Heather Schmidt deserves better.
A 20-year-old veteran, Heather served in the U.S. Army's Psychological Operations Forces.
Heather's husband, Michael, has been in Iraq since February serving in Ramadi. The couple are proud parents of beautiful twin girls, Aisslyn and Bonnie.
While leaving her daughters with Mom in Berthoud, Heather attended Colorado State University, taking courses focusing on international relations.
Heather Schmidt deserves better than professor Steven Helmericks.
Helmericks is a part-time sociology professor at CSU who used his teaching position to bully a student who disagreed with him.
Fortunately, as a soldier and a mother, Heather isn't that easily intimidated.
Helmericks teaches a course in the analysis of human societies and "their major institutions, organizations and interaction patterns from the sociological perspective."
According to Heather, the professor used his class as a personal political platform, stating he was "(insert scatological expletive here) off" with our current world situation - the Republicans, not the terrorists, of course.
Heather relates how Helmericks told the class he was a Marxist and was going to spend the day talking about the "un-great" Ronald Reagan. Then he explained to the class that Marxism was "wonderful" and handed out a work sheet of Marx quotations.
Helmericks proceeded to draw an illustration on the chalkboard of a funnel, all the while discussing "false ideologies" like patriotism. He then drew pointy ears and a dumb expression on the face - a rendering of President Bush.
Heather wasn't impressed by her professor's cerebral or artistic skills. She also didn't believe the classroom was the proper forum for a prejudiced political haranguing.
"He's sending boys and girls out to die for no (insert blasphemous expletive here) reason," Helmericks went on, and students should "raise hell" and question authority. Heather did.
"Excuse me, my husband is in Iraq right now, and I don't appreciate you saying that he is out there dying for no reason. These men and women in Iraq chose to serve their country."
Helmericks dismissed her and went on.
After class, Heather confronted her professor: "If you are going to criticize the president, please do it in a more appropriate manner. I feel this to be highly inappropriate for class and offensive."
Helmericks explained that there were a "number of things" she would find offensive in the class, and that she should choose a different class. Then, he got extraordinarily angry and raised his voice, "No! Sending boys and girls to die is inappropriate! You should go to a different class!"
A man who lectured his students on "raising hell" and criticizing authority wasn't especially keen on having his authority questioned.
Bottom line, Heather was not accorded the respect called for by a provision in House Bill 1315, a nonbinding academic freedom bill whose provisions were adopted by the president of CSU, Larry Penley.
It states that "students have a right to expect that their academic freedom will not be infringed by instructors who create a hostile environment toward their political or religious beliefs."
CSU has acted, though the punishment has not been made public. Helmericks sent Heather a "letter of regret."
"This is a part-time faculty member, and he said things in class that he apologized for," explained Lou Swanson, chairman of the department of sociology at CSU. "He and I had a long talk about learning environments and closing down discussion and what we expect, and he was very apologetic."
That's a good first step. But perhaps the most suitable punishment would be to ask Helmericks to seek a single nation on Earth where the citizens believe Marx's ideals improved their lives.
If he finds one, he can apply at the local university.