At his seminar’s first meeting since war began over spring break, political science professor Keith Darden asked his students to vote on whether to devote a week to discussion of the war in Iraq. They decided in favor of the idea, and chose to meet outside their scheduled class time to make up what they missed.
Like Darden, some Yale professors, particularly in the history and political science departments, have discussed the war in their classes during the past week. But professors in other departments have chosen not to devote class time to the issue. And many of those who did lead discussions on the topic have been hesitant to share their own views on the war with their students.
“I think the students are very eager to hear about the war, to speak about the war, to discuss it with each other and within the classroom setting,” political science professor Charles Hill said.
While political science classes like those taught by Darden and Hill can draw obvious connections between the war and the subject matter of the courses, professors in other departments have chosen a greater variety of approaches to the topic.
Anthropology professor Enrique Mayer said he is not currently addressing the situation in his classes, though he may do so in the future if he finds it appropriate.
“There are so many opportunities to discuss [the war], I tend to stick with my subject matter,” Mayer said.
Students said many other professors have also chosen not to talk about the war, though some have tried to give students perspective on the war as it relates to the subjects of their classes.
Azusa Ueno ’06 said her French professor e-mailed the class an article about the French view of events in Iraq but has not talked about the war in class.
“Although not everyone mentions it, it’s always in the back of our minds,” Ueno said.
Some professors who have discussed the war with their classes said they generally share their own opinions when asked, but only as part of a discussion, not with the intention of imposing their views.
“I try and keep my opinions to myself but sometimes they come out, sometimes the students can guess,” history professor Andrew Preston said. “I think it’s appropriate for the professor to let his or her views be known, but not to dominate the class with the views. That’s a really fine line.”
Preston said he did not think that Yale students were looking for guidance, so he only presents his views as part of class discussion or in order to stimulate debate.