Abuse From the Politically Correct Crowd Over Instructor Who Said Gay Students Would Be Offended at Discussion of Gay Marriage
Some of the abuse has been in personal e-mails to us. For example:
Ben Mulitski [firstname.lastname@example.org]
You are what’s wrong with this world-- spreading hatred for the sake of spreading hatred. Free speech is unimportant when the viewpoints expressed are blatantly wrong.
Then we have an another e-mail, sent to us:
Buck, Brandon [email@example.com]Yes, another view into the id of the politically correct. Anti-white racism and anti-male sexism. And of course ageism.
As usual, just a privileged old White MALE tryin’ to talk about who should feel offended and who shouldn’t. And, as usual, another privileged old white male tryin’ to do all he can to ensure that a female philosopher feels marginalized and denigrated.
You are a small human being.
Buck then upped the ante by e-mailing the entire political science faculty.
Buck, Brandon [firstname.lastname@example.org]
As an MU alum, I’m thoroughly disappointed because, at this point, your silence is deafening. And your silence renders you equally culpable. This isn’t just another case of McAdams being McAdams. This isn’t a case of intellectual liberty to express unpopular ideas.
Whatever went down in that ethics course, the fact remains that the TA is a Marquette student. As a student, she’s entrusted to the care of MU faculty (that’s you!). McAdams’s actions violated the fiduciary responsibility he has toward ALL students at Marquette. The same fiduciary responsibility you all share. By publicly attacking a student in this way, he has potentially caused her emotional and psychological trauma. He has violated a student’s privacy, and has deliberately and intentionally caused her harm with neither care nor appropriate foresight. For these reasons, McAdams is not fit to serve as a faculty member at ANY university.
To be clear, the university is not only a marketplace of ideas. It’s a place where young people can become grow to become good people.
Maybe as a novice educator with no training provided by the university, the TA felt she wasn’t yet adequately prepared to handle a conversation about gay marriage in a responsible way. Perhaps she intended to consult the advice of her advisor; or maybe she wanted to invite conversation on the topic during another class session in a more structured way. In either case, her unwillingness to engage the conversation at that particular time during that particular class could equally signal prudence and a sense of responsibility for all her students (two virtues McAdams is obviously lacking).
In any event the incident provided a valuable learning opportunity for all students involved. And instead of helping an aspiring academic grow and become a better person and a better pedagogue, McAdams chose to publicly humiliate, disparage and attack her. McAdams is flatly pathetic and there’s no place for that in your esteemed department, at Marquette--or any university.
Along with his immediate termination, he should also be subject to civil liability. And the fact remains that, as long as you all stand silently by, you’re equally morally culpable.
Doctoral Fellow, Philosophy and Education
GA/TA, Department of Education Policy & Social Analysis
Teachers College, Columbia University
Other ArgumentsSome responses were less deranged, but still misguided.
Some attackers accused us of taking Abbate’s comments out of context. We have no time to prepare an entire transcript of the exchange between Abbate and the student, but we did supply the entire audio to a reporter for Inside Higher Ed, and she confirmed both the thrust and the details of what we reported.
The reporter, Colleen Flaherty, got a response from Abbate, and Abbate admitted that she said “it seemed right to me” that a ban on gay marriage would violate Rawls’ principle of equal liberty, which was the text being discussed. This is not precisely what the student reported to us, but it’s easy to see how the student would have perceived the instructor blowing off an issue that he wanted to discuss.
Flaherty confirmed that we e-mailed Abbate, and asked for her version of what happened. Abbate did not respond.
A supporter of Abbate’s, one Justin Weinberg, an associate professor at the University of South Carolina, opined that “the instructor needed to make a decision about how to use limited class time, especially given the topic of the lesson and the subject of the course (which is ethical theory, not applied ethics).”
The problem is that’s not what Abbate said to the student. She explicitly said she did not want to discuss the issue because if arguments against gay marriage were voiced, they might offend any gay students in the class.
We teach a course in Public Policy. We don’t discuss gay marriage for the simple reason that we focus on issues that can be decided on the costs and benefits and their distribution. Gay marriage doesn’t fit that context very well. But an instructional choice is not the same thing as wanting to protect students from arguments they might dislike.
Only Certain Groups Get ProtectionNobody would say that a biology professor should refrain from discussing evolution because some conservative Christians might object, or that atheist arguments can’t be aired because Christians and other theists might be offended.
Only certain victim groups get protection from hearing things they are presumed to get upset about. And it doesn’t matter whether they really get upset. To presume that gays would get upset over hearing arguments against gay marriage, or blacks would get upset hearing arguments against affirmative action is to demean both groups. It’s true that among both groups there are hustlers who are perpetually offended. But they should not be allowed to censor the discussion.
In reality, it’s arguments that liberal and leftist professors don’t like that are deemed “offensive.”
Another Argument of Campus AuthoritariansWeinberg made another argument, far more insidious, supporting Abbate’s refusal to discuss gay marriage. Quoting:
It also happened to be a kind of comment that Abbate noted might be offensive, and might constitute harassment according to Marquette University’s policies. So it seems she was being a good teacher as well as playing it safe regarding university policy. That was prudent, given her status as a graduate student instructor. The main take-away, though, is that it would have been perfectly permissible for Abbate to request the student not make the comment even if it weren’t offensive.This, of course, contradicts Weinberg’s first argument, that not discussing gay marriage was merely an instructional choice. Here, he endorses the notion that allowing any opposition to gay marriage to be voiced would be “harassment” and might violate a harassment policy.
This is the first cousin to the notion that politically incorrect opinions are “offensive” and thus must be silenced.
Unfortunately, Marquette itself seemed to endorse that notion in a “training” module on “harassment” that all faculty and employees were required to take a few months ago.
But that notion would never stand up in court, and it’s unlikely Marquette would ever try to enforce that notion. But they might not mind if it chills politically incorrect speech, since such speech creates problems for administrators.