Queer News On Campus [QNOC] Articles Digest
For the week ending 2010.06.13
Brought to you by the Consortium of Higher Education LGBT Resource Professionals. http://www.lgbtcampus.org
Archives of the QNOC Digest can be found at http://queernewsoncampus.blogspot.com
Reminder: If you come across articles that should be included in the digest, please email a link to the article to firstname.lastname@example.org
1. Inside Higher Ed - 4-Year Debate Over a Book Choice
2. The Chronicle of Higher Education - Judge Rules Against Former Librarian in Case Involving Anti-Gay Book
3. The Signal (Georgia State University) - Gay or not gay - that is the question
4. The Seattle Times - Seattle U. prof, Marquette settle over rescinded job offer
5. Inside Higher Ed - Marquette Settles With Woman Whose Job Offer Was Revoked
6. The Dartmouth - Campus remembers Lavender ’10
1. Inside Higher Ed, June 8, 2010
1320 18th Street NW, 5th Floor, Washington, D.C. 20036
4-Year Debate Over a Book Choice
By Scott Jaschik
Freshmen who entered Ohio State University at Mansfield in the fall of 2006 are about to graduate. A legal battle set off by the selection of a book for them all to read their first semester only came to a close on Monday -- when a federal judge rejected a former librarian's lawsuit against the university.
The former librarian, who said he felt pressured to resign after losing support at the university, was on a committee that was assigned to task of picking a book for the freshmen to read. During the deliberations, he suggested an anti-gay book -- and his recommendation and the comments he made about the book led to an intense debate among faculty members at the university. The librarian's case became something of a cause célèbre in some circles, with the librarian portrayed as being ostracized for his Christian, conservative views. But many faculty members said that the issue wasn't political correctness, but professional responsibility.
Monday's ruling rejected all of the librarian's claims and backed Ohio State, finding that there was no legal standing to challenge the university's policies and that the case did not raise free speech issues. And it is also the latest to apply a controversial Supreme Court decision that many national faculty leaders fear is being applied in ways that could limit academic freedom. In this case, the judge ruled that the work of the faculty committee didn't have the same legally protected status for academic freedom as would a professor's teaching or research.
Ohio State Mansfield in 2006 was joining the growing number of colleges that ask all freshmen to read the same book as part of their arrival at the institution. Scott Savage, then the head reference librarian and a self-described conservative Christian, joined a faculty committee charged with selecting a book. In discussions, he criticized some of the proposed ideas as political, and when other committee members said that wasn't a problem, he suggested a number of conservative texts, with the most discussion focusing on one of his nominations: The Marketing of Evil: How Radicals, Elitists, and Pseudo-Experts Sell Us Corruption Disguised as Freedom, by David Kupelian.
The book suggests that a gay conspiracy is hurting society. Publicity material for the book blasts the gay civil rights movement for changing "America's former view of homosexuals as self-destructive human beings into their current status as victims and cultural heroes" and says that this transformation campaign "faithfully followed an in-depth, phased plan laid out by professional Harvard-trained marketers."
Savage could not be reached for this article, and he has said that he suggested the book to make a point, not necessarily to have it assigned, but he engaged in a series of e-mail discussions with faculty members in which he defended the choice and rejected their view that assigning such a book would send a message of intolerance to gay students and faculty members. (They also noted that they never suggested banning anyone from reading anything, including The Marketing of Evil, only that more sensitive choices be made for a book to be assigned to every new student.)
As the e-mails flew across campus, several professors filed internal complaints against Savage, saying that they did not feel they could send gay students to the library to work with him knowing of his attitudes. Savage filed his own complaint, charging with harassment the professors who had criticized him. The university ended up rejecting charges brought against Savage, as well as those he brought. After first requesting and receiving a leave, Savage resigned. But in his lawsuit, he charges that he was effectively forced out by the lack of support he received, and suggests that the criticism he received violated his free speech rights and that the university's anti-bias rules were used to censor him.
William O. Bertelsman, a federal judge, rejected all of those charges. In his decision, he wrote that there was no evidence that Savage didn't freely resign, and noted that his supervisor defended his right to hold controversial views.
"Thus, the fact that Savage felt wounded by the criticism of several faculty members and unnerved by their challenge to his professionalism does not create an objectively 'intolerable' working environment, given that he had the strong support of his immediate supervisor and no indication from the dean that his job was in jeopardy," the judge found.
