Utah’s other universities get involved in accommodation debate

The controversy in the formation of the U’s Accommodation Policy has sparked debate among academics throughout Utah.

Many of them met at the Board of Regents Office on Friday to discuss one of the underlying issues in the policy debate: academic integrity.

“I am really concerned about the Accommodation Policy,” said Kay K. Cook, professor and chairperson of the English department at Southern Utah University. “Students should be accommodating to us, rather than us accommodating to students.”

She added that SUU just passed a resolution saying they will not make content accommodations of any sort and will not offer alternative text.

Rather than censoring themselves and their curricula per student needs, Cook said professors should be equipped to advise students on different directions in which their careers should be heading.

“Students come to college for a broader education,” she said.

“Otherwise, you’d be in a trade school. This is your choice.”

At least one academic disagreed with Cook’s stance. He called the classic film “The Last Picture Show,” which has appeared in current college curricula, pornography and questioned the freedom-of-speech right of authors such as Ward Churchill, who compared the 9/11 victims in the World Trade Center to Nazis.

Several panelists gasped in light of his comments and quickly refuted his claims.

The majority argued that students must be able to hear different opinions in order to construct an informed viewpoint.

“Material like this is perfect for students to study, to pick up something that causes such fury,” Cook said. “To do it simply for the shock value is irresponsible…you never say, ‘Just read this,’ you say, ‘Let’s talk about it and see what you are finding so offensive.'”

Norm Jones, chairperson of the Regents’ taskforce on General Education and history professor at Utah State University, agreed that educators cannot censor course material simply because it may offend people.

He cited the ’60s as an example and said, “You don’t clean up the past just because it wasn’t a nice place.”

Mildred Sparks, professor of developmental education at Salt Lake Community College, agreed.

“We should talk about our history, not push it under the rug,” she said.

Some participants expressed concern as to what could potentially be classified as “offensive material” and therefore negotiable under content accommodations.

One panelist questioned whether significant historical events such as the holocaust could face exclusion in certain instances. She added that a former student called the holocaust an offensive anomaly that will never happen again in the humane world in which we now live.

Cook summarized that “academic freedom is under attack now more than ever,” as any controversial or critical words are often labeled unpatriotic.

Friday’s meeting also featured discussions on student dishonesty and problems with concurrent enrollment.

The dishonesty segment focused on plagiarism and the concurrent enrollment-panel discussed the difference in difficulty between concurrent enrollment courses at high schools and actual college classes.

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