Anti-gay professor will not teach at NYU

A follow-up to the NYU Law/Dr. Li-ann Thio drama: Apparently Dr. Thio has decided not to come and teach at NYU, citing hostility from students. I put in my two cents about Dr. Thio here. I actually think it’s good that NYU didn’t ask her to withdraw, and that instead students took the lead in voicing their concerns and refusing to enroll in her class. But the whole situation does bring up interesting issues of academic freedom and where we draw the line when it comes to bigoted viewpoints.

A good friend of mine, who also went to NYU Law, emailed me about the situation, and I found her perspsective pretty compelling. With her permission, it’s posted below:

So this rarely happens – and i should add that i don’t know much at ALL about this Dr. Thio character BUT- I think I disagree with you about your feelings on this.

I think this is a great point (from a petition in opposition): “To harbor Dr. Thio under the banner of “academic freedom” is disingenuous, untenable and unacceptable. The full dignity of LGBT persons is beyond debate and the criminalization of private sexual conduct between consenting same-sex adults is a tool of oppression. While Dr. Thio believes that “diversity is not a license for perversity,” we believe that academic freedom is not a license for bigotry.”

But I worry more about what it means to close the door to diverse viewpoints. I think there is something important to be said for her opinion not in the sense that it is “right” but in the sense that it represents an important social phenomenon. That people from politically, socially and economically repressed places oftentimes find scapegoats to dehumanize, criminalize, and humiliate. Maybe the purpose is to create a new kind of social hierarchy? In many cultures homophobia has become the last frontier of discrimination. People use gay people as a reason to perpetuate hate, but more importantly to continue to establish that there are “haves” and “have nots.”

I think I’m uncomfortable with saying this professor shouldn’t come to NYU less from a first-amendment free-speech standpoint and more from a concern that if liberal people silence the viewpoints of those they disagree with, where does that leave us? It seems contrary to so many liberal beliefs to advocate for the erasure of a particular viewpoint. I guess the argument can be made that we should not give Dr. Thio a forum to teach her ideas, and the recognition that would surely come with an NYU teaching position, but still it bothers me a bit that people haven’t looked to the larger implications of what it means to say that “we don’t like your viewpoint and you aren’t welcome here.” In any other context that would be so wrong.

I remember in undergrad we had this professor, Peter Singer, who — and in distilling this I’m going to pervert what he really stands for — has some really controversial views about the right to life, that some argue border on a kind of eugenics. I remember before his lecture, people stood outside his class and protested and were disgusted that this person had a forum to express his views that are so contrary to the value and dignity that all persons deserve. I remember thinking how much I hated his ideas but that he had the right to possess them and to teach. I didn’t take his class, nor would I take Dr. Thio’s.

None of this is to excuse her views or to say in any way that they are “right” or justified (as maybe one of the paragraphs above might suggest). I’m more just worried now, and always have been, about the way liberals (and particularly trendy New York liberals who chant from ivory towers and penthouses about justice and equality yet do so many things within their own personal day-to-day lives that reinforces, albeit, a different form of haves and have nots) are quick to cast-aside and condemn views (that are clearly wrong, and even morally reprehensible) but also different from their own. It just seems to me that this is maybe the wrong or a misplaced battle to fight.


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28 comments for “Anti-gay professor will not teach at NYU

  1. Kristen J.
    July 28, 2009 at 12:26 pm

    Yeah, no.

    In the market place of ideas, diversity of ideas in and of itself means little. Its value is in expanding our understanding of each other and, as a result [we hope], becoming marginally better people and a marginally better society.

    I don’t need to hang out with members the fundamental religious right to understand where they come from. Our society is built on their perspective. It’s the product of privilege and power. And that perspective, is part of nearly every discussion of social issues that happens in the US.

    The thing is that perspective has been analyzed and dismissed harmful and non-productive. Most people struggling towards “enlightenment” [or at least less assholishness] have had to recognize the homophobic and heteronormative thought that pervades our society is harmful to other human beings (and harming other people is bad!).