The 'Garcetti' Impact
The academic freedom questions were more complicated and involved an interpretation of the Supreme Court's ruling in Garcetti v. Ceballos, a suit by a deputy district attorney in Los Angeles who was demoted after he criticized a local sheriff's conduct to his supervisors. In the ruling, the Supreme Court found that public employees, when speaking as part of their official duties, do not have the same First Amendment rights as citizens who speak out on various issues. Faculty groups had feared that such a ruling would limit the academic freedom of faculty members at public colleges and universities, and Justice David Souter raised this issue in a dissent in the case.
But Justice Anthony Kennedy, in the opinion in the case, suggested that the ruling need not apply to cases involving academic freedom. "There is some argument that expression related to academic scholarship or classroom instruction implicates additional constitutional interests that are not fully accounted for by this court’s customary employee-speech jurisprudence. We need not, and for that reason do not, decide whether the analysis we conduct today would apply in the same manner to a case involving speech related to scholarship or teaching.”
While that aside pleased faculty groups, they say that judges have started to ignore it and to apply Garcetti to public college faculty members in dangerous ways. In the Ohio State Mansfield case, the judge recognized that academic freedom issues could be relevant, but said that that they aren't a factor in cases of the work of a faculty committee.
Judge Bertelsman noted that Justice Kennedy specifically cited professors' scholarship and teaching as potentially work that should not be covered. "The Garcetti court recognized no broader exception to the rule it propounded," Bertelsman wrote. "Savage’s recommendation of a book for a book list cannot, in the opinion of this court, be classified as 'scholarship or teaching,' however. The recommendation was made in the line of duty, but it was made pursuant to an assignment to a faculty committee. This court holds that, without exceptional circumstances, such activities cannot be classified as 'scholarship or teaching' in the Garcetti sense." (Generally, faculty groups argue that governance activities require the same commitment to free speech as do research and teaching, but that argument didn't sway the judge.)
David French, senior counsel of the Alliance Defense Fund, a group that has defended the rights of religious individuals and that backed Savage in this case, said via e-mail: "We are disappointed that the federal district court applied Garcetti to further limit academic freedom."
Adam Kissel of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, said: "Debate over which book should be assigned to students is an academic matter protected by academic freedom. The overall e-mail conversation, however, seems to have strayed far beyond that topic."
Ohio State officials said they were pleased with the ruling. Many of the faculty members who sparred with Savage said that they felt personally vulnerable in the case as they were criticized by some for being anti-Christian. Many also said they felt the case was an attempt to undercut their academic freedom to reject the selection of an offensive, anti-gay book -- and that the publicity that the case received was an attempt at intimidation.
One faculty member who was involved in the case, and who asked not to be identified, said via e-mail: "In this sound, astute decision, the court affirms that the university's harassment policy was never used -- ever -- to punish Savage's speech. It determines that Savage quit his job voluntarily and was not discharged. It upholds the conduct of both the administration and faculty in exercising their own responsibilities and freedoms as perfectly consistent with the law. Given the reams of distorted media coverage about this case, this outcome could not be taken for granted, although we had every reason to expect it, based on the facts. We're very happy that the judge apprehended the matter so clearly. This is a terrific day for the state of Ohio, Ohio State University, and academic freedom."
In the end, at Mansfield, Savage's proposed book for freshmen was never assigned. They read David K. Shipler's The Working Poor.
2. The Chronicle of Higher Education, June 8, 2010
1255 Twenty-Third St, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20037
Judge Rules Against Former Librarian in Case Involving Anti-Gay Book
A federal judge has ruled against a former librarian at Ohio State University at Mansfield who claimed he had been forced out of his job after formally recommending that the institution require freshmen to read a book alleging a gay conspiracy to damage society. Rejecting the arguments of the former librarian, Scott A. Savage, and the Alliance Defense Fund, which backed him, Judge William O. Bertelsman of U.S. District Court found no evidence that the university had violated the free-speech rights of Mr. Savage after he recommended freshmen read David Kupelian's The Marketing of Evil: How Radicals, Elitists, and Pseudo-Experts Sell Us Corruption Disguised as Freedom (WND Books, 2005). Although Mr. Savage became the target of animosity and complaints from professors over his recommendation, which the university did not follow, he could not claim to have been severely harmed because he did not suffer any employment-related injury such as a disciplinary sanction, his supervisor had supported his right to make the recommendation, and he had chosen to resign on his own, the judge held.
