Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Censorship in Academia

I was listening to the radio this morning and got very interested in this story. At first, I thought I couldn't tie it into my blog, but then I realized it has several things to do with what my blog is about. The first is academia, and the second is censorship.

Even before I knew I would be working in academia, it drove me nuts to know how liberal academia tends to be. You can smeer feces on a statue of Jesus and call it art, you can burn American flags, you can claim to be Native American when you're not, you can sleep with your students, and you are usually protected by the administration. Yet voice one conservative opinion and you're in a lot of trouble.

There is an upper-level human resources manager from the University of Toledo that has just been fired for writing an editorial saying the Gay Rights movement does not have anything to do with the Civil Rights movement since being gay is a choice. She is African American, but I'm not sure that is a central issue. She was not representing the University of Toledo in her editorial.

I strongly disagree with what she says. I don't believe that being gay is a choice. For the first time in my life, I am fairly close to a gay couple. I had no idea it was that hard to be gay in our society, and I would happily go to their wedding if they were allowed to have one. If only all heterosexual relationships could be such beautiful examples of love and partnership as theirs is, the world would be a better place.

However, I believe that as I have the right to say this, she has the right to disagree. In the video, she seems like a well-educated, intelligent, reasonable woman. She says as a human resources person, she has hired homosexuals and heterosexuals without discrimination. She believes that others have the right to disagree with her and she respects their opinion. If her practices at work were discriminatory, then she should be fired in a heartbeat and no human resources department should ever hire her again. But that does not seem to be the case. She simply stated her opinion, and for that she was fired.

I suppose I can't help showing my political beliefs in this blog. I am very liberal on certain issues such as gay rights, women's issues, and the environment. Yet there are many that I am very conservative on, such as welfare and education. I'm a libra, I can't pick one side or the other and go through life struggling for balance!

I wish Ms. Dixon luck in her fight to protect free speech. It would be a scary blow to academia if she loses.


manda s., like in school said...

there is one big detail here- she was the equity officer! people are entitled to their own opinions and views, however, it would be irresponsible of the university to assume that her view, once they found out about it, would not affect her work. as the equity officer, it is her job to make sure there are no biases in hiring decisions. given what we know now, i definitely wouldn't trust her in that regard. universities need to make sure that they stay very clear about these things, and, "i'm not racist, but-" or "i'm not homophobic, but-" just isn't going to cut it.

Katertot said...

If it were a true "choice", I think most people would "choose" the path of least resistance, this being to comply with the societal standard. I think most would agree that takes some serious cahones to swim upstream... I don't think most people are that eager to choose masochism.

However, academic layoffs and denial of tenure have become a huge threat to intellectual freedom and research. You really need to see Ben Stein's film, "Expelled". It is fascinating and all about this exact topic.

supernumerarypa said...

The article Manda links to from her site is very different from the one I referenced here. I'm not sure we're getting the full story. Furthermore, the comments are more interesting than the actual story. This brings out strong feelings, some for and some against Ms. Dixon.

I strongly believe that many people are very capable of setting aside their personal beliefs to do their jobs well. An interviewer is not allowed to ask an interviewee what their religious beliefs are or how they feel about homosexuality. However, they can ask, "Do you have any personal beliefs that will keep you from supporting our organization's values?" And when they say "no," many people can really do it.

On my comment on Manda's blog, I pointed out that librarians value intellectual freedom and buy books that offend them personally. Perhaps a better example is a defense lawyer who must represent a client to the best of his/her ability even if the lawyer believes the client is "guilty as sin" of some awful crime. This is not a job I want, but there are very moral lawyers who do this every day, or fight for a client based on the laws, even if they don't agree with the laws.

I hope Ms. Dixon gets what she deserves, either way. But I would like to give her the benefit of the doubt until more information becomes available.