    So why do we need to rehash it? What value does Thio bring to the discussion when her perspective is one that all the people in the US have lived?

  2. tata
    July 28, 2009 at 12:28 pm

    In 1981, when I thought we were all so modern, I attended an introductory sociology class at a school famous for its diversity, where the professor asked a question, then said, “Girls, put your hands down. I’m not going to call on you. You’re just here to get husbands.” We got up and left, but I’m quite sure nobody called him on his bullshit because he only retired a few years ago.

    You’re going to face prejudice everywhere in life. There’s no need to invite it into your house.

  3. Katie
    July 28, 2009 at 1:12 pm

    I really hate that “gay is the last acceptable prejudice” idea. bullshit. Where I live, it is SO not cool to use “gay” as a slur but call me a fatty or make fun of someone’s disability and that’s totally fine. Social acceptance of different forms of oppression is complex and of course varies in cultures not only around the globe but even within different places in the US. So to say that being gay is the last or only “acceptable” prejudice is really, really offensive to those of us who experience other forms of bigotry and oppression on a daily basis. Can we have one of these conversations and NOT play the oppression olympics?

    Jeez.

    I did have some of the same concerns about how Dr. Thio herself is a minority, and I wondered how racism might be at play here. But even so, we’re talking about a clear power dynamic here between professor and students–the oppression dynamics here are complex. And ultimately I think Kristen J. nails it in the last sentence of her comment.

    Finally, and then I’ll get off my soapbox, bigotry is not just a “viewpoint” or a “differing opinion.” I hate it when people spin it that way.]

    Jill, I’m left wondering what it was exactly about this email that you found so “compelling.”

  4. preying mantis
    July 28, 2009 at 1:20 pm

    “You’re going to face prejudice everywhere in life. There’s no need to invite it into your house.”

    Yeah, I’m finding it really hard to get too squishy over the fact that someone who actively campaigned against human rights for non-straights got no traction as a human rights lecturer with a student body. In point of fact, being asked to wring my hands over the denial of a platform to someone who advocates jail time for non-hetero sexual activity is just an eensy bit ass-chapping.

    “[…]but still it bothers me a bit that people haven’t looked to the larger implications of what it means to say that “we don’t like your viewpoint and you aren’t welcome here.” In any other context that would be so wrong.”

    This would be any context outside an academic one, or any context in which the offending viewpoint is less extreme than considering x percent of the humans in the “here”‘s client base worthy of persecution?

  5. Bill
    July 28, 2009 at 2:13 pm

    I can only wonder, Jill, if ‘this good friend of yours’ would feel the same way if this hateful ‘professor’ was saying the kinds of things about Women that she has been saying about Gay people? Or if this professor was presenting such hate-speech against Jews, Blacks, or ANY other group but Gay people.

    And what larger implications are you speaking of? The larger implication of Heterosexuals who spout anti-gay rhetoric for the sole purpose of degrading and dehumanizing MILLIONS of people not being given a classroom pulpit to preach their hate and masking that hate as academia?

    Give me a break. If this woman said what she did about ANY other group of people, NYU would have rescinded the invitation. If I was teaching human rights at NYU and it came to light that I had made public disparaging comments about ‘Dr.’ Li-ann Thio’s entire race, calling her slanty-eyed or a g o o k or some other rubbish, I would not be allowed to teach at NYU. Of that I am certain.

    This incident only goes to show how much work is left to be done. On the part of Heterosexuals. It is time that Heterosexuals, as a group, deal with their character-flaws. Because Gay Americans are so very tired of paying the price for Heterosexual character-flaws. Can’t you please teach yourselves to stop the abuse and apartheid you dispaly TOWARD YOUR VERY OWN GAY & LESBIAN CHILDREN????