3. The Signal (Georgia State University), June 8, 2010
44 Courtland Street, Suite 200, University Center, Atlanta, GA 30303
Gay or not gay - that is the question
By Syeda Hira Mahmood
Ladies and gentlemen, I’d like to introduce you to Elena Kagan.
Elena Kagan is the U.S. Supreme Court hopeful who would assume the now vacated spot left after Justice John Paul Stevens announced his retirement. Kagan is a graduate from Princeton University, Harvard Law School and Oxford University. She was formally an assistant professor at the University of Chicago Law School in 1991 and later became a tenured professor. She is the former Dean of Harvard Law School and is currently the Solicitor General of the United States. President Obama nominated Kagan as a Supreme Court Justice in May of 2010.
Apparently, Elena Kagan may be a lesbian.
If you type “Elena Kagan” into Google, you will find that the first few suggested searches for Kagan are “personal life,” “husband” and “married.” If you type the name of any other Supreme Court Justice in, the suggestions are a bit different. Justice Sotomayor’s suggested searches are “biography,” “cases” and “opinion,” and Justice Breyer’s suggest searches are “biography,” “decisions” and “cases.”
Clearly, the tone is a bit different for Elena Kagan, but why?
There have been three women appointed to the Supreme Court: Sandra Day O’Connor, Ruth Bader Ginsberg and Sonia Sotomayor. Now Elena Kagan may be the fourth. While the other female justices received attention for other qualities such as religion and ethnicity, Kagan is the first to receive attention for her sexual orientation. I’ll be the first to say she is not the most feminine or attractive woman in the political world. She has very short hair and from what I’ve seen, she wears absolutely no make-up. She has never been married, she has no children and she is brilliant.
It is becoming more and more difficult for me to reconcile with the Wall Street Journal after their interpretation of Kagan. In their May 11 issue, they published a 17-year-old photo of Kagan playing softball with her colleagues. She is wearing jeans, a t-shirt and a big smile on her face. Her physical appearance unfortunately carries much more weight than her credentials and any media coverage of this woman will tell you just that. Why is she unmarried? What is her sexual orientation? Is she a lesbian? Will she vote for legalizing gay marriage?
I wonder if George Washington would have asked his first Supreme Court nominee, John Jay, what his sexual orientation was. Maybe not, because not only is that completely irrelevant, it is none of our business.
There are several components to this controversy that I find upsetting. The first I would like to dissect is gender bias. If President Obama nominated an unattractive 50-year-old unmarried man with the exact same education and experience, his sexual orientation would never be an issue. In fact, many older unmarried men are praised, rewarded and are still considered to be eligible bachelors. However, when the nominee is a successful woman, there is something wrong with her. She is somehow dangerous or defected. As Maureen Dowd carefully distinguished the difference, a woman goes from being “single” to “unmarried.”
The second element to this issue I would like to address is her physical appearance. I began Kagan’s description with her educational background, and it is an unavoidable fact that the woman is brilliant. She is brilliant and unattractive.
Unfortunately in politics, the idea of a woman being both intelligent and good-looking is completely unheard of. If this does not ring true to you, just use the example of two women who became increasingly popular in American politics recently: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former Governor of Alaska Sarah Palin.
During her campaign to win the Democratic nomination, Hillary was mocked for her pant suits and inability to captivate an audience. Her credentials, on the other hand, were more or less not an issue because she has the background and experience to have earned her position in politics.
Palin was instantly dubbed the beautiful one. Not only is she a former beauty queen and mother of five, but the media also labeled her as dumb, ditzy and a joke. It became nearly impossible for Sarah Palin to be taken seriously, from her own gaffes on television to the SNL skits performed wonderfully by Tina Fey. Suddenly there was a gross oversimplification of two women who were potential Presidential and Vice Presidential candidates: one is unattractive and smart, the other is attractive and dumb.
Is it really 2010?
Lastly, Elena Kagan’s sexual orientation is unconfirmed and still remains a question to many. But why is it even a question at all? Elena Kagan’s judicial philosophy, briefings on court cases and whether or not she honors the Constitution are much more pivotal issues that should be discussed by the American public and Washington, D.C. Her sexual orientation is completely irrelevant. If we want to pretend that her sexual orientation is relevant, than that’s okay too. If the Supreme Court is attempting to be a fair representation for the American people, we really need five out of nine Justices to be female and one of nine Justices to be gay.
