How To Succeed in College/Interacting with Professors
It is important to remember that college professors and college students are separated by a power divide. As long as college professors have the ability to influence the future of the college student by grading their efforts, there is an imbalance of power. Outside the context of the college campus that same imbalance of power may not exist, but it does on campus. As a result, college students should be aware of this power difference and behave accordingly.
Talking with your Professors
It is a common myth that college professors "are mean and don't care about you." While it may be the opinion of some college students, a majority of the professors in today's universities strive to see their students succeed. The University of Tampa for example makes an effort to ensure that its students get the education that they deserve. Professors at the university are required to have on-campus office hours during which they are able to meet with concerned students and sort out any problems they may have. Another important requirement are the surveys given to students at the end of each semester for each of their classes. This survey on the quality of the course and the professor who teaches it plays a major role in professors' continuing careers at the university. These requirements help to keep professors who are helpful and care about the success of their students. The possibility for an unruly, uncaring professor is still there, but many college professors do their best to help their students succeed.
Professors' Personal Views
There has long been concern voiced by some conservatives, like David Horowitz, that colleges and universities are largely staffed by liberals and Democrats and that these individuals are intentionally trying to influence the political views of students. While it is true that the majority of college professors are liberal (close to 80%), the real question is whether college professors are intentionally trying to persuade students to change their political views. Research suggests that is not the case. In one study, 75% of college political science professors said it was inappropriate to talk about their own views in class and 92% of those professors said they try to show both sides to arguments in class. These professors appear to be successful at maintaining a separation between their personal views and the classroom as 89% of their students reported that they had never heard their professors explicitly state their political views in the classroom. However, most of the students did pick up on other, more subtle cues from the professors, and were able to correctly discern their political views fairly accurately.
Given that the majority of college professors are liberal and that their students are able to pick up on that even though most college professors are not explicit about their views raises another question: Do college students change their political views over the course of college? The evidence on this question is pretty clear. Yes, students do tend to change their political views during college, with most college students becoming more liberal over the course of college. However, the shifts are not large. And the effects seem to be independent of the persuasions of their professors. Students being taught by strongly Republican professors are just as likely to become more liberal in their views as are those taught by strong Democrats. The reason college students tend to become more liberal is because they become more secure as a result of college. More secure people are better able to tolerate diversity and are therefore more open, more humanitarian, more altruistic, and more liberal.
- Cardiff, Christopher F., and Daniel B. Klein. 2005. “Faculty Partisan Affiliations in All Disciplines: A Voter-Registration Study.” Critical Review: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Politics and Society 17 (3 & 4): 237–55.
- Woessner, Matthew, and April Kelly-Woessner. 2009. “I Think My Professor Is a Democrat: Considering Whether Students Recognize and React to Faculty Politics.” PS: Political Science & Politics 42(02):343-352. Retrieved August 25, 2011.
- Mariani, Mack D., and Gordon J. Hewitt. 2008. “Indoctrination U? The Effect of Faculty Ideology on Changes in Student Political Orientation.” PS: Political Science and Politics 41 (4): 773–83.
- Lottes, Ilsa L., and Peter J. Kuriloff. 1994. “The Impact of College Experience on Political and Social Attitudes.” Sex Roles 31 (1/2): 31–54.