Queer News On Campus [QNOC] Articles Digest
For the week ending 2009.07.26
Brought to you by the Consortium of Higher Education LGBT Resource Professionals. http://www.lgbtcampus.org
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1. Chicago Tribune - $3M grants fund lesbian health study
2. The New York Times - Statement from Dean Richard L. Revesz of the New York University School of Law
3. Amherst Bulletin - UMass embraces gender neutrality
4. Inside Higher Ed - Anti-Gay Scholar Rejects NYU
5. Edge Boston - Gay-rights activists protest at Wheaton College
1. Chicago Tribune, July 22, 2009
435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, IL 60611-4041
$3M grants fund lesbian health study
By Associated Press
CHICAGO - A $3 million federal grant will help University of Illinois at Chicago researchers study lesbian health.
The five-year study will look at how excessive drinking is related to stressful experiences like discrimination based on sexual orientation.
Researchers want to see how women cope with stress.
The study grant comes from the National Institutes of Health and information will be collected from more than 600 adult lesbians.
Researcher Tonda Hughes said the study findings could help in the development of alcohol abuse prevention programs.
Hughes has studied lesbian health-related issues for more than two decades.
2. The New York Times, July 22, 2009
620 Eighth Avenue, New York, NY 10018
Statement from Dean Richard L. Revesz of the New York University School of Law
By Richard L. Revesz
The following is a statement to the press from the dean of New York University's law school, Richard L. Revesz.
I am writing to let you know that Professor Li-ann Thio informed me today that she is canceling her Fall visit to NYU Law School as a Global Visiting Professor as a result of the controversy surrounding her views regarding homosexuality and gay rights. She explained that she was disappointed by what she called the atmosphere of hostility by some members of our community towards her views and by the low enrollments in her classes. The Law School will therefore cancel the course on Human Rights in Asia and the seminar on Constitutionalism in Asia, which she had been scheduled to teach.
This issue has been delicate and challenging since it brings into tension certain important principles and convictions that normally coexist in harmony and define our institutional identity.
NYU is fully committed to the principle of academic freedom and intellectual diversity. The Hauser Global Law School Program-- under the auspices of which Professor Thio was invited as a visitor for one semester--grew out of our early recognition that the practice of law has escaped the bounds of any particular jurisdiction, and that legal education must take account of the intertwined nature of legal systems. At heart, the program seeks to expose our community to legal scholars who come from and have been shaped by their experiences in different countries, regions, and cultures. Needless to say, the value of the program would be seriously diminished if the visiting scholars all thought of difficult legal issues—including issues of sexual moraility--in the same way. We can learn from these visitors, and–we hope–they can learn from us.
Whatever their areas of expertise or views, the appointments of global visiting professors are decided on their record of distinguished scholarship and teaching and their ability to contribute to intellectual exchange within our community. So, while many in our community, including me, sharply disagree with, or are offended by, Professor Thio's 2007 remarks to the Singaporean Parliament, it is important to bear in mind that she was appointed as a visiting professor based on her published scholarship, not on views she expressed as a legislator.
We are also proud that NYU and the School of Law extended partner benefits to gay couples long before New York law mandated such benefits, that in 1978 NYU Law School became the first law school in the United States to deny access to its career services to employers that discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, and that in 1990 the Association of American Law Schools required accredited law schools in the U.S. to follow our practice. We also were leaders in the suit by the Forum for Academic and Institutional Rights (FAIR) to challenge the Solomon Amendment.
Over the last month, many members of our community have shared with me their views on the appointment. I am very grateful for the many thoughtful messages that I received and would like to take this opportunity to give you my personal perspectives on the major questions that have arisen by responding to some recurring questions I have received.
At the time that the faculty voted on Professor Thio's appointment, was it aware of the speech she made to the Singapore Parliament on October 23, 2007, forcefully arguing against the decriminalization of consensual sexual acts between men?
