One of the marchers, Penn Asian-American Studies professor Ajay Nair, said he recommended that students in two of his classes attend the rally.
"We've also invited community folks to come and talk about immigration," Nair said. "I've been getting my classes mobilized."
Here is Erin O'Connor's critical reaction at ACTA Online:
As one might expect, the spectacle of a professor working to "get his classes mobilized" was presented by the DP as completely acceptable practice--despite the fact that Nair's behavior is quite ethically questionable, not to mention pedagogically irresponsible. Using the classroom to promote political views is just what professors do; Nair can thus be forthright about it, and the paper can report it matter-of-factly, without surprise or comment.
Of course, it's not quite that simple. Nair is teaching a course called "South Asians in the U.S." this spring. One could easily imagine that a comment on the current immigration crisis could be relevant in a classroom with a strong emphasis on the sociology of a particular immigrant group. It might be appropriate to directly express one's political views if it's on-topic and well-defended
I got this through Tim Burke, who has some reservations about using one's classroom to "mobilize" one's students, but who nevertheless argues that context has to be considered:
Classrooms are spaces of exploration, but they are also spaces of constraint as well. Some subjects dictate certain kinds of gravity and weight by their nature. You don’t open up Holocaust denial in a class on the Holocaust. Perhaps for similar reasons you don’t open up an argument in a course called "South Asians in the US" that all South Asians should be sent home because the US is a white country. There are boundaries.
But yes, I do think that saying you’re "mobilizing" your students is at least a red flag moment that raises a concern about whether you’re really creating a range of possible outcomes, whether you’re teaching in an exploratory and thus empowering manner. The point is to red flag it for the right reasons.
I would never use my classroom to "mobilize" my students, but then all my courses have literature at the center, so it's hard to imagine that this particular situation would arise. The course Nair is teaching is in Asian Studies and is defined by different parameters, so different rules about how to handle politics are likely to apply. Still, though I don't think that political views are by any means always off-limits, I have to agree with Tim Burke (and in this case, with Erin O'Connor too) about the red flag that word ("mobilizes") raises.
Incidentally, in case you're wondering who Ajay Nair is, here is a short profile.