There are growing complaints about faculty using classes for raw advocacy or political diatribes. The most recent such complaint arose at Cypress College where an instructor slammed a student, Braden Ellis, after he called police “heroes.” The unnamed adjunct professor insisted that police were created in the South to track down runaway slaves and represent a danger to her and others. What is particularly ironic is that the presentation was on cancel culture.
What is most striking about the video below is that the student seems more balanced and reasonable than the professor. He states that he believes some officers deserve to be punished but that most are good and honorable people — precisely what figures like President Joe Biden have said.
The professor’s comment not only seem strikingly intemperate but inaccurate. The professor insists (wrongly) that the police were created to track down runaway slaves. There may be places where the first official law enforcement bodies were created for such a purpose, but most police departments were obviously not created for such a purpose.
The discussion focused on the Nickelodeon show Paw Patrol, which faced criticism because it showed police in a positive light. In the video, one student agrees that maybe police should not be included as heroes in a children’s show — a view clearly favored by the professor who said that she would never call police if she were in trouble because “my life’s more in danger in their presence… I wouldn’t call anybody.”
This discussion shows why students feel increasingly uncomfortable in speaking freely on our campuses. We previously discussed a Gallup poll showing ninety percent of Pomona students said that they did not feel free to speak openly or freely. It is an indictment of not just Pomona but many of our colleges. This is not a problem for many students but an increasingly small percentage of self-identified conservatives. One recent poll shows the already small population of conservative and Republican students has been cut by roughly half. The Crimson survey covered over 76 percent of the Harvard College Class of 2024 and found that the class contained 72.4 percent who self-identify as either “very liberal” or “somewhat liberal.” Only 7.4 percent self-identify as “very conservative” or “somewhat conservative.” Another Harvard study showed that 35 percent of conservatives felt that they could share their views on campus.
The shame is that the professor could have made this discussion far more thought-provoking by discussing the counter view of police not as fact but an alternative perspective. Many do fear the police and we should be able to discuss the source of those feelings. Conversely, Ellis was making a reasoned argument that abuses by some officers should not lead to sweeping condemnations of the entire profession. The professor however did not want to discuss as much as correct the student as if her view was based on unassailable facts.
Cypress College released the following statement:
Cypress College takes great pride in fostering a learning environment for students where ideas and opinions are exchanged as a vital piece of the educational journey.
Our community fully embraces this culture; students often defend one another’s rights to express themselves freely, even when opinions differ.
Any efforts to suppress free and respectful expression on our campus will not be tolerated.
The adjunct professor will be taking a leave of absence for the duration of her assignment at Cypress College. This was her first course at Cypress and she had previously indicated her intention to not return in the fall.
We are reviewing the full recording of the exchange between the adjunct professor and the student and will address it fully in the coming days.