  6. July 28, 2009 at 2:20 pm

    I think I made my views clear in the previous post — I don’t think Dr. Thio should have been invited in the first place, and I’m glad that NYU students stood up and refused to take her class en masse. I just think that my friend’s point about line-drawing is an important one, even if she and I disagree on where, exactly, the line should be drawn. Academic freedom is important, and Dr. Thio’s case is interesting because her bigoted comments were made in her capacity as a politician, not as an academic. Her academic record is very accomplished.

    Again, not defending Dr. Thio — I’m glad she’s not coming. My friend emailed me to express her disagreement, and I’m posting it because I think she made some compelling and interesting points, even though I still disagree. It’s not an easy issue, but I think her point about strategy is good — is this the best way to promote human rights and equality? Does marginalizing bigoted academics help or hurt? Is it better to hold Dr. Thio’s views up to the light in the classroom, or is it better for NYU as an institution to declare that those views are unacceptable?

    I think I made my own answers to those questions pretty clear in the previous post. But I’m not so dogmatic that I think there are no other valid perspectives on this one, especially when we all have the same end goal.

  7. preying mantis
    July 28, 2009 at 2:30 pm

    “Academic freedom is important, and Dr. Thio’s case is interesting because her bigoted comments were made in her capacity as a politician, not as an academic.”

    That distinction is the polar opposite of a comforting one, though.

  8. July 28, 2009 at 3:12 pm

    From what I hear, there was practically nobody at NYU interested in taking her classes; the enrollment was in the single digits. Of course, that could be a result of the outcry as well. But nobody can really expect gay NYU’ers to stay silent about someone like Thio coming to profess her views, especially if you want to frame it as a first amendment debate. Nor can you expect students to eagerly sign up for her classes once her public views have been made known to them. So there you go.

    As for your friend’s e-mail, Jill… there are some things that I just can’t take seriously about it, as if it wasn’t really thought through. For instance:

    Still it bothers me a bit that people haven’t looked to the larger implications of what it means to say that “we don’t like your viewpoint and you aren’t welcome here.” In any other context that would be so wrong.

    I doubt your friend really believes that in ANY other context it would be so wrong. If a white supremacist politician/author was invited to teach at NYU, someone who was known for claiming that the white race should rule over all other peoples as part of the natural order, and that the lesser races should know their place, I doubt many people would think it was “so wrong.” If a Nazi scholar wanted to come and teach that the Holocaust is a myth and repeat a semester’s worth of anti-Semitic slurs to justify the segregation and oppression of Jews, I don’t think that would meet with much approval either. There barely would have been a debate. I mean, this is New York after all, and it’s where generations of oppressed people have FLED to in order to ESCAPE persecution, remember? That includes gays, and it still does. The West Village is still a safe haven for queer youth to this day.

    These are all social phenomenon — and obviously, social phenomenon of enormous historical impact. They’re representative of social forces and movements that absolutely need to be studied, and shouldn’t be forgotten. I think it’s important to read the words of people who have promoted and advocated bigotry, intolerance, suppression of rights, segregation, derogatory stereotypes, and much more. I wouldn’t object to Mein Kampf, videos of Klan rallies, anti-gay political screeds, or The Transsexual Empire being present in libraries or taught as part of curriculum on history, political philosophy, sociology, etc.

    However, legitimizing these views is another story. Of course we don’t want Nazi lies, anti-gay propaganda, arguments for the suppression of human rights, or white supremacist ideology legitimized, even if it’s going to be aired, examined, studied, analyzed, discussed. Those things can be done without legitimizing, and it’s important that they can be — because this kind of bigotry is actually antithetical to a progressive society. It’s a catch-22; if you start to head down that slippery slope of saying it’s OK to take people’s rights away, sooner or later you are going to lose the freedoms that you were trying to grant to the orators of bigotry. This is why we don’t “tolerate the intolerant,” and why those of arguments (“you’re the one who’s prejudiced against me, just because I’m prejudiced”) are meaningless paradoxes. Tolerance cannot simply tolerate intolerance; to do so puts you on the side of the powerful against the oppressed.

