Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Herald-Leader on record in support of ideological uniformity

In its July 2 editorial, "Academic Witchhunt,"the Lexington Herald-Leader charged The Family Foundation of Kentucky with engaging in a "witchhunt" in its efforts to shed light on taxpayer-supported political and social activism at the University of Kentucky, and on the university's hypocritical rhetoric about "diversity" when, in fact, there seems to be little diversity in the ideological makeup of its own faculty.

In its frenzied attempt to burn The Family Foundation at the rhetorical stake for doing little more than reprinting several UK web pages, Herald editors didn't bother to address why it is that amidst the tiresome propaganda about diversity, left-wing professors get to occupy comfortable offices at our state universities while conservatives seem nowhere to be found.

There are entire departments at UK where there is not a conservative in sight. One of them is the "Gender and Women's Studies" department, a little bastion of state supported left-wing activism where conservatives don't even get to be the object of witchhunts--since there aren't any to hunt.

We have challenged the ideological mullahs in the department to produce just one faculty member on its staff who supported the Marriage Amendment of 2004, which was approved by over 70 percent of voters--the very people whom the Herald-Leader expects to stand placidly by like good little taxpayers while their public universities use their tax money to undermine their beliefs.

In the Herald-Leader's news story, former director of the Gender and Women's Studies Dept. Joan Callahan defends the program by saying that "there is no longer a single, traditional view" on the family. You can say that again. Not only is there no longer a single traditional view in her former departent, there isn't any traditional view at all: there is now a single liberal view.

"The days of exclusion are coming to an end," she said. Oh really? If the "days of exclusion are over" in this little political fiefdom, then Callahan ought to be able to point to at least one faculty member in the Gender and Women's Studies program who has a traditional view on the matter.

We're not holding our breath.

Instead of the diversity people like Callahan like to talk about, there is none in this particular program. UK’s website lists faculty affiliations with groups like the ACLU, Planned Parenthood, and The Fairness Alliance, along with hyperlinks to those organizations.

Professors are listed as teaching “family planning and abortion” and also “involving students in activism” as part of the course descriptions.

One professor teaches a course for UK’s Discovery Seminar Program called “I know my Rights” that focuses on civil liberties law. Problem is, he's not even an attorney. His sole qualifaction for teaching about constitutional law appears to be that he is a Board member of an ACLU pro-abortion program.

Another professor even has UK funding her research on the negative impact of The Marriage Amendment on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender couples and paying them $100.00 to be interviewed about their “challenges.”

It would make an interesting thought experiment to imagine what the Herald-Leader's response would be if, instead of the left, the right had control of a whole department at one of our public universities. How would the Herald respond if UK's website proudly touted the fact that it had a whole department filled with professors who were members of prominent right-wing organizations?

Would it call those who pointed it out "witchhunters"? Not likely. In fact, it would be spearheading the attempt to draw attention to it--and naming names as it did so.

Would Lee Todd take time out from his empty rhetoric about diversity and join his pals at the ACLU to issue a statement about "academic freedom" to defend such a department, as he has done for the "Gender and Women's Studies" program? We doubt it.

But the Herald's editorial serves at least one useful purpose: it puts it on record in opposition to real diversity in our public universities.

Thanks for the clarification.


Anonymous said...

Fess up, Martin - you don't really know what "Gender and Women's Studies" at UK is, do you?

You don't realize it, but you're insisting that UK force professors to participate in this entity. Why anyone would be advocating this, I don't know. But that's what you are doing.

I strongly recommend that you do some serious research into this.

Martin Cothran said...


You keep making accusations about what I think that have no basis in what I actually said. In a previous post you went off on the idea that I had asserted that Intelligent Design should be an academic "discipline" despite the fact that I said (and believe) no such thing. So far, I have asked you three or four times to document where I said this--to no avail.

Now you have somehow got it into your head that I think professors are somehow forced to participate in the gender and women's studies program at UK, when it fact I never said anything even remotely similar to that.

Forget about research: there are some people who need to learn how to read plain English.

Anonymous said...

Hi Martin,

My only accusation here is that you don't really know what "Gender and Women's Studies" at UK really is. I think that it's a pretty fair statement, actually, and only deserves the label "accusation" insofar as it reveals some pretty poor journalistic practice on your part.

Whyever would you want UK to poll professors as to their political leanings and then force conservatives to join an interdepartmental program (not a department)? This is, after all, the only way that this program, that consists of faculty who have come to it voluntarily, could acquire the "diversity" you seem to think it needs. What are you thinking, Martin?

Martin Cothran said...


No, that was not your only accusation. Here is what you said: "You don't realize it, but you're insisting that UK force professors to participate in this entity."

How am I insisting on this? You don't say, you just say it, and, when it's challenged, you just move on, like you did about ID BEING AN ACADEMIC DISCIPLINE.

