February 09, 2005

Prof. Joseph Woolcock Responds to Student's Allegations

Prof. Joseph Woolcock was accused by Kuwaiti student Ahmad al-Qloushi of ordering him to seek psychological counseling for his pro-American views.

Professor Woolcock responded to the accusation by dropping a comment in this post written at The Jawa Report by Gordon. After doing an initial IP search and contacting him, Prof. Woolcock confirmed that he had left the comment and had sent the same as a press release to the various MSM outlets. Ok, so we're not exactly the MSM---but I guess we'll do in a pinch! Here is what he says in his defense:

I have been asked by a number of news organizations about my interaction in late November 2004 with a Foothill College student Ahmad al-Qloushi. This is my response.

In mid-November 2004, Ahmad al-Qloushi came to see me at my request to discuss the outline of his Final Research Paper assignment in the course : “Introduction to American Government & Politics.” He had failed to write the mid-term assignment and had chosen to write his final paper on a topic we both agreed would be a challenge for him. Recognizing that he would have difficulty completing the assignment, I offered him the opportunity to write his paper on a less challenging topic from the mid-term assignment list of topics. We agreed that should he take up the offer, I would not only discount the points he failed to earn at mid-term, but I would also work with him on the outline, and on the review of a draft copy of the paper before he submitted it for grading. Mr. al-Qloushi agreed to do that. However, he turned in his final written assignment without returning for the assistance which we had agreed on earlier. When I read the paper, it became clear to me that it did not respond to the question.

In late November, after grading all final papers, I asked Mr. al-Qloushi to come
and discuss with me the grade. During this meeting, I sought from him his
reasons for reneging on our earlier agreement. In response, he expressed in
great detail, concerns and feelings of high anxiety he was having about certain
developments which had occurred over ten years ago in his country. Some aspects of his concerns were similar to certain concerns expressed in his paper.

Based on the nature of the concerns and the feelings of high anxiety which he
expressed, I encouraged him to visist one of the college counselors. I neither
forced nor ordered Mr. al-Qloushi to see a counselor; I have no authority to do
so. My suggestion to him was a recommendation he freely chose to accept and
which he acknowledged in an e-mail message to me on December 1, 2004.

Foothill College counselors are competent and highly respected professionals
capable of providing professional services to students, and faculty members are
always encouraged by the college administration to make such referrals to
college counselors as the need may arise.

In my conversation with Mr. al-Qloushi, I did not make any reference, explicitly
or implicity, to the Dean of International Students or to any other Dean. In my
conversation with Mr. al-Qloushi, I did not make any reference, explicit or
implicit, to Mr. al-Qloushi’s status as an international student. At the time of
our conversation, Mr. al-Qolushi was still enrolled in my class, but after he
met with the counselor, he never returned to the class.

I deny unequivocally all the allegations Mr. al-Qloushi has attributed to me
regarding my suggestion to him that it might be helpful for him to discuss his
long-standing concerns with a college counselor, as I have described here. All
the other allegations made are false and have no basis whatsoever in fact.

Professor Joseph A. Woolcock

As a college professor let me make two observations in defense of both al-Qloushi and Woolcock.

First, students have a tendency to blow things way out of proportion, take professors the wrong way, or misinterpret what the professor is saying. Here's an example. On Tuesday I was describing an upcoming trip to D.C. and told the students how we would not be going on the White House tour. After class a student accused me of not going to the White House because I was a liberal Democrat. "If your man Bill Clinton were in the White House I bet you'd go," she said. Either I'm doing my job way too well and disguising my political beliefs or this student was just psycho.

This happens all the time. In fact, not a semester goes by where at least one student doesn't accuse me of giving them an F because I don't like their politics or have some personal vendetta against them. The fact is that neither is true.

The reason I give so many students an F is because there is no lower grade to give.

Second, it is understandable why this student might perceive bias in an Introduction to American Government class, especially one that uses Dye and Ziegler's The Irony of Democracy. There is a definite leftist bias on American campuses. In my own department the biases are rarely overt, but come out in the snide remarks, jokes, or what passes as irony by the faculty. Because we are so insulated, most professors are not even aware of their own biases. To their credit, when these biases are pointed out to most of my colleagues they at least make an attempt at fairness.

On top of these biases Dye and Ziegler prove difficult reading for students. You see, The Irony of Democracy is written from an elitist point of view. Elitism rejects pluralism in favor of a model of democratic participation where the few lead the many. The problem for students is that they do not understand the difference between a normative model and an empirical model. Dye and Ziegler do not argue that elites should lead, but that this is simply the nature of social relations. It is neither bad nor good--it simply is. In fact, if my reading of Dye is correct then he is a Conservative Republican. But students just have a difficult time seeing this and think the book bashes the Founders. It does not.

Since facts are in dispute in this controversy I am not able to say which are true. However, my own experience suggests that Professor Woolcock's version of the events are probably accurate. Students often mistake the intentions of their professors.

Further, students have the tendency to think that we really give a rat's ass what their political beliefs are. We don't. In fact, there is nothing personal about the grading process at all. We don't give you an A if we like yo and and F if we don't. We rarely think of you at all.

It's not that we don't feel for you, we do. It really breaks my heart to have to give the number of Fs that I do. It's just that we don't care.

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For more background on the Ahmad Al-Qloushi allegations see this article written by the student.

For other professor's takes see:
James Joyner
Steve Taylor
Betsy Newmark
Northern Alliance

For blogosphere reaction to the initial accusations see:
Michelle Malkin
Wizbang
Pandagon
Blackfive
Hyscience
California Yankee
Samizdata

(Cross posted at Anticipatory Retaliation and Demosophia)

By Rusty Shackleford, Ph.D. at 10:36 AM | Comments |