    It would be another story if there was some uncertainty about what Thio was saying, or if there were real questions about what was meant, whether her anti-gay positions are really harmful to a broader vision of human rights, whether she’s homophobic. But look — her views, her own words, were aired very publicly BY the people protesting her. So was her letter of response, in which she laid out clearly what she believes. A whole lot of people found those ideas noxious enough to be illegitimate subjects of argument and debate; worth reading and studying, but not giving credence and a bully pulpit to. Not worth letting Thio stand up in front of students and saying whatever she wanted about her gay-excluding vision of human rights. In fact, Thio’s ideas have been quite prominently in the spotlight, moreso than if she had just come to teach a few classes to a couple hundred students and then gone home. So I’m not exactly sure where censorship, or lack of scrutiny and discussion of her bigotry, comes into play.

    There are ways to do this kind of thing. When Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was invited to Columbia, the president of the school gave this speech which royally annoyed Ahmadinejad and drew criticism on both sides. Better idea? Of course, there’s a difference between a speech at a forum and teaching a class, too.

  9. exholt
    July 28, 2009 at 3:50 pm

    I find this concern about a Prof’s academic freedom rights to be amusing when Dr. Li-ann Thio has clearly shown she’s unable to tolerate expressions of those from the NYU student community and the public at large.

    As she has the right to express her abhorrent views, the NYU student community has a corresponding right to do likewise and for her to send out an 18 point lament email in reply to what was a critical, but mild and polite email shows how ill-suited she would be in providing an educationally conducive environment where the academic freedom of her students would be just as respected.

    As several Singaporeans in the previous thread have noted, her attitudes may be highly influenced by Confucian social/educational norms where the Prof speaks and the students are subjected to “sit down, shut up, and take notes until class ends”. My parents experienced this in their universities in 1950’s/60’s ROC (Taiwan) and scarily enough….this pedagogical mentality was still alive and well as recently as 3 years ago in both Chinas, South Korea, Japan, and Singapore according to undergrads, grad students, and colleagues who did their undergrad/grad school there. In light of this, it does not surprise me that someone from such an academic milieu would be so ill-equipped to deal with students in an academic setting who not only will ask questions, but also challenge and debate their profs…..sometimes quite vigorously.

  10. July 28, 2009 at 4:26 pm

    I remember in undergrad we had this professor, Peter Singer, who — and in distilling this I’m going to pervert what he really stands for — has some really controversial views about the right to life, that some argue border on a kind of eugenics. I remember before his lecture, people stood outside his class and protested and were disgusted that this person had a forum to express his views that are so contrary to the value and dignity that all persons deserve. I remember thinking how much I hated his ideas but that he had the right to possess them and to teach. I didn’t take his class, nor would I take Dr. Thio’s.

    This could theoretically be an appropriate parallel if any of Prof. Singer’s students were embryos. Otherwise, no.

  11. July 28, 2009 at 4:28 pm

    And, everything Holly said.

  12. July 28, 2009 at 4:49 pm

    jill, i am not criticising you, but i have to say that i don’t think your friend’s e-mail raises any points of interest. it is nothing more than the “fair and balanced” crap that we regularly laugh off when it comes from fox news or various forced-birthers. i wish you had seen it for what it was. i don’t think that ‘academic freedom’ means that we have to give a platform for such openly hateful views.

    see, if the good professor had her way, the academic freedoms of every GLBT student at NYU, and every college, would be curtailed — by their being arrested and imprisoned, just for being a member of a demographic that the good professor hates.

    also, i’d like to note — i am sure that her hatred for gay people extends to trans people – homophobia and transphobia almost always go hand-in-hand. but no-one in either thread has seen fit to mention that. hmmm…

  13. Wren
    July 28, 2009 at 4:51 pm

    As a 2009 NYU grad this subject is a little more personal. It becomes less of an academic freedom or freedom of speech issue than an issue of having a safe space to learn. The poster above is right. BIgotry is not a political view. It can be not only acceptable, but positive for people with differing views to be put in academic contexts together, but when someone’s “political view” is that you yourself are deviant and disgusting it’s sort of a different ballgame.

