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The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

Faculty discuss their teaching freedoms in light of BB&T grant

The Guilford faculty on Nov. 11 gathered to discuss an amendment to the Faculty Handbook on Academic Freedom, which, if approved, would deem the recently approved $500,000 BB&T grant unethical.The amendment proposes an insertion stating that the solicitation or acceptance of gifts with stipulations that require the inclusion of specific course material or new programs that the faculty had not intended to teach “is inconsistent with principles of academic freedom.”

In their discussion, the faculty agreed that the BB&T grant does not necessarily violate teaching freedom because the professors in the business management department, which applied for the grant, support the course that the grant stipulates, and because faculty would not be required to treat stipulated material in a particular way.

The faculty requested that the amendment be sent back to the Clerk’s Committee to be revised in light of their conclusion that the use of certain material does not necessarily violate a professor’s freedom.

In debating this proposal, the faculty specifically debated whether Guilford had violated these principles in accepting the BB&T grant.

The grant would also support students in the Principled Problem Solving Scholars program and a series of speakers who will educate the community on the connection of capitalism and environmentally sustainable development.

The controversial part of the grant is that it would fund a stipulated economics course. The course would deal with theories of capitalism and would run for 10 years as a full course as well as a module within the Principled Problem Solving program.

The only curricular stipulation that BB&T placed on the course is that students would be required to read Ayn Rand’s novel “Atlas Shrugged.”

“The grant should not violate teaching freedoms,” said accounting and business double major and junior Gilian M’maitsi. “The school and the professors are one team. They should all work together to achieve one goal.”

President Kent Chabotar said that teaching a course on the moral foundations of capitalism is not new.

“The last time I checked, we already teach a class on this” said Chabotar.

Chabotar also said that while the BB&T grant stipulated using “Atlas Shrugged,” the rest of the books will be chosen based on each professor’s discretion.

“Literally we could also teach the writings of Karl Marx, and Vladimir Lenin in the same course,” said Chabotar. “We will also be teaching Quaker views and ideals on money and capitalism like John Woolman. If you put Ayn Rand on one extreme, you put John Woolman on the other extreme.”

“The new class fits the model of current teachings on capitalism,” said Voehringer Professor of Economics Robert Williams. ” I felt very good about academic freedom the way this happened.”

“If the grant exists with stipulations that the group of faculty approve of, then I can’t see how that violates freedom,” said Professor of English Jim Hood.

While a professor might not be told how to teach a certain book, he or she would still be told to teach that book.

“Teachers need to be fine with it,” said Assistant Professor of Mathematics Dan Katz.

Chabotar said that the manner in which a professor teaches “Atlas Shrugged” is up to the professor and had not been stipulated by the BB&T agreement.

“The only thing that is stipulated is that we have to use the Ayn Rand book,” said Chabotar, “but we can use it many ways. The professor could critique it in a way that says ‘this is a bunch of crap’.”

Assistant Professor of Religious Studies Parveen Hasanalli, said that while a professor might not agree with a book that does not mean he or she cannot teach it.

“You can do many things with a text,” said Hasanalli.

While the current faculty have agreed on the grant’s stipulations, they discussed the problems that might arise if a new faculty member were to begin teaching at Guilford and not agree with the stipulation.

“When a new person comes in it might violate their freedom,” said Assistant Professor of Physics Don Smith.

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