Princeton postdoc Amin Ghaziani writes of his decision to have his undergraduate class, “Queer Theory and Politics,” demonstrate against the National Organization for Marriage and then reflect upon and analyze the demonstration for class. The writeups–in the CBSM Newsletter and in Gay and Lesbian Studies–are thoughtful, informed, and thorough. Together they demonstrate that this exercise was both far more student-led, and far more nuanced, than simply requiring students to participate in a “partisan” demonstration. Ghaziani went far out of his way to insure that each individual student was on board and that the demonstration would be interpreted in terms of class material.
The university, predictably, reprimanded Ghaziani (albeit, it seems, mildly) both for blurring the line between politics and the classroom and for risking the University’s nonprofit status by implying a University position on a legislative matter. Ghaziani and his students think this distinction is wrong, both because the class is always-already a political exercise and, more problematically IMHO, because:
Surely, protesting for equal rights for ALL citizens of the United States (regardless of their sexual orientation) is not a partisan issue but a human rights matter which all political parties should support …
I understand both these critiques; however, I’m uncomfortable with the exercise nevertheless. Even if all the students in the class were OK with it, it does imply that to understand the material is to hold the position the demonstration espouses–thus that no reasonable person could disagree with that position. As much as I personally agree with the demonstration, that position worries me in terms of the academic mission of the University.