Gender and Women's Studies programs are fairly common in colleges and universities and commonly employ the same assumptions about sexuality and gender, namely that gender is culturally constructed (Judith Butler) and that sex is a power relationship (Michel Foucault).

In fact, it is ironic that you would oppose ID on the grounds that it is not science and yet you defend gender and women's studies departments which have become the control centers for "postmodern science"--the idea that scientific knowledge is just another competing series of narratives rather than a concrete source of truth (Jean Lyotard).

But the same people who oppose this kind of nonsense are the same people who oppose ID. Check out the book "Higher Superstition," by Paul Gross, which I reviewed in the Lexington Herald-Leader a few years back.

You would know this, of course, if, instead of spending your time telling me that I should do more research--and saying that I said things I did not say--you did a little research of your own.

Anonymous said...

Hi Martin,

Again, sorry for the slow reply. Hopefully, I've caught this before the enrty moves off the front page.

My statement about UK being forced to place conservatives into Gender and Womens Studies (GWS) is not an accusation, but simplt a matter of following your own reasoning. GWS at UK is an interdepartmental program, and participants gravitate to it voluntarily. Just as environmental chemists, biologists, engineers, etc. gravitate to interdepartmental environmental sciences programs. Just as horticulturalists, biologistys, plant pathologists, crop scientists gravitate to interdepartmental plant physiology programs. Your insistence that UK bring conservatives into GWS amounts to one of forcing conservatives to this end, just as it would be forcing music professors to join environmental sciences, or immunologists to join plant physiology. Not only does it make no sense, it amounts exactly to an institutional edict that forces faculty to do things they would not otherwise.

I wonder - have you investigated the size of the student body that is directly served by GWS? How many students enroll in the program? If the answer isn't zero, then you wailing about state funds being used for this program is especially feeble.

Anonymous said...

First, a correction on a point of fact -- GWS is a department at UK. I believe the change was made during the past academic year. They've hired several faculty as a department, and will no doubt be hiring more soon.

Second, note that the GWS mission statement explicitly says that courses are to be taught from a feminist/womanist standpoint. In other words, social conservatives are not welcome (whether on a hired or volunteer basis). Prof. Callahan's comments in the H-L article essentially make the same point.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, I should have said that GWS is "in process" of becoming a department. Their website says there are still some hoops to jump through, although the process is well underway.

Here's another wrinkle I'd like to add to the discussion. I know at least two female faculty members, both well qualified to teach in GWS, who have told me (separately) that they won't because of the political commitment required. Both are Christians, and both tell me that they feel they must keep their religion as well as their politics "in the closet" out of fear that it will alienate their colleagues. The connection of religion and politics here is hardly accidental, since social conservatives tend to be religious people. Thus the political discrimination at UK is effectively religious discrimination as well. I don't think it's intended to be that, but there is certainly strong pressure to conform politically, and the effect is to weed out religious believers as well.

Personally I think that this is a reprehensible situation. Universities should not have an atmosphere of thought-control. Much of the blame lies with the faculty, but much also lies with the administration. By the mere fact of allowing a program such as GWS to exist with a plain and openly stated ideological orientation, the administration sends a signal that people who disagree with that orientation (i.e., social conservatives and religious believers) are not welcome at UK.

Anonymous said...

Hi dhb,

I think what we should be focusing on in GWS as it stands in the here and now. I don't see that I've gotten anything wrong.

Also, this may sound blunt, but I've had enough experience with hypothetical and anonymous fictional martyrs (courtesy of the Discovery Institute) to have learned to take stories such as yours with a large grain of salt. Maybe you're right, but I won't believe it without some independent and reliable documentation. Rumors, suspicion, and hearsay are acceptable in conservative circles, but not in polite society.

Here's the scorecard:

Conservatives in GWS at UK - not known.

Liberals in GWS at UK - not known.

Conservatives who have been denied participation in GWS at UK - not known.

The bottom line - TFF has taken a complete absence of data of any sort and woven a fantastical and fictional account of alleged discrimination at UK. As with the mythical martyrs, this reasoning is par for the course for conservatives such as are in the employ of the DI. But this reasoning is bogus. The TFF has nothing.

Martin Cothran said...

I find it highly ironic that Art would, on the one hand, be attacking Intelligent Design in the name of defending science and at the same time defending gender and women's studies as legitimate academic disciplines.

This pseudodiscipline is antithetical to real science. I suggest Higher Superstition: The Academic Left and its Quarrels with Science, by Paul Gross and Norman Levitt, which I reviewed for the Lexington Herald-Leader a few years back.

One sample:

"Within the academic left ... hostility extends to the social structures through which science is institutionalized, to the system of education by which professional scientists are produced, and to a mentality that is taken, rightly or wrongly, as characteristic of scientists. Most surprisingly, there is open hostility toward the actual content of scientific knowledge and toward the assumption, which one might have supposed universal among education people, that scientific knowledge is reasonably reliable and rests on sound methodology."