By Ardyss Hawley
Many COC students express they have been told by their professors that political discussion in the classroom is against the school’s Code of Conduct, despite the recurring outlets for debate hosted by groups across campus.
As a college campus, the discussion of controversial topics is a goal and focus of classroom environments, yet many students will agree they have been told to avoid expressing personal thoughts on the subject of religion and politics.
“I’ve had professors tell me while walking by to not talk about politics in class,” said Michele Lutes, a Journalism student. “Despite that […], we’ve absolutely talked about this in Journalism because it’s all that’s been going on this year. It’d be an open discussion so everyone understood” to be peaceful and civil at all times.
Emily Mahler, a double major Journalism and Film History student, had a COC professor call her “stupid and ignorant…in front of the whole class” for repeating a statement from another professor that students can’t talk about politics in the class.
Navigating controversial topics can be a difficult task in a classroom of 30 students, but there is not a rule that prohibits political discussion anywhere on campus.
“We really empowered those entities that work more directly with student [such as] our Civic Engagement which sponsored a number of opportunities for students to come together,” said Chancellor Dianne Van Hook.
Patty Robinson, the director of Civic Engagement, hosted a number of forums and debates for students while faculty members hosted a number of films in Hasley 101 leading up to the election.
Many had an overwhelming turnout of over 150 students, according to Van Hook.
While there were multiple pre-election forums and debates available attend, COC did not address the entire student body following the conclusion of the election, unlike other colleges in the area.
Campuses across Southern California have hosted peaceful protests alongside their forums and student debates and continue to do so now, a month after the election.
California State University Channel Islands released six emails to the entire student body within a week of the election, focused on encouraging student expression of their political opinions.
Outlets included various protests and bulletin boards for writing thoughts and words of comfort, which were popularly received by students.
“As a public institution, we unequivocally support the fundamental and democratic right of freedom of expression, even when we may disagree with the prospective that is being expressed,” said President Erika D. Beck of Channel Islands in her Thanksgiving Message.
COC has chosen to go down a different path, instead focusing on allowing students the means and opportunities to express their views and hold activities as they desired.
“I probably think our college did more to engage students in the discussion of issues surrounding local, state, and national elections than almost any community college than I know,” said Van Hook.
On a campus with academic freedom, instructors and students can discuss relevant subjects and express their worldviews without fear of consequences; furthermore, without communication, a disconnect can develop between student’s ideals and their lives at college.
“There’s a responsibility for the school to keep the students politically cognizant,” said Ronald Lopez, a student associated with the Political Science club.
In addition to the forums and debates offered, COC’s student body if desired has the option of peacefully protesting on campus under the condition that it is within the campuses’ operating classroom hours, not obstructing any pathways or campus activity, and held to the highest level of mannerisms.
“I think one of the biggest issues we have with people voting is that people aren’t inspired by politics, they’re bored with it,” said Ronald Lopez. “I think we’re offended by it and we’re scared of it.”
The only way to create an accepting environment while discussing controversial topics is for students to take leadership positions to encourage the development of ideals and options around campus instead of waiting for professors to create opportunities.
“Our best ideas come for students involvement and dialog come from our students,” said Van Hook, who argues for more outspeak from students searching for more within the classroom. “It has to come from the students.”