Letter to the Editor: Questioning Religious Correctness

By Brandon Epperson, Senior, Finance

Editor:

There has been a lot of fuss about Mr. Niang’s classroom conduct, and I think that many who have written letters in his defense have missed the mark. One such response admitted that “[He] asks students if they are LDS. Students voluntarily raise their hands.” The author of this letter went on to justify Mr. Niang’s class discussion on the grounds that “everyone should be offended/uncomfortable at one time or another.”

My understanding is that instructors are not allowed to ask a student for his or her religious affiliation. I don’t deny the validity of Mr. Niang’s comments nor the ensuing class discussion (I wasn’t in the classroom to hear what was said), but I do believe that in a state funded university students should not be put in a position by state employees to “defend” or even comment on their religious beliefs.

Our constitution provides a “separation of church and state,” and we need to see that this is enforced. Apparently those who have written to The Chronicle have no problem with Mr. Niang’s breach of instructor conduct, but rather divert their attention to the potential validity of his comments?arguing that the LDS Church does show signs of institutional racism and sexism. This may or may not be true, but a TA-led classroom discussion is not the place to dissect and discuss this issue. That is why Mr. Niang was undoubtedly instructed to steer clear of religious debates, and when he didn’t do so offered an apology to his students.

The point is that Mr. Niang asked a question that should not have been approached within the classroom. Like a students’ right to maintain private his or her sexual orientation, one’s religious affiliation and even the ‘correctness’ of what that religion does should not be questioned by any teacher within academia. Mr. Niang, I hope, has learned this and will continue to teach at the U.

Brandon Epperson, Senior, Finance