We’ve blogged about the fact that one student on our fall American Politics class complained about “sexual harassment” because we, in class, debunked bogus statistics about date rape on campus
Marquette Provost John Pauly insisted that the complaint be followed up, which resulted in our being summoned into the office of political science chair Barry McCormick
to explain what we had said in class.
It was a clear violation of academic freedom, since the complaint didn’t allege we did anything more than debunk statistics that we judge to be bogus. The student who complained didn’t think such statistics should be debunked, apparently since campus rape is a serious problem (and therefore inflating the scope of the problem serves a good purpose).
This past Monday (January 30) McCormick came into our office, and explained that he and Pauly had decided that we were within our rights to say what we said.
So far, so good, it might seem. But not really.No Written Explanation
McCormick informed us that Pauly was not willing to give us a written explanation of the case, or of the decision. That Marquette would not be willing to put the resolution of the case in writing raises the suspicion that campus bureaucrats might want to revive it in the future, or perhaps fear that it would create a precedent in favor of academic freedom that they might want to ignore at some future date.Complaint Should Have Been Dropped
We told McCormick that the case should never have been pursued, since if the complaint was taken absolutely at face value, no sexual harassment happened. McCormick replied that he informed us during the office meeting why the case needed to be pursued. We asked him to repeat what his explanation was, and he refused.
In fact, he gave no such explanation. During the office meeting, he explained that perhaps a professor might ask a female student to take all her clothes off, and this would clearly need to be dealt with. But nobody accused us of that. All we were accused of was debunking bogus statistics that feminists produce, and our comments were not even directed at a particular student.Protect Academic Freedom in the Future
Marquette needs to provide a clear policy that complaints of sexual harassment will not be used in a way that infringes upon academic freedom. Simply saying something, relevant to the course material, that some feminist doesn’t want to hear is clearly protected by academic freedom. Pauly, and Marquette, are unwilling to provide any such statement, something that clearly implies they want to keep open the option of using “sexual harassment” in the future as a pretext to shut up faculty speech that the politically correct crowd does not like.
They doubtless find this option very desirable, especially for use against some faculty member less combative than we are.Scurrilous Semi-Accusation
Finally, McCormick made a rather scurrilous semi-accusation. He suggested that perhaps we criticized feminists in an “uncivil” way in class. What evidence did he have of that? First, he said we “accused feminists of lying” in our office meeting. What we actually said was that feminists lie about the incidence of rape. That’s a much more limited (and entirely accurate) statement. Secondly, he took exception to the fact that we characterized the person who brought the complaint as a “prissy little feminist” and said that in a properly run university, “some administrator would sit this prissy little feminist down and explain to her ‘this is a university, you are going to hear things you disagree with. Live with it.’”
Of course, we said nothing remotely uncivil in class, and the student didn’t claim that we did.
Liberals, of course, have all kinds of tactics for shutting up speech they don’t like, and if they aren’t willing to escalate to shouting “racist!” or “sexist!” or “homophobe!” will invoke “civility.” McCormick, who is extremely liberal and quite politically correct, seems excessively sensitive to unkind things said about his ideological cohorts.Conclusion
So it seems that a faculty member can be called into the office of an administrator and required to explain his or her speech, even when nobody has claimed that the faculty member did more than say things that a politically correct student didn’t want to hear.
And while somebody who is willing to make an issue of it (as we were) can prevail, Marquette refuses to renounce the sort of attack on academic freedom.
After all, it’s often prudent for administrators to pander to politically correct faculty, given that they are very numerous, and very vociferous in wanting to shut up speech they dislike.
Thus nothing has been settled, and academic freedom remains in huge danger from Marquette officials.
Labels: Academic Freedom, Barrett McCormick, Barry McCormick, Date Rape, Feminism, Feminist Intolerance, John Pauly