Guest Column: Faculty open-minded to all Religious views

Lisette Davies Austin

Our dear friend, Kerry Gilmour, has lost her way in her first year here at Santa Barbara City College. Perhaps she didn’t see the sign on campus that apparently reads “No Food, Beverage, Or Christian Views Beyond This Point.” Well, no. She did not fail to see the sign and check her Christian views on our campus doorstep. The truth is there never was such a sign on our campus. The falsity of this sign makes me wonder how such an illustration accompanying a vitriolic attack was published in the Feb 19 edition of The Independent. You’ve won the prizes for libel and fallacious, unfounded arguments! Pass Go and collect $200 on the board of wanna-be educated life.

Of my eleven-year academic journey of higher education, I regard SBCC as my Alma Mater rather than the institutions that conferred my Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees upon me. Coming from both sides of the learning experience fence as student and teacher, I’m outraged that our newly-arrived student Ms. Gilmour blasts the entire campus for religious intolerance practices, paints all professors with the same brush she painted her philosophy and political science professors with, and procures a fake campus sign to accompany her article to boot. The source of Ms. Gilmour’s attack was a disgruntling couple of experiences in two courses she took during her first year here. She claims that her Philosophy and Political Science professors “intimidated” and “belittled” her when she brought the Christian viewpoint into class discussion.

First, although I was not in the classrooms when these alleged incidents took place, it needs to be noted that our veteran Political Science and Philosophy Professors, Joe White and Peter Haslund, have a long history of ranking among the finest, and scoring off the popularity chart amongst our student body.

Second, as a student back in the late 80s-early 90s, I never experienced SBCC professors belittling or intimidating the student body when any of us expressed a religious viewpoint. If religion was discussed, it was as an open book.

If Ms. Gilmour’s experiences of belittlement and intimidation were true, then they were indeed isolated; therefore, she has a legitimate gripe. But, please, Ms. Gilmour, have you ever heard of logical fallacies and stereotyping?

Your argument that Christianity at SBCC is not “represented with integrity or fairness” is riddled with them. If you haven’t learned before setting foot on a college campus that a couple of examples do not reflect a whole group, and that this fallacy is stereotyping, then be aware! This is what we do at college – challenge your thinking as part of the educational process of enlightenment. Maybe this is all these two professors were trying to do when you attempted to “correct” them or your classmates (you don’t specify exactly who) when they exhibited “errors in understanding” of Christianity. They could have been trying to get you to think “out of the box” and entertain other viewpoints. Case in point, the last four weeks with my English 110 students – all eighty of them – revolved around the polemic, creationism versus science debate. We read as many possible theories as to our human origins as time allowed: We looked at Genesis, and Biblical explanations. We discussed Isaac Asimov’s scientific viewpoints. We studied the famous Scopes Trial of 1925. Students referenced various scenes or tenets from the Bible to support their Christian viewpoints. We tossed around Darwin’s theory from all angles. Students worked in groups I purposely set up to include members holding diverse perspectives. And all through this process I validated and encouraged everyone’s viewpoint. Their final product was a position paper.

Did I downgrade a student for holding a Christian viewpoint as to our origins? Certainly not. Did I favor anyone for defending an evolutionary viewpoint? No Sir-ee.

If you learn anything at the college level, let it be not to stereotype professors or the hallowed grounds of an institution of higher learning based on isolated incidents. And take into account your newness to college culture, and your possible misunderstanding of the class assignments. Read the real sign: “Be prepared to challenge, and to be challenged=college education.”

My final word of advice to you Ms. Gilmour, is if you’re not ready for this type of learning process, you’re not ready to find your way on our campus. So go back to your “conservative hometown” until you are. And do us all a favor: stay the heck away from writing inflammatory newspaper columns while you’re at it.

Lisette Davies Austin

is a Journalism 103 student

and an adjunct English instructor