    A lot of gay students at NYU have come here escaping oppressive, closed minded towns and families and even when they get here they may take months or years to come out. School has to be a safe space for us, and having a teacher who publicly and outspokenly objects to your very identity is antithetical to that goal. Ultimately, school is about the students, no?

  14. exholt
    July 28, 2009 at 6:03 pm

    Continuing on from my previous rant, even Profs from Mainland China who taught at my undergrad on an exchange basis were briefed and were told to expect that US undergrads, especially those at my college tended to be quite vocal and will challenge their Prof’s positions in class. Though most of those Profs I have no doubt had to make some adjustments upon meeting us, they all adjusted fine and both the Profs and students ended up learning from each other respectfully even while they may disagree on many key issues.

    Like my undergrad, I doubt NYU students or most engaged US undergrads would be types to knuckle under to Profs who seem to expect that they “sit down, shut up, and take notes” until lecture is over…..especially in a class on Human Rights Law…….

  15. Sarah
    July 29, 2009 at 12:17 am

    I’m a bit disturbed that this post makes a comparison with Peter Singer, without recognizing the huge issues of disability rights and able-bodied privilege inherent in the Singer issue. (And no, he doesn’t just talk about embryos. Singer believes that infanticide is acceptable–so long as the infant is disabled, of course. Would anyone like to be a disabled student in Singer’s class?) Just a thought.

  16. beka
    July 29, 2009 at 2:10 am

    I did have some of the same concerns about how Dr. Thio herself is a minority, and I wondered how racism might be at play here.

    Not within the Singaporean context, at least, considering Dr Thio is ethnic Chinese and Singapore is predominantly Chinese. True, as a Christian she is in a religious minority; but that would be a minority that dominates the legislative process. As I think I’ve said before, I find it odd that she described herself as a “person of colour”. Few Singaporeans would use such a turn of phrase, especially given that America’s “white privilege” tends to be “Chinese privilege” in this context at home, just as [insert ethnic majority] has privilege wherever they are the majority.

  17. July 29, 2009 at 7:21 am

    I’m a bit disturbed that this post makes a comparison with Peter Singer, without recognizing the huge issues of disability rights and able-bodied privilege inherent in the Singer issue. (And no, he doesn’t just talk about embryos. Singer believes that infanticide is acceptable–so long as the infant is disabled, of course. Would anyone like to be a disabled student in Singer’s class?) Just a thought.

    I’m sorry – you’re right, I should have read up more on Singer before I commented. I’d only been aware that he supported the right to abortion. *flicks privilege*

  18. Ex-Republican
    July 29, 2009 at 9:59 am

    Academic freedom cannot mean that a forum for all points of view must be provided. The University and academia generally must make value judgments given the limited resources and time constraints they face.

    I do think there is something however to the context. For instance, I might be interested in a class on the history of Catholic theology. I think it would be entirely appropriate for that class to be taught by an ordained priest with that academic specialization, who may or may not share my viewpoints regarding sexuality. It also wouldn’t be inappropriate for a consistent Thomist (who I assume would believe that homosexuality was a sin) to teach a class on Aristotle. However, it wouldn’t be appropriate for a creationist to teach their viewpoints in the context of a modern biology or genetics class.

    Some of the best professors I remember from my undergraduate years had views with which I disagreed – often vehemently. However, in most cases they were consistent or did not contradict the subject matter being taught.

    The problem with discussions regarding academic freedom is that they often disregard that context.

  19. Josh Z
    July 29, 2009 at 4:20 pm

    Frankly, I find your friend’s comparison of Dr. Singer’s views on euthanasia to Dr. Thio’s advocacy of legally entrenched oppression of minorities disgusting, intellectually dishonest and unbelievably offensive.

