 

How will students get a well-rounded education if they leave class feeling as though they have heard only half of the narrative? Not only that, but how will students feel comfortable asking questions and engaging in an open dialogue if their professor is biased? 

I imagine Alvarez would respond to this by saying he does teach both sides of the story and I should take one of his courses as proof. However, after hearing from the people who have taken his courses, I’m not sure I would be comfortable listening to a professor who promotes divisiveness over coexistence. 

To my fellow GVSU Lakers, be aware of biased professors who only teach one side of an issue. There are always two sides to every story and it’s your responsibility to educate yourself when those who are supposed to fail to do so.

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