At the time that Global Appointments Committee met in December 2007 to recommend that the faculty vote a visiting appointment to Professor Thio based on her teaching and scholarship, none of its members were aware of the speech. That recommendation was considered by the tenured and tenure-track faculty at its meeting of January 30, 2008. I was not aware of her speech at that time and don't believe that any of my colleagues were aware of it either.
Of course, an electronic search of her public statements would have produced the text of the speech. We did not conduct such a search in considering this appointment, and we have not conducted such searches in considering other appointments: We limit our inquiry to the review of academic publications and works in progress, teaching evaluations, and reputation for collegiality. That is the general norm at academic institutions.
After becoming aware of the speech to Parliament, did NYU Law School ask Professor Thio to withdraw?
It did not.
If the faculty had been aware of the speech, should her opposition to the decriminalization of consensual sexual acts between men have played a role in the decision as to whether to invite Professor to visit?
Professor Thio's position in that speech is inimical to a strongly held institutional stance that the Law School has taken, over more than two decades, in favor of ending discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation — a position that I am proud to have been able to further strengthen over the period of my deanship. Nonetheless, the fact that Professor Thio is opposed to our institutional position should not have played any role in the evaluation of her merits to be a visiting professor. Leading academic institutions benefit greatly from a diversity of perspectives, not from hiring only people who share the same views.
Should the nature of the arguments in her speech to the Singaporean Parliament have led to the revocation of her offer?
Once the faculty extends an offer to a professor, whether a visiting offer, a tenure-track offer, or a tenured offer, it does not continue to evaluate the strength of the individual's work to determine whether subsequent work suggests that the offer be withdrawn. So, even if the faculty had met to evaluate the strength of Professor Thio's arguments in support of her statement to the Singapore Parliament (which it did not do), and even if it had decided that the manner in which she defended her position called into question the committee's earlier conclusion regarding her strength as a scholar (which it also did not do), the offer should not have been rescinded. (Of course, such an evaluation would have been relevant to whether a subsequent offer should be extended.)
Under what circumstances would the Law School determine that a faculty member's views give rise to an atmosphere that is inimical to classroom learning?
In the last few weeks, a number of members of our community wrote to Professor Thio indicating their objection to her appointment as a visiting professor. She considers some of these messages to be offensive. In turn, she replied to them in a manner that many member of our community—myself included—consider offensive and hurtful. These exchanges have been circulated on various blogs. Members of our community have questioned whether Professor Thio's statements create an unwelcoming atmosphere, one in which students in her classes would have been unable to participate effectively in the learning experience. Determination of where that point is on the continuum of free speech is a difficult, case-by-case judgment based upon context, history of the relationship, and many other factors. But it would be an extraordinary measure, almost never taken by universities in the United States, to cancel a course on the basis of e-mail exchanges between a faculty member and members of the student body. To do so would eviscerate the concept of academic freedom and chill student-faculty debate.
Should an academic opposed to the recognition of certain important human rights be allowed to teach a human rights course?
An academic's views on a substantive issue should be irrelevant to his or her suitability to teach a course in a particular area as long as the opposing views are treated fairly in the classroom: A proponent or opponent of the death penalty can be equally qualified to lead a seminar on capital punishment, for example. The contrary position would be a serious affront to academic freedom, would lead to endless political litmus tests, and would greatly impoverish academic institutions, which gain so much from the robust discussion of controversial legal issues.
Undoubtedly, the issues raised by Professor Thio's appointment are among the most difficult faced by academic communities. What are the limits of academic freedom? How should an institution with a proud tradition—as is the case of NYU Law School's support of the LGBT community-- interact with those who disagree strongly with such a tradition? I don't expect that my answers to the questions raised by our community will be persuasive to everyone. And I want to stress that they are my personal views, not the consensus view of any decisionmaking body at the Law School. But situations such as these, despite the unfortunate pain that they inflict, also serve as learning experiences. I am sorry about the considerable discomfort many members of our community have felt during the last few weeks as these issues were discussed, and I appreciate the thoughtful messages I've received from students, alumni and others as the debate unfolded.
