Out over the weekend, a nasty attack on this blog by several Marquette Arts & Sciences Department chairs
– and signed onto by a handful of Marquette faculty – posted on a blog that has been dedicated, for the last few days, to harassing us.
It resulted from our reporting of the misconduct of a Philosophy Department instructor who told a student who wanted to discuss gay marriage in class that his views were “homophobic,”
and that any airing of opposition to gay marriage should not be allowed since it would “offend” any gay students in the class.
The list of department chairs who signed on is interesting.
Lowell Barrington, Political Science
Nancy Snow, Philosophy
James Marten, History
Jane Peterson, Social and Cultural Sciences
Krista Ratcliffe, English
John Grych, Psychology
Anne Pasero, Foreign Languages and Literatures
Robert Masson, Theology
With just a couple of exceptions, it’s pretty much a roll of the politically correct department chairs. Masson, for example, is a big proponent of the doctrine of “white privilege”
which holds that white people owe what they have to the exploitation of black people. It doesn’t matter if you never owned slaves. It doesn’t matter if an ancestor died fighting on the Union side in the Civil War. You should feel guilty.
Snow was the lesbian philosopher with the bullhorn heading protests demanding the hiring of aggressively lesbian Arts & Sciences Dean job candidate Jodi O’Brien.
Snow, Marten, Ratcliffe, and Pasero all signed a petition to hire O’Brien
. Barrington wore a button at the commencement following the hiring fiasco supporting O’Brien’s hiring.
Who’s Not There
Notable are departments not included: Economics, Math, and the natural sciences (Biology, Chemistry, Physics). Those departments are in “hard” disciplines where there is much less room for political correctness.
And indeed, every one of the few people who have signed onto the statement in the comments section is (as of this writing) from one of the departments whose chairs signed, with the exception of Sharon Chubbuck in Education. Chubbuck wrote an essay
where she demeaned two students who did not want to use the classroom to indoctrinate pupils saying they were showing “ the blinders of their common white, middle- to upper-middle class experiences.”
Of course, if the signers generally represent politically correct departments, it doesn’t follow that everybody in their departments is a politically correct leftist. There is a substantial number of more conservative and traditionalist scholars in the Philosophy Department. But they are a dwindling number, since the politically correct faction controls hiring.
Political Science leans clearly left, but isn’t very politically correct, Barrington’s signature to the contrary.
And it doesn’t follow that departments not involved in attacking us support us. More likely they simply haven’t been following this brouhaha, and/or don’t really care. But it remains the case that this is a tempest in a teapot, involving a very few faculty in the humanities and social sciences.
Evaluating the Claims
The illogic of the Department Chairs statement is not only evident when it is taken as a whole, but also in virtually every sentence. Let’s take them one at a time:
We support Ms. Abbate and deeply regret that she has experienced harassment and intimidation as a direct result of Prof. McAdams’s actions.
All we did was to report, accurately, the inappropriate actions of Abbate in demeaning a student, and claiming that gay students should not be exposed to any arguments against gay marriage. It is true that, when the story went national, she was subjected to some nasty e-mails and blog comments (although nothing required her to read the blog with the nastiest comments).
But then we got nasty comments too
. When one does something that gets national publicity, some jerks are going to say nasty things. Neither we nor anybody at Marquette can help that.
Prof. McAdams’s actions—which have been reported in local and national media outlets—have harmed the personal reputation of a young scholar as well as the academic reputation of Marquette University.
If accurate reporting harms someone’s reputation, that is fair enough. And if accurate reporting harms Marquette’s reputation, that is also fair enough. The argument here seems to be that certain information needs to be concealed to protect reputations. No journalist would accept that. The rule should be “tell the truth and let the chips fall where they may.”
This, of course, is a classic case of blaming the messenger. It was Abbate’s actions toward the student which caused the problem, and even then it was not newsworthy until Marquette officials failed to address the problem.
When the student complained to the Dean’s office, he was directed to Philosophy Department Chair Nancy Snow. Snow could have told the student that Abbate was out of line, and that it was not Marquette’s position that opposition to gay marriage is “homophobic” nor that gays should be protected from hearing arguments against it.
Indeed, Snow could have had a little talk with Abbate and advised her against making inflammatory statements to students, and told her that Marquette’s policy is that all students (straight or gay) should equally be confronted in class with arguments they might dislike. No need for even a paper trail on that. But instead, Snow demanded the name of the employee who had advised the student to seek redress.
Having not received any redress, the student came to us.
Ironically, Snow vigorously attacked Marquette over the issue of its failure to hire Jodi O’Brien. Snow was the lesbian philosopher with the bullhorn condemning Marquette for its action.
So it seems we have a double standard here: attacking Marquette from the left is acceptable, but any attack from the right is evil since it harms Marquette’s “academic reputation.”
Does our blog post harm Abbate, for example making it harder for her to get an academic job?