But the Supreme Court is not attempting to do that. The Supreme Court is made of highly skilled, well-versed scholars of law put there to use their judicial temperament to best adhere to the constitution. This should not be the only criteria for holding a seat on the Supreme Court, but it is absolutely the most important.
4. The Seattle Times, June 9, 2010
PO Box 70, Seattle, WA 98111
Seattle U. prof, Marquette settle over rescinded job offer
By Jack Broom
A Seattle University professor has reached an agreement with Marquette University, which abruptly rescinded a job offer to her last month, a move that had triggered speculation that the Milwaukee, Wis., university objected to the lesbian scholar's published works on gender and sexual orientation.
Terms of the resolution between Marquette and SU professor Jodi O'Brien were not disclosed. But in a statement to the media, O'Brien said she hopes the agreement will lead to "a legacy of community betterment [at Marquette], including research and education regarding issues of gender and sexuality."
Marquette officials had denied that O'Brien's sexual orientation or the quality of her published work were factors in the Jesuit university's decision to rescind its offer to her to become dean of its Helen Way Klingler College of Arts and Sciences.
At the time the job offer was revoked, a Marquette spokeswoman said officials at the Jesuit university were concerned about some of O'Brien's published writings "relating to Catholic mission and identity."
In a news release Wednesday, Marquette's president, the Rev. Robert A. Wild, S.J., said: "We deeply regret the upset and unwanted attention that we caused this outstanding teacher and scholar, and we are grateful for the graciousness with which she has handled this matter in the weeks since the decision was announced."
Wild said his decision to rescind O'Brien's contract reflected his judgment for the university on her writing as it pertained to the university's mission and identity.
"To be sure, the university recognizes that, as is true of many judgment calls, different individuals and institutions could reasonably reach a different conclusion." Wild said.
O'Brien, in her statement, said her goal was reaching an accord that would be "responsive and respectful to the members of the Marquette community and the Milwaukee area residents who have shown such tremendous support for me."
Information from The Associated Press is included in this report.
Jack Broom: 206-464-2222 or email@example.com
5. Inside Higher Ed, June 10, 2010
1320 18th Street NW, 5th Floor, Washington, D.C. 20036
Marquette Settles With Woman Whose Job Offer Was Revoked
Marquette University announced Wednesday that it has reached a "mutually acceptable resolution” with Jodi O’Brien, a scholar who was offered the job of dean of arts and sciences, only to have the offer rescinded -- a move that has angered many faculty members. O'Brien is a lesbian and some of her writing is about lesbian sexuality -- facts about which she was frank during the interview process. Marquette declined to reveal details of the settlement. But a statement from the Rev. Robert A. Wild, the president, said: “We deeply regret the upset and unwanted attention that we caused this outstanding teacher and scholar, and we are grateful for the graciousness with which she has handled this matter in the weeks since the decision was announced.” Father Wild said his decision to rescind the contract reflected his judgment for the university on issues arising from aspects of O’Brien’s writings as they pertained to the university’s mission and identity. “To be sure, the university recognizes that, as is true of many judgment calls, different individuals and institutions could reasonably reach a different conclusion, even in the context of leadership positions,” he added.
O'Brien issued her own statement Wednesday night: "Throughout the recent settlement talks my intent has been to be responsive and respectful to the members of the Marquette community and the Milwaukee area residents who have shown such tremendous support for me. I have received hundreds of messages, including many from local Catholics, expressing dismay at the university's decision to suddenly cancel my hire. This support has inspired me to work toward an agreement that acknowledges the pain and damage to the Marquette community as well as to myself. I accepted the position of dean with the sense of a mandate to cultivate mutual understanding and respect among the many different voices that make up the Marquette community and the local and regional environments. Hopefully this work will be carried out through the terms of the resolution. I appreciate the responsiveness of the Marquette representatives to suggestions regarding a legacy of community betterment, including research and education regarding issues of gender and sexuality. I look forward to watching that progress unfold."
6. The Dartmouth, June 11, 2010
Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH 03755
Campus remembers Lavender ’10
By Eliza Relman
Since the tragic death of Cody Lavender ’10 during his term abroad in Scotland last year, close friends and mentors have mourned the loss of an honest and caring student whom they described as truly passionate about social activism and his studies at the College.
