UMass Amherst: Petition for Diversity of Thought


A Petition for more Intellectual Diversity at UMass Amherst

Composed by students in the University Union, the debating society at UMass Amherst.

Signed by students and alumni of UMass Amherst.


1. WHO WE ARE.

We, the signers, are students and alumni of the University of Massachusetts Amherst. We are Republicans, Democrats, Independents, and others.

We are not advocating one political ideology to the exclusion of others.

We believe that many political theories and moral frameworks must be explored concurrently on a college campus.

The exposure to intellectual diversity is the only way we will be able to develop our own voice and make a difference.

The faculty and course offerings at UMass Amherst are too homogenous. Many important religious, moral, and political views are excluded.

We urge the university to fix this ideological imbalance.


2. THE NEED FOR INTELLECTUAL DIVERSITY

Diversity at UMass, including race and ethnicity, must also mean intellectual diversity. An important index of diversity is the spectrum of thought that is covered in instruction and that is debated in the classroom.

Students must be exposed to multiple framings of our history, our economic life, our moral life, and our political life if they are to become thoughtful citizens of the United States, and of the world. Only minds that have seriously worked through diverse and competing theories and viewpoints, minds that have been sharpened through lively debates and prolonged exposure to contrasting ideas, are able to understand and solve real world challenges.


3. THE LACK OF INTELLECTUAL DIVERSITY AT UMASS AMHERST

We are unsatisfied with the current curriculum provided at UMass Amherst. The professors do not offer a wide spectrum of courses. They do not expose students to a diverse range of intellectual achievements and schools of thought.

At UMass Amherst, we have many academic departments that are explicitly committed to only one ideology. The university has failed to create a secure academic space for the expression of diverse theories and traditions.

One example is the lack of courses about the ideas of the great world religions. At Indiana University Bloomington, students can take many courses on religion which do not exist at UMass Amherst. A partial list of these courses at Indiana includes:

Intro to Old Testament/Hebrew Bible
Religions of Asia
Intro to Hinduism
Intro to Islam
Issues in Religion in America
Evangelical America
Orthodox Christianity
Catholic Controversies

The absence of courses on religion at UMass Amherst is a scandalous gap for an institution that claims to be a “comprehensive” university.

While excluding religious views, the university also tends to exclude a wide range of conservative views.

“Conservative” refers not to one set of party opinions but to a broad spectrum of longstanding and respectable philosophies and traditions. Conservatism includes:

- Free-market and libertarian theory
- Skepticism about revolutionary change and an appreciation of the function of social traditions
- Sensitivity to the dangers of elevating any abstract value, including equality, into an absolute and unquestionable principle
- The critical study of totalitarian regimes and an appreciation of American political theory and practice
- The in-depth and scholarly study of texts considered sacred, such as the Koran, Old Testament, and New Testament

With over 1,000 faculty members, there still are virtually no courses covering any of these topics.

Professors often preach their anti-American judgments to students as final “truths”--such as the view that all major world problems, from poverty in Africa to ISIS, stem from American capitalism and imperialism. Professors represent their views and ideologies in ways that make it seemingly impossible for any reasonable person to disagree with.

Dissenters from Left-Liberal thought on campus are considered ignorant, intolerant, and uneducated.

4. WE STRONGLY SUGGEST

We strongly suggest that to correct the University’s monotone curriculum, the campus leadership must:

• Hire more faculty with expertise on religion
• Hire more faculty who provide perspectives within the conservative spectrum discussed above
• Encourage faculty to not indoctrinate students by teaching only one-sided intellectual ideology
• Provide training sessions to faculty on how to present controversial ideas in a framework of scholarly and intellectual debate rather than ideological indoctrination
• Provide students with an administrative body to which they can complain about extreme ideological imbalance in the classroom. We believe there are thousands of students on campus who are turned off by the monotone of biased instruction. If given an opportunity to express themselves, these students will provide the evidence needed to show that the lack of intellectual diversity is adversely affecting student satisfaction, creativity, and retention.

A democratic society is made great by the compromises we come to through debate. Only in an atmosphere of debate can we learn to learn and not learn to conform.

Let it be true again that UMass Amherst is where students come to develop their own ideas while learning about a diverse range of intellectual traditions.

We deserve a humanistic, scientific, and professional education in an atmosphere of civil debate and intellectual diversity.

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