If there are some colleges out there who don’t want instructors who tell students that opposition to gay marriage is homophobic, Abbate might not get hired there. That is appropriate. We feel no obligation to suppress information to help her get a job
But of course, in an increasingly politically correct philosophy profession, hiring in a lot of departments is dominated by people who think pretty much as Abbate does.
Further, she has made no effort to conceal her political views, having on her blog an essay about how all men are responsible for rape.
(She has taken her blog private [https://aphilosophersblog.wordpress.com/
] but we got a brief summary of her article from Google cache
They have negatively affected campus climate, especially as it relates to gender and sexual orientation.
Just how is this the case? Is the claim that female instructors can’t be criticized, but males can? Is the claim that a good “campus climate” for gays requires that views of which they might disapprove be suppressed? Saying so implies that gays are a bunch of either wimps (if they are fearful upon hearing certain opinions) or bigots (if they get bent out of shape on hearing things they disagree with).
Interestingly, the politically correct crowd cares nothing about the “campus climate” for groups other than their pet victim groups.
How did it affect the “campus climate” for Jews when various Marquette offices sponsored an “Israeli Apartheid” week
And how about the “campus climate” for conservative Christians who don’t believe in evolution, but get taught about it in a biology class?
(We once had a student who was disturbed that he was being taught about evolution in Norman Sullivan’s Physical Anthropology class. We told him he had to suck it up and accept that if you take Physical Anthropology, you are going to learn about evolution.)
Politically correct people won’t accept these analogies, of course, since they sharply distinguish between victims groups who must be protected, and other groups who must bear the burden of having their beliefs contradicted. But we don’t accept this distinction, and Marquette can’t officially accept it.
And they have led members of the Marquette community to alter their behavior out of fear of becoming the subject of one of his attacks.
We don’t control anybody’s behavior. But if people fear that, when they do something dumb or prejudiced or inappropriate, we will out them, that’s dandy. The politically correct crowd seems to think they have a right to do things that are highly questionable and have them kept secret.
How might we have “altered” people’s behavior?
- In 2006, a graduate student in Philosophy (note how it keeps popping up) put an innocuous political quote on his door. Department Chair James South decided it was “patently offensive” and tore it down. We blogged about it. Will South be less likely to do things like this again? That’s his call, but we hope he will.
- In 2008, and student in Nancy Snow’s class responded to her lecture on “racial profiling” by giving the cops’ view of the issue. Snow tried to shut him up, and then, after class, insisted that he write an apology to two black students in the class. It was assumed they were “offended.” (There is that word again) We blogged about it. Did that make her less likely to shut down certain viewpoints?
- In 2013, the Gender and Sexuality Resource Center sponsored a program called “Femsex” where a variety of sexual issues were discussed (often in ways contrary to Catholic teaching), and participants engaged in a variety of exercises, including coloring pictures of female genitalia in the “Cunt Coloring Book.” We blogged about it. Marquette, insisting that it was contrary to its Catholic mission, removed official sponsorship (although the participants were free to continue sans such sponsorship). Will Marquette bureaucrats think twice before sponsoring that sort of thing again? We hope so.
In short, we have only been able to “alter behavior” when people were doing something that could not stand scrutiny, and could not be defended when exposed.
Perhaps worst of all, Prof. McAdams has betrayed his role as a faculty member by pitting one set of students against another.
So all students are suppose to agree? So undergraduates exposed to abuse by an instructor are not supposed to seek redress? So if it hadn’t been for that troublemaker McAdams everything would be dandy? It would
be from the standpoint of campus bureaucrats, but not from that of students who are attacked and demeaned and silenced.
by claiming the protection of academic freedom while trying to deny it to others, and by exploiting current political issues to promote his personal agenda.
Our “personal agenda” is to protect students from the excesses of political correctness at Marquette. The “personal agenda” of those to signed the statement is to subject students to the dictates of political correctness.
It’s deeply ironic that those who want Marquette administrators to shut us up are claiming that we want to deny “academic freedom” to others. We can’t deny academic freedom to anybody. We can only report what they do and say.
Professors have a long history of thinking that “academic freedom” includes freedom from being criticized. They happily say what they want to say, and then whine when others say their positions are wrong, or misguided, or downright evil.
But in a free society, freedom works both ways. The people who criticize the professors have the same free speech rights as the professors. And professors have the right to criticize other professors. The politically correct types, living in the insular little environment of an academic department, have trouble understanding that.
The intellectual shoddiness of the attack on us raises all kinds of questions, the most fundamental one being the lack of tolerance for free speech. Leftist professors who would be quite happy having Marquette attacked from the left on issues like “diversity” and “sustainability” go bananas when their own behavior is criticized.
The notion of a robust free market in ideas is fine when they are the only player in the market.
It’s “free speech for me, but not for thee.” And it’s a symptom of the increasing intolerance of academia.