    I and many other reasonable people (Peter Singer included) believe that those who wish to end their own lives, especially due to terminal illness, in a comfortable and humane manner should be able to do so without the interference of the state. It is legal in several liberal European democracies, such as the Netherlands, and initiatives for euthanasia are being mooted elsewhere. None of the fearmongering “slippery slope” arguments have come to pass in Holland, and the program has been eminently successful.

    This comparison is EXACTLY like saying that reproductive rights advocates (who are often ‘controversial’) are like anti-gay rights advocates/Nazis/pick your strawman. This is patently ridiculous, but the idea is the same. Singer thinks that you should have control over your own body and if you reasonably decide to end your life humanely, particularly if what you face otherwise is an agonizing death, you should have the right to, even if religious people think that your decisions over your own life are so offensive to them that they must be banned. To be for abortion rights and against euthanasia is intellectually dishonest.

  20. July 29, 2009 at 4:28 pm

    Except, Josh, those aren’t Dr. Singer’s views. He doesn’t just believe that those who wish to end their own lives should be able to; he believes that it is ethical to euthanize disabled infants. So no, her comparison was not intellectually dishonest. Dr. Singer also believes that one group of people in society is less worthy than another; he even takes it a step further and argues that they should be killed as children. That’s not about the right to your own body; it’s a very separate issue, and one that’s also about the most fundamental human rights.

  21. Josh Z
    July 29, 2009 at 4:30 pm

    @Sarah:

    I go to Princeton, where Professor Singer teaches, I’m taking his class next semester, and I’m disabled. What do you think about that? Please stop imposing your privilege over what I should and shouldn’t think.

    And NO, Singer does not say it’s acceptable to kill babies just because they’re disabled. Clearly you have never actually read anything by him. Pick up Practical Ethics. What he actually says is far more nuanced and I don’t really feel like explaining it all, but the gist is this: there are some disabilities -hydrocephaly, for instance, where the baby is born with water in its brain, causing the infant to write in agony for days, weeks or sometimes even a year or two before dying horribly – which mean it is more humane to kill the infant gently than to let it die in pain. Doctors ALREADY do this, but instead of ACTIVELY killing the baby with barbituates to make it quick and painless, they have to PASSIVELY leave it to die in pain, intentionally withholding treatments. Singer argues that there’s no real difference between withholding treatment and injecting it with the drugs that kill it. The only reason we don’t is the ridiculous idea of human exceptionalism – that the mere fact of being homo sapiens makes you special and automatically superior to anything that is not- which is not substantiated by any evidence and rooted in religious ideas of being God’s chosen people.

  22. E
    July 29, 2009 at 4:33 pm

    No one’s talking about Peter Singer’s views on euthanasia. He’s being criticized for the fact that he devalues disabled people’s lives, which is most certainly not about body autonomy. Saying that someone’s life isn’t worth living, without their input or consent, is totally separate from allowing people the right to end their own lives according to their own quality of life priorities.

  23. July 29, 2009 at 4:37 pm

    Josh, I actually have read Peter Singer, although I will admit limitedly. What do I think about the fact that you’re taking his class and you’re disabled? I think that’s fine, it’s your prerogative. But I also know that many disability-rights groups take serious issue with Dr. Singer’s scholarship and his views. You may think that he’s correct, but that doesn’t erase the fact that a great many people find his views just as repugnant, from a human rights perspective, as Dr. Thio’s. That’s where the comparison comes in, and I maintain that it’s a fair one, and not at all “intellectually dishonest” or insulting.

  24. Katie
    July 29, 2009 at 4:40 pm

    I think the letter reads like concern trolling, and unfairly equates liberalism or progressive values with rich (implicitly white) New Yorkers.

  25. July 29, 2009 at 4:52 pm

    I can pretty much guarantee that the letter isn’t concern trolling. As I said in the intro, it’s from a good friend of mine. We usually agree; this is one issue that we diverge on. But I find her perspective interesting, even though I take a different point of view. I can also pretty much guarantee that she doesn’t equate liberalism with rich white people (however, it’s worth mentioning that a place like NYU, like most other institutions of higher learning, does have more than its fair share of rich white people, which influences the way that it’s perceived).

