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Are Professors Perpetuating Bias in the Classroom?

Are Professors Perpetuating Bias in the Classroom?

In a Poll Conducted by The Collegian, Students Report Incidents of Bias From Professors 

By Ashley Herber 

Despite Walla Walla University’s inclusivity goals, roughly 70% of students polled have experienced political, spiritual, racial and/or gender bias in the classroom, while about 30% of students report that WWU is inclusive.  

Walla Walla University strives to uphold the values and standards of both an entity of higher education and those of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. But according to an Instagram poll, WWU professors may show bias towards students.  

In the student handbook, WWU asserts that, “As members of Walla Walla University, we are committed to learning and practicing in ways that support a Christ-like, caring, and socially just community. This can include any individual asking others to stop disrespectful or abusive speech and/or disruptive behavior. Therefore, we will not tolerate disrespectful or abusive speech and/or disruptive behavior from individuals or groups.” [1] 

These goals help make students feel safe to voice their opinions and beliefs as well as to promote equality and diversity on campus. However, a recent poll on The Collegian Instagram shows that out of 170 students, roughly 70% experienced political, spiritual, racial, and/or gender bias in the classroom. [2] 

WWU does their best to uphold high inclusivity standards, but students report bias from professors. Photo by Ashely Herber. 

Instagram poll results: 

Have you ever experienced political bias by teachers in the classroom? 131 voted yes and 39 voted no. 

Have you ever experienced spiritual bias by teachers in the classroom? 131 voted yes and 38 voted no. 

Have you ever experienced racial bias by teachers in the classroom? 58 voted yes and 114 voted no. 

Have you ever experienced gender bias by teachers in the classroom? 100 voted yes and 78 voted no. [3] 

Alyssa Dorland, a senior elementary education major, shared her experience with gender bias in the classroom. She explained that as both a female and an elementary education major, she was often talked down to in science and math classes. According to Dorland, professors assumed that she didn’t understand concepts and overexplained the material. [4]  

Dorland said, “I think generally as women in education we are looked at as having chosen the profession that fits our gender and our intelligence level, which I don’t think is an accurate assumption. It is the combination of [being a woman and an education major] that has resulted in bias for me.” [5] 

Dorland said that the problem was with specific professors and not with departments as a whole. One male professor was particularly biased against female students, and Dorland even reported the professor in the end of quarter review of the class. [6] 

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Nick Humphries, a sophomore business major, explained that he has seen other students experience political bias. He also shared that there are professors who are very vocal about their political views and who sometimes express their beliefs in unpleasant ways. He remembers one professor who compared Trump to Hitler and the fascism of the 1930s in class. Humphries also remembered a different professor becoming angry at a student who voiced a different political opinion. [7] 

However, some students report that WWU is very inclusive and have never experienced bias from professors.  

Allie Keeling, a freshman psychology major, shared that although she experienced political bias against her in high school, she has not experienced it here at WWU. [8] 

Keeling said, “I believe that it’s a lot more accepting here because there are a lot of people who are very centered. From what I have experienced, it’s been pretty welcoming.” [9] 

The WWU Office of Diversity and Inclusion is committed to “promote learning and working environments free of discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, gender, age, ability, or veteran’s status.” [10] 

To support inclusion on campus, WWU has given Pedrito Maynard-Reid, head of the WWU Office of Diversity and Inclusion, a key role in important decision-making meetings on campus. To alert the Office of Diversity and Inclusion about bias experienced in the classroom, report bias from a professor to Reid@wallawalla.edu. [11] 

References: 

  1. Walla Walla University. student handbook and code of conduct. Retrieved from https://www.wallawalla.edu/?id=5076
  1. Instagram poll conducted by Aswwucollegian, 2021, January 19.  
  1. Ibid. 
  1. Interview with Alyssa Dorland, 1/22/2021. 
  1. Ibid. 
  1. Ibid. 
  1. Interview with Nick Humphries, 1/22/2021. 
  1. Interview with Allie Keeling, 1/22/2021. 
  1. Ibid. 
  1. Walla Walla University. office of diversity and inclusion. Retrieved from http://bit.ly/3ojtwA7. 
  1. Ibid. 
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