3. Amherst Bulletin, July 24, 2009
100 University Drive, Amherst, MA 01002
UMass embraces gender neutrality
By Kristin Palpini
They may not have meant to, but some college and university professors have accidentally "outed" transgender students during roll call.
However, starting this semester, the University of Massachusetts is taking steps to protect the gender identities of its students with some technological tweaking that has been three years in the works.
In the fall, professors and administrators will receive class rosters and other documents with transgender students' chosen names as well as their legal ones in a move intended to prevent professors from calling students by unintentionally gender-revealing names.
It may seem like a small step, but Brett-Genny Janiczek Beemyn, director of the UMass Stonewall Center, an advocacy and support group for LGBT students and causes, said the name initiative is already being sought by other colleges eager to provide a safe environment for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students.
"If you have the name 'Sue,' but you look like a guy, it's really going to cause problems for that person," said Janiczek Beemyn. "The concern was for students being outed to other people. I think you're going to start seeing more schools doing this."
UMass is adding the name option along with gender-neutral housing to its accommodations for LGBT students this academic year. While UMass has one of the country's oldest LGBT "theme" residential floors, 2009-2010 will mark the first year students of different sexes can share a room on that floor.
"UMass Amherst has been in the forefront when it has come to its LGBT theme housing options," said Shane Windmeyer, executive director of Campus Pride, an online resource for LGBT people searching for a higher education. The site ranks UMass Amherst as one of the top 50 most gay-friendly campuses in the country.
"More and more campuses are recognizing the value in being seen as a gay-friendly and LGBT supportive campus," he said. "Since UMass implemented its theme floor we have seen nearly 100 colleges do similar inclusive housing options over the last decade."
Janiczek Beemyn has been working with UMass administrators to change the university's name policy for three years.
Convincing the university to institute a new naming policy wasn't the issue, Janiczek Beemyn said, it was getting over the technological hurdle of tweaking the school's software system, PeopleSoft, to incorporate the alternate name that took time.
"It didn't have an easy way to accommodate giving people a different way to identify," Janiczek Beemyn said.
Preferred names will appear on students' main Student Center page on SPIRE and on class rosters, among other informal documents. Legal names will appear on items such as financial aid and health insurance papers.
Since news of the preferred name capability was posted on the Stonewall Centers' Web page, Janiczek Beemyn has been getting calls from schools interested in the technology to adopt the policy.
"A lot of schools have contacted me about how we were able to do it from a technical standpoint," Janiczek Beemyn said. "They want to share the process."
The UMass software breakthrough is coming roughly at the same time the University of Vermont figured out how to do the same with their system, Banner, another widespread college administration program.
"When I was in class, the professors would look down the roster and be calling roll and say the wrong name and then correct themselves in front of the whole class," Davin Sokup, a transgender University of Vermont student, told the university communication department.
"I'm out on campus, but it's still very uncomfortable to walk around the next day and wonder who's seeing me and telling their friend, Oh, like, that's the kid."
Finding ways to accommodate transgender students has been a growing field on college campuses, Janiczek Beemyn said, as more students are identifying as transgender.
Concrete statistics on the transgender population are not readily available.
Surveys predict a population range of anywhere from 1 transgender person per 100,000 people to 1 in 500, according to the Human Rights Campaign, a Washington D.C. based LGBT rights group.
"Increasingly, people are identifying openly as transgender," Janiczek Beemyn said. "It's more of an option now."
4. Inside Higher Ed, July 24, 2009
1320 18th Street NW, 5th Floor, Washington, DC 20036
Anti-Gay Scholar Rejects NYU
By Scott Jaschik
Thio Li-ann won't be coming to New York University this fall after all.
