Op-Ed: Polsci professors, let's talk Kavanaugh

Sunday, September 30, 2018 - 6:36pm

Polsci professors, let's talk Kavanaugh

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I’ve sat through my classes in the past weeks and watched as students halfheartedly took lecture notes while they streamed hearing after hearing on their laptops, like a melancholy version of March Madness. I listened to my peers chat about each new development in the fleeting minutes before professors start lecturing, the conversations no longer dominated by, “So, did you do the reading?”

By Thursday, we felt overwhelmed, hopeless and unable to focus in our classes. We asked each other in hushed voices, “Do you think we’ll talk about Brett Kavanaugh today?” But we didn’t. I’m in four political science classes this semester. Only one of my professors has taken time to talk about Kavanaugh, let alone ask his students’ concerns on the matter.

Our professors tell us time and time again that our department is one of the best in the world. But how can that be true if we neglect to discuss what is quite possibly the most controversial political event of our lifetime? We weren’t alive for Anita Hill. We are the generation that brought discussions of rape culture on college campuses to the forefront. We marched for those of us brave enough to share their stories of survival, and we continue to stand by the courageous women who decide to share their stories. We watched as Dr. Christine Blasey Ford cried during her testimony, and so many of us cried with her. So why did so many of our professors neglect to acknowledge the mere existence of this entire situation?

I understand we cannot discuss every pertinent current event in class.  I understand we must draw the line somewhere. But this isn’t where we should draw that line. Regardless of what students or professors believe about the validity of Ford’s testimony, Kavanaugh’s confirmation process has already had profound political implications.

This process has been the ugliest political battle many of us have ever seen. It speaks to growing political polarization. It speaks to lack of representation in Congress, as 11 white men neglected to speak to a survivor of sexual assault, yet had no issues yelling at their colleagues in defense of another white man.

It even speaks to political theory: Is it a just separation of powers if one Republican senator votes against Kavanaugh’s confirmation and Vice President Mike Pence casts the tie-breaking vote?  Was that outcome the intent of the Framers, seeing as they wrote our Constitution so that the vice president was the runner-up in the presidential election? Kavanaugh’s confirmation process has already had real repercussions for political science, and I’m sure more will come in the coming weeks. That, in and of itself, is worth talking about.

But outside of the ways in which Kavanaugh’s confirmation applies to our curriculum, our professors should take time to discuss the situation for a separate reason entirely. Because at the end of the day, we’re still students. Maybe we don’t get it all, or maybe there’s a side of this entire debacle that we’re neglecting to consider.

In the one class where my professor did take time to ask if we had questions or concerns, it sparked not only an intellectual conversation between students, but also a string of thought-provoking questions that the students asked our professor. The professor’s voice will always be louder, stronger and wiser in these discussions. To my professors: You are so much more likely to change our minds than we are to change each other’s. I don’t doubt that we’re getting one of the best political science educations in the world. But you also owe us an education that takes time to discuss what is unfolding in front of our eyes. So, let’s start talking. 

Catharine Greenberg is a political science major in the class of 2020 who recently interned for the U.S. Senate.