Leftist Marquette Prof: You’ll Be Penalized for Failing to use “Gender Neutral” Language
So it was no surprise when, a few weeks ago, a student told us about a professor (actually, a Visiting Assistant Professor) whom our student viewed as pretty far out.
So far, dog bites man: not news.
This fellow attacked not only contemporary conservatives like Ben Shapiro, but Enlightenment figures like Adam Smith. When the student suggested that the professor read Ben Shapiro’s book The Right Side of History: How Reason and Moral Purpose Made the West Great, the professor replied “What a stupid ass book. He is a fucking idiot.”
He complained about how little he is paid by Marquette, and leaving class one day advised “Oh, and also support your local unions.” But the job market in academic Philosophy is pretty difficult, especially if you don’t have a Ph.D. from a top program, which this fellow doesn’t. Indeed, one source notes that the market is:
Extremely competitive, and job prospects are often dim even for PhDs who graduate from top programmes.So it might seem like a visiting gig at Marquette is a lot better than what a lot of PhDs have to settle for — a few adjunct courses at $4,000 or so per course.
But this particular professor is quite tolerant of students who disagree with him in class. He even wrote the student a semi-apology for the comment about Ben Shapiro.
So far, just another average day in academia.
Too FarBut this professor went too far when he informed the student he would be penalized if he did not use “gender neutral” language. In a message to the student, he claimed that “Use gender inclusive language: humanity is not ‘man’ nor is it a ‘he.’”
The student did not do what most students do, and supinely accept the professor’s diktat. Rather, he complained to the Provost’s office, and particularly to Prof. John Su, Vice Provost for Academic Affairs.
After a meeting which the student said “went really well,” Su wrote the student the following e-mail:
Hope all is well with you. I’ve had several rounds of conversation with the department chair, Dr. Kevin Gibson, and email correspondence with the instructor, Dr. James Bahoh, regarding your request to use gender-specific pronouns in formal written work without penalty.
Dr. Bahoh has indicated his willingness to accept a version of what you and I discussed:
I hope this is a reasonable resolution for you.
- In each future assignment, after your first usage of a gender-exclusive or gender-specific pronoun, please add a footnote demonstrating that your usage is a deliberate choice (i.e., not an error).
a. If it’s helpful, I might use something along the lines of “While I recognize that gender-inclusive language is defined as a best practice by the American Philosophical Association, I disagree with it because of my personal beliefs. My decision to use gender-exclusive language is thus not an accident but a deliberate choice to represent my authentic voice.” If that doesn’t feel right to you, please use what is most compelling to you.
- Dr. Bahoh also asks that the footnote follow the spirit of philosophy in asking us to articulate the reasoning for our beliefs: specifically, for you to clarify the personal belief that guides you to reject gender-inclusive language. You and I had some conversation about that during our meeting in terms of developing your authentic voice and different language choices in different eras, so that might provide you some guidance. I think this only requires 1-2 additional sentences.
On your behalf, I pressed the department chair about writing expectations. He indicated to me that the department as a whole follows the American Philosophical Association’s best practice guidelines regarding gender-neutral language. He provided us the following URL: https://www.apaonline.org/page/nonsexist
Please let me know if this works for you. I will forward this email to the department chair and associate dean, so that you can have confidence of a written record for this resolution.
I hope this helps you to find a satisfying conclusion to this course. And I hope you have an intellectually engaging end of the semester.
If you have any questions, please contact me.
SurpriseGiven Marquette’s mania for political correctness, this outcome is a bit of a surprise. Having to write a footnote is a bit of an imposition — standard English the way it was for centuries before the advent of modern political correctness should be acceptable without explanation. But the imposition is fairly modest.
But what this case probably shows is that, if a student will stand up to a leftist professor’s demands that his speech be censored, the student can prevail.
Most students are unwilling to do this. They will “go along to get along” and simply do — often grudgingly — what the professor demands.
Reasonably tolerant professors will tolerate being challenged by students, and often even welcome it, since it shows that the student is actually paying attention, and might even be engaged.
Intolerant professors need to learn that they cannot with impunity impose their own intolerance on their students. They can only learn this if at least some students push back.