This isn’t new (it happened in the spring semester 2013), but it just got brought to our attention, and it’s too important (and outrageous) to pass up.
It started when the male Philosophy professor and a female faculty member (Susanne Foster), happened to meet, and discussion turned to an event which, by happenstance, was attended by several female faculty members. The male professor referred to the event as a “girls night out.”
Foster apparently took umbrage at the phrase “girls night out.”
And there it all should have ended. Except that Philosophy is one of the most leftist and politically correct departments in the university, and academic feminists are always on the lookout for a grievance.
Taking it to the Department Chair
So Foster contacted Department Chair James South, complaining about the incident.
South wrote a letter to the male professor, accusing him of “sexual harassment,” and placed it in his personnel file. South also apparently reported the incident to Human Resources, noting a supposed pattern of “sexism” on the part of the professor.
Vindication in Two Steps
First, the accused professor filed a grievance with South, giving his side of the story. South agreed to remove the letter from the professors file, and to retract the claims made to Human Resources.
South declined to comment to The Marquette Warrior
about this incident, and it’s unclear whether he actually repented of what he had done, or merely came to realize that he had no leg to stand on under university rules. No charge of sexual harassment had been made through official channels, much less adjudicated to be true.
The Money Issue
The professor also demanded that Marquette pay the $1,000 in legal fees he had incurred. The University refused, saying that university procedures do not require that one have legal representation.
This was the position taken by then Arts & Sciences Dean Phil Rossi, and then Provost John Pauly. So the professor appealed to the Faculty Hearing Committee. In May, 2013, it issued its verdict.
On the professor’s request legal fees, the committee concluded “that university policies were violated by the actions taken by Dr. South against [the professor], and that his request for reimbursement of legal expenses is warranted.”
This verdict, communicated to the new acting Provost, Margaret Callahan, resulted in the professor’s legal bills being paid. This was an important action. It established the precedent that someone in a university, faced with charges against them, is not required to master the arcane rules of university procedure and employment law unassisted.
This should have ended it, but even a year later (February, 2014) some faculty members in Philosophy were spreading the story that the professor had been officially reprimanded for sexist behavior. He felt the need to send out a circular letter to faculty and teaching assistants in Philosophy refuting that charge.
So What is Going On Here?
In part, this is simply the political correctness typical of academia, especially from feminists, and especially in humanities departments.
They actually consider the phrase “girls night out” to be offensive. But the entire rest of the world does not.
One can simply Google the phrase “girls night out.”
The search turns out a massive number of results. Events titled “Girls’ Night Out” are sponsored by about every reputable, mainstream organization one can imagine.
Just the uses of the phrase important enough to be mentioned in Wikipedia are:
- Girls’ Night Out is the name of:
- Girls’ Night Out (The Judds song), a 1985 number one country hit by The Judds
- Girls’ Night Out (film), a Korean movie
- Girls’ Night Out (album), an album by Toronto
- Girls’ Night Out (album), an album by Candy Dulfer
- “Girls’ Night Out” (Danny Phantom), a Danny Phantom episode
- “Girls’ Night Out” (The New Batman Adventures), an episode from the TV series The New Batman Adventures
- “Girl’s Night Out” is an episode from the fourth series of Ally McBeal
- Girls’ Night Out, a song by Miley Cyrus from the album Hannah Montana 2: Meet Miley Cyrus
- Girls Night Out, an anthology by Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez
Wikipedia defines the phrase as follows: “A ‘girls’ night out’ is a gender-exclusive activity where women meet to engage in social activities.”
It seems that only in the rarified world of academic feminism is “girls night out” a sexist phrase.
James South, remember, is the fellow who ripped down from a graduate student’s office door a quote from libertarian humorist Dave Berry
The quote read:
“As Americans we must always remember that we all have a common enemy, an enemy that is dangerous, powerful, and relentless. I refer, of course, to the federal government.”
South insisted this was “patently offensive” and that “hallways and office doors are not ‘free-speech zones.’”
But It’s More Complicated Than This
The Philosophy Department has been riven by a deep divide between more traditional scholars and a more trendy, leftist and politically correct faction.
The latter group (which includes South and Foster) have generally been in control. Increasingly, they have a voting majority of faculty since, after all, they control hiring, and hire people like themselves. When they have lacked a majority they have often engaged in manipulation: votes have been taken, and if the vote turns out the “wrong way” it is declared to be “inoperative.”
With some frequency, the Arts & Sciences Dean’s office has intervened to dictate decisions, and impose the desires of the politically correct faction.
In one recent case, such an intervention had the Philosophy Department on track to have two experts on Buddhism, but no expert on Plato! Happily, this fell through.
The professor changed with sexism has been among the group critical of South and his allies, and this looks for all the world like a form of retaliation for the professor’s opposition in departmental politics.
Vindicated, but So What?
One of the more disturbing things about this incident is that both South and Foster now have positions in the Office of the Dean of Arts & Sciences. Which suggests they have the ear of Arts & Science Dean Rick Holz. Our interaction with Holz suggests that he’s an intelligent and competent technocrat. But does he have the savvy (and the vision) to avoid being manipulated by his staffers to intervene in the affairs of the Philosophy Department to move the department further in a direction contrary to what should be the norm in such a department in a Catholic university?
Time will tell.
But at the moment, internal politics in the Philosophy Department is a mess. An external search for a faculty hire to come in an take the job of Department Chair is underway. Under better circumstances, departments can reach a fairly easy consensus on a current faculty member that faculty trust to take that role.
But Marquette’s Philosophy Department is an example of what happens when traditionally Catholic universities are infiltrated and then taken over by the dominant ideologies of broader academia.