Early the morning of December 14, 2008, Lavender fell from the fourth-floor balcony of one of the residence halls at the University of Edinburgh, where he had been studying on the College’s religion foreign study program. He died from his injuries at the scene. Students on the FSP reacted to his death, which was deemed an accident, with shock and initial confusion.
“He was one of the most effervescent and loving people that I’ve ever known,” Jordan Osserman ’11, a close friend of Lavender said. “He really cared a lot about his friends at Dartmouth.”
Lavender, a 20-year-old native of Tucson, Ariz., was known for his social activism on campus and involvement with the gay community. As co-chair of Gender Sexuality XYZ, formerly the Gay-Straight Alliance, he worked to identify issues and raise awareness concerning gay rights, according to his friends.
“He was the driving force behind a lot of what GSX did,” Ben Solomon ’10, a friend of Lavender’s, said. “He could identify a process that was repeating itself and really pushed people to look at their position and forced us to see how in some ways we were being exactly like the people who hated us so much.”
In Spring 2008, Lavender took Professor Ivy Schweitzer’s course on Contemporary Issues in Feminism. Schweitzer, who teaches English and Women and Gender Studies, said that Lavender’s passion for social activism was evident in her class.
“He had a special concern with power and empowerment,” Schweitzer said. “Cody was an interrogative student — he did not want to take the general consensus and was not content with the way things were on the surface. He wanted to understand things from a practical activist’s perspective. He wanted to close that circle of theory and practice.”
Professor of Women and Gender Studies Michael Bronski agreed that Lavender was passionate about his academic work at the College.
“He really had an enormous amount of enthusiasm about his life and his studies,” Bronski said. “He did not have a blasé attitude about anything.”
Schweitzer chose Lavender as her presidential scholar and worked with him throughout the summer of 2008 on their research project, which entailed digitizing the letters and documents by or about Samson Occom, an important 18th century Native American writer.
“Cody’s death was a loss for Dartmouth,” Schweitzer said. “He was a public intellectual and a public spokesperson and I think he would have been an outspoken leader of his class.”
In addition to his studies and work with GSX, Lavender served on the staff of Aporia, the College’s undergraduate philosophy journal.
Osserman, a regular columnist for The Dartmouth, wrote a column expressing his reaction to Lavender’s death one month after the tragedy. In the opinion piece, Osserman reflected on Lavender as an individual who changed Osserman’s life and experiences at Dartmouth.
Osserman noted that while in Scotland, Lavender organized a congregation at the U.S. Consulate to protest the passages of California’s Proposition 8, a referendum to eliminate same-sex marriage. This event, Osserman explained, exemplified Lavender’s unique desire to effect social change.
“A friend of mine who was studying with Cody told me that he stood up to a class of near strangers to recruit supporters, championing his cause without any hesitation or fear of homophobic backlash,” Osserman wrote. “It was the type of fearlessness in Cody that I both admired and envied. Cody didn’t just talk about liberation — he strived to live it everyday.”
Osserman said it was initially difficult for him to come to terms with his death.
“Writing the piece [for The Dartmouth] was cathartic for me especially since I was on a [language study abroad program] the term after he died,” Osserman said. “It helped to talk a lot about him with our friends.”
Solomon described Lavender as someone he could always trust to be supportive and listen to issues of a personal or sensitive nature.
“He used to say ‘don’t be so Protestant,’ which meant that I needed to relax because I had a Protestant work ethic,” Solomon said. “He taught me that work for the sake of work is pointless — you need to have a goal.”
Solomon noted that he had been talking on Skype with Lavender about three hours before his death.
“We were talking about getting an apartment above Murphy’s,” Solomon said. “He was the one organizing it all. He was always the doer.”
Solomon said that if Lavender were still alive, Solomon’s life would probably be very different due to the continuing advice he would have received from his friend. At the same time, Lavender’s death has caused him to be more intimately involved in GSX and issues of gay activism than he would have otherwise.
“Before he died I didn’t really realize that he was the only one doing that,” Solomon said. “He was a leader in life. And in death he was inspired people to do great things, to take responsibility.”
Both Solomon and Osserman stressed Lavender’s compassion and his ambitious and optimistic spirit.
“He would know when someone felt alone — he was very perceptive in that way,” Solomon said about Lavender. “He always knew where to direct empathy.”
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