Erik Hahmann is the editor of DRaysBay, a writer for RotoGraphs and, most important for this post, an undergraduate student at St. Petersburg College. Recently, his professor told students they could not write a paper about gay marriage—because he disagreed with it as a practice. Here, Erik shares his perspective … and his anger.
Professors are supposed to be unbiased information vehicles, there to educate without injecting their personal beliefs or agendas on the student. At least that was my impression until this week when William Klein of St. Petersburg College spoke to my American National Government class about our final paper topic. We could choose any topic we wanted. That seems nice, giving intellectual freedom and all. However, he made one very big exception: gay marriage.
His exact words were “I don’t agree with it, and if you write your paper on it, I won’t grade it.” I had the same “Um, what the fuck?” look on my face as many of you likely do now, shocked that those words would actually come from a professor. He followed that up by adding “I’m not a homophobe.” So, hey, that makes everything alright.
What made it even worse was his saying we could write on gun control even though he doesn’t agree with it either. He doesn’t agree with gun control but it’s an allowable topic. He doesn’t agree with gay marriage and it’s a banned topic. But he’s not a homophobe. Got it. I’d understand if a student wanted to pick some obscure topic that had little to do with our government. But gay marriage is one of the most debated topics in the country, and especially so in Florida where a federal judge recently ruled the ban on gay marriage unconstitutional. It’s the perfect topic.
I wasn’t planning on writing on gay marriage, but it makes me uncomfortable—as a student at this school—that he would expressly forbid a topic based on personal values. The job is to educate. Turning a blind eye to a deserving topic because your personal beliefs don’t align is bullshit and unbecoming of a college professor.