Professor still on strike, students upset

Matt Resnick

A Washburn University professor is on strike.

Two weeks ago, Loran Smith, Washburn political science professor, informed his introduction to state and local government class he would no longer show up for lectures unless his students formally invited him for discussion. Smith’s controversial action is designed to let his students know he believes they are not fully engaged in the course material.

“The overall concern when you’re in college is that you want to get an A in every class,” said Scott Tanner, freshman sociology major. “The way I feel is his decision to do this could affect my grade, and I’m not really happy with that. On top of that, the experiment he’s doing isn’t really an experiment with his time, his education or his money so much as it is with my time, my education and my money. That’s the thing that upsets me. I don’t know if he necessarily has the right to do that. On the other hand, I do understand the purpose behind it, but I don’t know if he can expect a change so sudden out of us.”

Mark Peterson, chair of the political science department, fully supports Smith’s stand. Peterson implied Smith disclosed his planned actions to him prior to carrying them out. Peterson also indicated that the student reaction toward Smith’s stand has become more positive as time has passed. Bruce Mactavish, associate dean of College of Arts and Sciences, who has been fielding student complaints, shares similar sentiments. He believes Smith has a passionate commitment to student learning with an approach that is designed for student success.

Smith, who has taught political science at Washburn since 1982, has been invited to attend all but one class since his protest began. Although several students have dropped the class, Smith has no plans to change his stance.

“I’ve presented a problem to them,” said Smith. “Outside the campus, when people are confronted with a problem, they normally try to take some particular action to solve it. There are a number of things they can do. Either they haven’t thought of them or they don’t realize they can do something about it. All of us who are educators realize that the learning that takes place in the classroom is very quickly forgotten in that environment, because it isn’t your learning, it’s somebody else’s.”

Smith stressed that knowledge is gained by the effort an individual puts into the learning process.

“Students have got to want to learn and be willing to do work outside of class to develop curiosity or satisfy curiosity,” said Smith. “If students don’t have curiosity, they really aren’t learning anything.”