The Branding Of Coursework

Political scientist Amanda Murdie suggests that it makes a big difference:

Before coming to Mizzou, I taught in Kansas State’s Security Studies program. The program was mainly comprised of Army officers from the Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth. The first time I taught a grad course on government repression, I called the course “Global Human Rights.” Not a single soldier signed up. The second time I taught the course I called it “Human Security.” The course maxed out and most of the enrollees were active-duty military. The content of the course was exactly the same.

But civilian academia appears just as biased:

My coauthors and I submitted a paper to a human rights journal last fall where I used a human security frame. The content of the paper concerned how military interveners and NGOs influence government respect for freedom from torture, political killings, etc. – clearly a traditional human rights topic. It also focused on how outside interveners influenced development and health outcomes, which are also both human rights and human security concerns. The paper was rejected based solely on a referee report that stated that our use of the “human security” frame meant that we didn’t know the existing human rights literature.

Update from a reader:

When I was in college at Columbia in the early 1990s, I signed up for a class called “Utopias: Quest and Community” in the religion department. On the first day, four other students showed up. The professor (Gillian Lindt) was shocked. “I taught the exact same class last year, and over 100 students signed up.” The year before it was titled “Cults.”