Campus News

Student sparks conversation after posting class concerns on Facebook

A student received an outpour of attention on Facebook after highlighting a troubling course syllabus.

A UW-Madison student voiced concerns of a culturally insensitive class syllabus in a Facebook post Wednesday.

After attending the first day of Political Science 347: Terrorism, Ali Khan, a UW-Madison senior, was left angered by the material presented to him in class. Khan criticized the class material in a Facebook post which detailed that it lacked necessary content.

“You cannot define terrorism singularly by the actions of terrorist groups or non-state actors without including state-sponsored terrorism,” Khan said in the post.

Khan said it is also troubling that one of the modules on the syllabus is vaguely titled Jihad.

“This legitimizes a perception that the concept of Jihad is one-dimensional, single-faceted, and inherently violent and connected to terrorism,” Khan said in the post.

According to the BBC, the literal meaning of Jihad is struggle or effort. This word is used to describe three types of struggle: A believer's internal struggle to live out the Muslim faith as well as possible, the struggle to build a good Muslim society, or the struggle to defend Islam.

The syllabus was not the only thing that surprised Khan. When Professor Andrew Kydd began his lecture, Khan said that Kydd pulled up multiple photos of different people and instructed the students to “spot the terrorist.”

Khan said that in his previous political science courses sensitive material, like that of Political Science 347, has been presented in a better way.

“Professors terminology and the way they bring up concepts does matter,” Khan said.

Adam Yeazel, another student in Political Science 347, agreed that professors words and actions are important. He said when a situation like this occurs, a professor must recognize their fault and take action to fix their mistake, even if their original intentions were innocent.

Khan said this isn’t an isolated incident at UW because some political science and ethnic studies courses do not properly represent the cultures being discussed.

Khan believes reforming these courses and hiring faculty that represent the various cultures being taught could be a step in the right direction for UW-Madison.

Yeazel also said their needs to be a change at UW-Madison, suggesting that syllabi should undergo a cultural competency review before they are handed out in class.

Plenty of students seem to agree with both Khan and Yeazel according to the outpour of likes, shares and comments that Khan’s Facebook post received. Khan said not all the feedback has been positive, but that does not discourage him from voicing a problem that many people face.

“Being a Muslim in American you need to have your defenses up and be knowledgeable about your community which is attacked so often. If I was ignorant about my own community, I wouldn’t be able to stand up for it,” he said.

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