Political Expression on Campus

Is there an election this year or something?

Obviously, politics is on everyone’s minds, but I don’t want to get into a debate about politics, but rather a debate about, er, politics. Specifically, political expression on campus by faculty.

Recently, the University of Illinois issued a memo directing its professors (as employees of the state) not to wear political buttons, put political bumper stickers on their cars, or attend political rallies on campus. The memo has since been modified, but is still an issue of contention. The AAUP (whose president, Cary Nelson, teaches at UofI), FIRE, the ACLU [this is a letter on FIRE’s website – I could not find it on the ACLU’s website], the NAS, and even Stanley Fish have all weighed in. Wouldn’t you like to be in that strategy meeting?

Political expression can be a sticky situation for evangelical Christians, IMHO. First, evangelicals tend to lean toward political conservatism, and second, faculty in general lean strongly toward political liberalism (see this monograph by the Institute for Jewish and Community Research for some details on these differences). I think that it can be all too easy for one’s evangelical beliefs to be confused by others in the academy as political beliefs, which then becomes a major obstacle for being salt and light among your peers. I know that I have had some difficult conversations along those lines.

But those are just my thoughts. What have others experienced? What do you think about political expression by professors on campus? Do you think this interferes with – or supports – your identity as a Christian and your representation of the gospel on campus?

(Note: I’ll delete any comments that are just pro or con comments about political parties or candidates.)

(Two other quick links, both from the Chronicle, which means you have to pay for them: Robert M. O’Neil’s What Not to Say in Class During an Election Season, and How Good Scholarship Makes Good Citizens, by Joseph J. Gonzalez.)

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Micheal Hickerson

The former Associate Director for the Emerging Scholars Network, Micheal lives in Cincinnati with his wife and three children and works as a web manager for a national storage and organization company. He writes about work, vocation, and finding meaning in what you do at No Small Actors.

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