A master’s student in social work at Rhode Island College failed a course because he refused to lobby the legislature for liberal causes he didn’t support, reports FIRE. Bill Felkner took Professor James Ryczek’s fall 2004 “Policy and Organizing” class, which required students to lobby for one of a list of causes, none of which Felkner supported.
Felkner about the showing of Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 911, asking if a movie critiquing Moore would be shown at the school. Professor Ryczek responded: “Social Work is a value-based profession that clearly articulates a socio-political ideology about how the world works and how the world should be.” The National Association of Social Workers has a PAC “working actively to defeat Bush.”
So, as a social worker, I don’t find it at all unusual that a film like 9/11 might officially be sponsored by the school, and that the alternate view film might not be sponsored. In short, by and large as a profession we do take sides…and indeed in this school, we have a mission devoted to the value of social and economic justice.
Now that being said, I don’t think anyone here would want to quash alternative views. Again, as I have said in class…I want us to have an open discussion and debate about issues. In fact, questioning is an extremely important social work skill . . .
Yet, if a student finds that they are consistently and regularly experiencing opposite views from what is being taught and espoused in the curriculum, or the professional “norms” that keep coming up in class and in field, then their fit with the profession will not get any more comfortable, and in fact will most likely become increasingly uncomfortable.
Conform or get out.
Later, “Ryczek assigned students to form groups to lobby the Rhode Island legislature for social welfare programs from an approved list.” Felkner was denied his request to lobby against one of the programs, so he joined a group backing a program he opposes, but wrote a dissenting paper.
Ryczek failed this paper, writing, “Regardless of the content, application of theory, and critical analysis, you did not write from the perspective you were required to use in this academic exercise. Therefore, the paper is must [sic] receive a failing grade.”
Felkner is now retaking the course from a different professor, who’s said he can choose his own issue but will receive a lower grade if his group doesn’t include “Policy and Organizing” classmates, all of whom are lobbying for a liberal program.