    Ultimately, I think Holly’s comment sums up my view on this — I’m all for freedom of expression, but I don’t think NYU needs to support abhorrent views. The question of line-drawing remains interesting to me, though, and I do think that Dr. Singer is a good comparison. Is he qualified to teach bioethics when his views are incredibly bigoted towards people with disabilities? I know where I would draw the line, but there are (I assume) liberal people like Josh Z who believe that Dr. Singer being on Princeton’s payroll is ok, but Dr. Thio being on NYU’s isn’t. I just wonder how that works, and, again, where we draw the line. Is Dr. Thio worse because she actually implemented her political beliefs, whereas Dr. Singer just writes about his? Or is Dr. Singer more problematic because it’s his scholarship itself that is repugnant, and not his political work outside of academia?

  26. Sarah
    July 29, 2009 at 5:41 pm

    I have read Singer, albeit limitedly, and find Josh’s summation of his position inaccurate. Singer does not just think it’s okay to kill terminally ill infants. He also includes infants with congenital disabilities who have perfectly typical life expectancies, as well as those who most likely have decades ahead of them. He also includes several disabilities which clearly do not cause physical pain in and of themselves (i.e. intellectual disabilities).

    Obviously not every single disabled person disagrees with Singer’s philosophy, and I am not telling anyone what they “ought” to think, but I think it’s fairly safe to say that most politically aware PWD do have strong disagreements with Singer. Hence the reason why his appointment to Princeton was protested.

    This is all a bit of a derailment, though, and I apologize. Academic freedom is tricky. But IMO respecting academic freedom doesn’t mean we ought to issue invitations to those which hold abhorrent views. Princeton screwed up in giving Singer his prestigious appointment in the first place, IMO, and NYU screwed up by inviting Dr. Thio.

    Another point: Academic freedom should work both ways, but in my experiences this isn’t doesn’t always happen when controversial speakers visit college campuses. The Cheney sisters spoke at my alma mater, a liberal women’s college, but those running the event didn’t allow the audience to ask any tough questions, which infuriated much of the student body. There are power differentials between invited speakers and college administrators and students which should be kept in mind.

  27. J.
    August 1, 2009 at 8:22 pm

    I don’t really disagree with it from a “First Amendment free-speech” viewpoint; I’ll be the first to say not all types of speech (hate speech) are protected. But this situation is similar to one that happened recently at my university: some senior sports editor at the student newspaper wrote a ridiciulously misogynist, victim-blaming opinion article claiming that Erin Andrews secretly wanted to be videotaped naked and maybe even paid the guys as a publicity stunt.

    Though I was appalled (and many other women at the Women’s Center were more appalled and upset than I), I was heartened to see that the article got an outpouring of feedback: many more online comments than usual, comments from out-of-town professors and students, all comments crushing the moron in concensus. I immediately submitted a letter to the editor. My thoughts on it are, how are people with bigoted viewpoints, both those who express them in public forums (like this sports editor) and those who harbor them privately, ever going to question their own beliefs if they don’t see this public debate going on or get this public crushing? I know that minority groups are often tired of hearing it and tired of having to field debate and questions from people who don’t even think they’re human. Really, it sucks. It sucks a lot.

    But I still find silence considerably less useful than debate. With silence, you get nothing. You get people (bigots, conservatives) who become resentful and fume privately, and will probably refuse to engage or even consider others’ arguments in the future. This will never lead to change and probably breeds a much more dangerous and hateful version of bigotry than if others were allowed to counter (or, as it were, crush) said bigotry in public discussion.

  28. Landon Bryce
    August 3, 2009 at 4:41 pm

    Jill,

    Your friend is a bigot. My opinion of you has been lowered by the fact that you are unable to see the obvious hostility toward gay people which seeps out of every word.

Comments are closed.