Thio, a professor at the National University of Singapore and a politician in her home country as well, was to have taught a course on human rights law as part of an NYU program that brings scholars from around the world to teach at the law school. But in recent weeks, as students and others have circulated information about her anti-gay statements, some have questioned whether it was appropriate for NYU to hire someone with limited views of human rights to teach the subject. But NYU has defended the hire on academic freedom grounds, and Thio indicated that she was looking forward to debating the issues while teaching on the campus.
Not anymore. While NYU has not changed its position, its law dean issued a statement in which he announced that Thio has decided not to come to NYU. "She explained that she was disappointed by what she called the atmosphere of hostility by some members of our community towards her views and by the low enrollments in her classes," wrote Dean Richard L. Revesz.
In response to a request for comment on the situation, Thio sent Inside Higher Ed her resignation letter to NYU. "As an Asian woman whose legal training has spanned the finest institutions in both East and West, I believe I would have something of value to offer your students. However, the conditions no longer exist to proceed with the visit, given the animus fueled by irresponsible misrepresentation/distortions and/or concerted invective from certain parties. Friends and colleagues have also expressed serious concerns about my safety and well-being."
Thio praised NYU for standing by the job offer, and blamed the critics for making it difficult for her to accept. "I understand that you, too, have been under great pressure to rescind the invitation. I appreciate the commitment NYU has shown towards the principle of academic freedom in resisting this pressure; to yield to politicking would be deleterious to the academic enterprise. Today's heresy can become tomorrow's orthodoxy and vice versa," she wrote to the dean. "Despite this, it has become clear that the fraught atmosphere of hostility towards me is inimical to an effective teaching and learning environment. As you know, the ireful campaign against me has negatively affected class enrollment, a sad commentary on this present noisome state of affairs."
In his statement, Dean Revesz answered one of the questions many have been asking when he said that NYU was unaware of Thio's anti-gay statements when she was hired. But he went on to say that the university makes a practice of not looking for such statements (even her critics say Thio has made no effort to hide her views), and that they wouldn't have changed the hiring decision.
"Of course, an electronic search of her public statements would have produced the text of [an anti-gay speech much cited by critics]," he wrote. "We did not conduct such a search in considering this appointment, and we have not conducted such searches in considering other appointments: We limit our inquiry to the review of academic publications and works in progress, teaching evaluations, and reputation for collegiality. That is the general norm at academic institutions."
The text of the speech becomes important, her critics have said, because it shows her not just to be someone who doesn't endorse gay rights, but someone who espouses views that in some cases have been widely repudiated by scholars (that people can change sexual orientation if they want) and that run counter to what most human rights groups consider basic human rights (she argues for criminalizing sex between people of the same sex). In addition, she has repeatedly mocked gay people, saying for example that anal sex is "like shoving a straw up your nose to drink," and rejected arguments based on a diversity of sexual orientations by saying that "diversity is not license for perversity."
In some disputes over hiring controversial faculty members who are viewed as bigoted, student groups have demanded that individuals be dismissed or not hired in the first place. In this case, however, NYU OUTlaw, the gay student group that spread word of Thio's views, didn't demand that she be kept off campus. The group's board adopted a statement saying that the best way "to fight Dr. Thio's offensive views not by silencing her but by engaging in a respectful and productive dialogue about the boundaries of human rights. This fall, we plan to hold events to explore issues of academic freedom, LGBT rights, and human rights in Asia, and we look forward to Dr. Thio’s participation in the discussion."
Others, however, have called for NYU to withdraw the invitation to Thio. Hundreds have signed an online petition that says she shouldn't be at NYU. "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," says the text of the petition.
In his statement, Revesz wrote that the situation changed for Thio as the controversy continued. E-mail exchanges between NYU students and Thio offended those on both sides of the debate, he wrote.
