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touchy subjects 
27th-Sep-2004 03:25 am
salute
Discrimination against white male found

By George Archibald
THE WASHINGTON TIMES

An English professor at the University of North Carolina illegally subjected a student to "intentional discrimination and harassment" because he was "a white, heterosexual Christian male" who expressed disapproval of homosexuality, the U.S. Education Department's Office of Civil Rights has ruled.
    Professor Elyse Crystall violated student Timothy R. Mertes' civil rights, the agency said, by improperly accusing him of "hate speech" in an e-mail sent to students after a class discussion in which Mr. Mertes said he was a Christian and felt "disgusted, not threatened" by homosexual behavior.  [....]



While i am all for inclusive and non-judgemental spaces in academia, i think that the over-compensation is becoming a bit much. People have different opinions. It is a fact of life that we will have to deal with people who don't agree with us, and even judge us. I understand that certain groups, such as LGBT folk, are subject to a lot of crap, however, the academic environment should not degenerate into a game of "when i want your opinion i'll tell you what it is" in the attempt to make things "safe" for any particular group.

The guys statements were offensive to those who don't share them, but no account i've read gives any basis to the accusation of "violence".  He did not threaten anyone.  He related an anecdote and expressed an opinion, in a discussion class.  I am becoming more and more annoyed at the idea that a "safe space" means i should never have to hear any opinion that offends me.  With all due respect, our skins have become mighty thin.  Much like Bubble-Boy, if we are not exposed to such things, how will we ever learn to defend ourselves?
Comments 
27th-Sep-2004 04:41 am (UTC)
Yeah, but the washington times? As a news source? Really? Of course they're going to sensationalize it and bring out the most conservative viewpoint (Rush Limbaugh may actually be too liberal for them).
27th-Sep-2004 05:05 am (UTC)
I think it's important to mention with this that it was said in a discussion seminar where the teacher had said that straight males felt thretened, and he replied he didn't think threatened was the right word, but rather, disgusted. The amount you have given takes what happened out of context.
27th-Sep-2004 01:24 pm (UTC)
thats why i included the link. i only put in the beginning to introduce the subject that instigated my thoughts on a broader topic.
27th-Sep-2004 05:21 am (UTC)
Well; I think the student was certainly out of order, making such a comment (allthough the clarification in one of the earlier comments to this entry does make it more understandable), but on no account should a professor be accusing him of "hate speech" in an e-mail sent to students after a class discussion. It certainly seems a rather pathetic response, even to an appalling comment. A seminar, after all, should be a place where one can utter opinions and be prepared to take the flack for them in the room itself, not later on. Also, had the professor made the allegation of "hate speach" in the actual seminar, the student in question would have had an opportunity to argue his own case instead of being left defenseless.
27th-Sep-2004 08:33 am (UTC)
The thing that bothers me the most about this is that the professor has probably prevented the student from ever being able to change his mind. This student sounds, to me, like a reasonably intelligent person who has different values than I do (though I could be slanted, because I go to school in the south and am used to hearing MUCH worse things). Given the fact that the southern states have some very anti-gay sentiments, I'd be willing to guess that it took him some time and soul searching to get to the point where he was "not threatened" by homosexuality.

These are exactly the people who *need* to be involved in discussion groups so that they are forced to weigh their opinions against those of others, get to know gay and lesbian students on a personal level, and exchange ideas with others.
27th-Sep-2004 10:54 am (UTC)
These are exactly the people who *need* to be involved in discussion groups so that they are forced to weigh their opinions against those of others, get to know gay and lesbian students on a personal level, and exchange ideas with others.

why is it more important for these students to be involved and get to know students who challenge their ideas than it is for anyone else? personally, i think that a lot of the liberal wings of students on campus would do good to actually participate in discussions with the conservatives who challenge their ideas...
27th-Sep-2004 11:14 am (UTC)
I don't think I said that it was more important; if it came across that way, consider it a mistake on my part.

You're absolutely right, students should have their ideas challenged, but I was speaking in context of this one in particular.
(Deleted comment)
27th-Sep-2004 09:31 am (UTC)
Do you think the story would have turned out differently if it had been "a black, homosexual, pagan female" who had been disapproving of heterosexuality? :P

University culture is an interesting thing.
27th-Sep-2004 02:26 pm (UTC)
Do you think the story would have turned out differently if it had been "a black, homosexual, pagan female" who had been disapproving of heterosexuality? :P

You forgot disabled. And, obviously, things would be so different. She would get the highest grade ever in the course, a scholarship (better than the one she must already have) providing for all of her educational and living expenses including a stipend for the ladies' night cover charge at the local queer club, a free pass into any graduate or professional program of her choosing... Hell, they'd probably have to rename the university in her honour, or at least an institute.

Emoticons don't render stupidity rhetorical, or do they?
27th-Sep-2004 10:14 am (UTC)
Well, one of the lessons from this is that we should set groundrules for discussion in our classes--preferably on the first day of class, but if we have not done that, then moments like this should be used as a catalyst for involving the whole class in a discussion about what is and what is not appropriate in the classroom.

I am not sure what discipline this course was, but in sociology I can often use moments like that to talk about deviance and why we might find such a thing disgusting. I actually got pretty far the other day with my students in terms of trying to think about whether there are any universally deviant things, and it really helps them to see the difference between what they think internally and how to approach academic subject matter.
27th-Sep-2004 11:34 am (UTC)
I think calling a group of humans, especially a group of humans that are arguably born into that group (and this isn't a debate I'm interested in opening, just pointing out that being gay is different from being a firefighter in this sense), disgusting isn't productive as part of a discussion, especially since any number of those hearing it might be a member of that group. I don't really care who's doing the namecalling. While the professor's actions were inappropriate, his were too.

While I understand that people think I'm disgusting, I don't really go to class to hear about it. I go to class to learn, and being called names is disruptive to my learning, and so I think it should be disallowed, especially since it doesn't seem to promote a learning environment in any way while also disrupting learning for some students.
27th-Sep-2004 03:40 pm (UTC)
This brings up cliches like "I disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it." The guy finds homosexuality disgusting - so what? I find George Bush disgusting, and I don't think Republicans should be able to gag me for holding offensive opinions.
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