By Stephen Smoot Marshall University

Yesterday, we published a blog detailing a Clemson University
study on classroom interaction.  The study, conducted by
Darren Linvill and Joseph Mazer, asserted that college students
perceive bias because they lack the skills to effectively debate
ideas in class.  What if, however, conservative students find themselves in a
debate that is stacked against them? 

Read what happened to Alle Richardson’s conservative group at
Marshall University.  Then judge for yourself.

I had been invited by a professor to talk to her First Year
Seminar class about [my conservative club] since their
theme for the year was the election. I said that I would be
available and she told me that she was also inviting
representatives from the other groups and that we would present our platform and then the students in the class would ask

I asked Chris Calton, one of our members who’s extremely
knowledgeable, to come with me to help answer student questions
because he always has the facts for any argument. When we got
there, we found out that it wasn’t a Q&A from the students at
all, but a debate the professor had set up with a few questions
from students afterwards. The professor acted as the
moderator. Throughout the debate the professor repeatedly
interrupted us (Chris and myself), corrected us by telling us that
what we were saying was false, and interjected counter-arguments. With
representatives from the other groups (including the leader of the
Students for Appalachian Socialism) she was very supportive and
even offered supportive points when the Socialist representative
was unsure of what to say.

Marshall conservatives are very familiar with the Students for
Appalachian Socialism.  Many suspect this small, but aggressive group, are responsible for vandalizing the
posters of conservative groups on campus.  

The Students
for Appalachian Socialism
 openly despise the
American free market system without hiding behind euphemisms like
“progressive.”  On their website, they attack those who
have produced and earned wealth; “He (I guess they assume that
women cannot become wealthy) doesn’t contribute anything productive
except for money which itself is a complete fabrication based
purely on the burden of debt.”  Although they do bash
Solyndra style cronyism, they falsely blame everyone but the
hardcore leftists who actually make these deals.  The
Students for Appalachian Socialism do not seem to understand what
libertarians or conservatives actually believe when it comes to

Alle Richardson went on to relate that:

During the question and answer portion the professor prodded
the students to ask questions specifically calling out certain
students by name and asking them why they didn’t have any
questions. All of the questions that were asked were directed at
Chris and myself. After the debate, she approached the Socialist
leader and invited him to join her sociology club because it seemed
like their ideals lined up well. When we left the building, a
member of the class approached Chris and told him that the students
the professor had called out by name were students that had
previously expressed conservative viewpoints in class and that the
professor had viciously attacked them. She said that everyone had
“learned their lesson” about saying anything that could be
construed as conservative and the class was too afraid to speak up
on our behalf during the Q&A. Also, this is just speculation,
but it seemed that we were the only group who did not know about
the debate format.

What message does this send about honest debate in the classroom
under this professor at this university?  

Conservatives are alienated, marginalized, and treated
dishonestly.  Socialists get invited to the professor’s club.  One may ask if the sociology club might not
benefit from more diverse points of view than just those that
“lined up well” with the professor.

It is most amazing that, judging from the Students for Appalachian Socialism website, they have
never really understood the ideologies they claim to
oppose.  Yet the left-wing professor claims that their
world views are similar.  Scary.

Marshall University campus conservatives remain
unbowed.  Several of them attended the Young America’s
Foundation conference in Columbus last month where they were able
to hear similar horror stories from other campuses and hear some of
the top conservative minds in the country discuss ideas on how to
save the country.  They have not given up the fight, not
by a long shot.

Stephen Smoot is the Director of Academic Programs for the National Journalism Center

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