"In the last few weeks, a number of members of our community wrote to Professor Thio indicating their objection to her appointment as a visiting professor," he wrote. "She considers some of these messages to be offensive. In turn, she replied to them in a manner that many members of our community -- myself included -- consider offensive and hurtful.... Members of our community have questioned whether Professor Thio's statements create an unwelcoming atmosphere, one in which students in her classes would have been unable to participate effectively in the learning experience. Determination of where that point is on the continuum of free speech is a difficult, case-by-case judgment based upon context, history of the relationship, and many other factors. But it would be an extraordinary measure, almost never taken by universities in the United States, to cancel a course on the basis of e-mail exchanges between a faculty member and members of the student body. To do so would eviscerate the concept of academic freedom and chill student-faculty debate."
Revesz also rejected the idea that a scholar "opposed to the recognition of certain important human rights" should be disqualified from teaching a course on human rights: "An academic's views on a substantive issue should be irrelevant to his or her suitability to teach a course in a particular area as long as the opposing views are treated fairly in the classroom: A proponent or opponent of the death penalty can be equally qualified to lead a seminar on capital punishment, for example. The contrary position would be a serious affront to academic freedom, would lead to endless political litmus tests, and would greatly impoverish academic institutions, which gain so much from the robust discussion of controversial legal issues."
5. Edge Boston, July 24, 2009
46 Plympton Street, Boston, MA 02118
Gay-rights activists protest at Wheaton College
By Windy City Times
More than 75 LGBT-rights activists gathered in Wheaton, Ill. last week to protest against Exodus International, one of the world’s predominant voices promoting the correction of homosexuality through Christianity.
LGBT advocacy groups from across Illinois and as far as Bloomington, Ind. participated in the July 14 demonstration, which was organized by Chicago’s Gay Liberation Network ( GLN ) . Picketers gathered on the Wheaton College campus as Exodus International kicked off a five-day "Freedom Conference"-its largest annual recruiting event.
Members of GLN, the Stonewall Association of Illinois, DuPage NOW, Chicago Coalition of Welcoming Churches, Chicago Bi/Queer Meetup and various Illinois PFLAG chapters were among the many voicing their antipathy toward the organization.
"Our main aim is to counter those lies that they’re telling us," said GLN co-founder Andy Thayer. "If your thing is about saying a whole class of people are less than good, that’s bigotry, we don’t care how you dress it up."
Exodus International is one of the foremost champions of the "ex-gay" movement, which believes that same-sex attraction is a disorder that can be healed through prayer and proper counseling, known as reparative therapy.
Among the protestors were LGBT individuals who had personally experienced the Exodus program. One Chicago native, Brother Michael Oboza of the Orthodox Catholic Church, said the protest was the first time he came forward publically about his time with Exodus.
"I was told I was sick," Oboza said. "I was told to go through electroshock therapy."
Shock therapy is no longer common practice, but other highly controversial ideas have surrounded Exodus in recent months. Last March, Exodus board member Don Schmierer traveled to Uganda, where homosexuality is criminalized, to attend a conference organized in part by prominent European neo-Nazi Scott Lively, an advocate for homosexual "re-education" camps.
Lesbian protestor Lillie X, president of the Bloomington, Ind., group Gay Recruiters, created an image of Holocaust prisoners wearing upside-down pink triangles on their uniforms to express her fears. She made the long trip to Wheaton as a statement against complacency.
"What I’m here to inspire people to do is to go out and recruit other people to come to events like this and show them it’s not unreasonable to drive four and half to five hours to come," she said.
Thayer said he was ecstatic at the high turnout and number of organizations present, especially considering the distance most had to travel to attend the early evening weekday protest.
"There were certainly some people that had to make a fair sacrifice in order to get here tonight on a weekday night and you have to respect that," he said. "A lot of people had to take off work early."
Thayer said the networking opportunities created by the wide array of Illinois groups present should help the state’s gay rights movement immensely.
"If we’re going to win legal equality in Illinois it’s got to be much more than just Chicago that does it," he said.
Thayer said GLN will continue to fight Exodus whenever it is in the area, and the hope is that the protest will create a greater awareness among national LGBT activist groups and inspire them to do the same.
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