This week the College Republicans at the University of Iowa decided to host a “Conservative Coming Out Week”. The event was meant to drive membership and encouraged students to "come out of the closet" and wear red. The idea had been approved by school officials, but apparently the groups email made one college Professor see red.
Ellen Lewin, professor of Anthropology and Gender, Women’s & Sexuality Studies in the Department of Gender, Women’s & Sexuality Studies at the University of Iowa made the completely inappropriate decision to hit the “reply all” button and type the following eloquent words from her University email account:
“#*@% [F-Word] YOU, REPUBLICANS”
Outraged at the professor’s response the College Republicans are now asking for a public apology from Lewin, and quite rightly so. Instead what they received was the following response via email:
“This is a time when political passions are inflamed, and when I received your unsolicited email, I had just finished reading some newspaper accounts of fresh outrages committed by Republicans in government. I admit the language was inappropriate, and apologize for any affront to anyone’s delicate sensibilities. I would really appreciate your not sending blanket emails to everyone on campus, especially in these difficult times.” - Professor Ellen Lewin
To read the entire email chain please click here
This article hit close to home for me as I am currently a part-time graduate student at a very progressive University in New York City. Sadly I was not shocked to read about this incident, I am however embarrassed for the University of Iowa.
Universities are pillars of higher learning they are institutions dedicated to open discussion, freedom of expression and intellectual debate. The fact that this professor decided to respond to students who are members of a particular group from her professional email (thereby representing herself and the University) in this demeaning and dismissive manner - is just plain wrong and flies in the face of everything University’s are suppose to represent.
Although the President of the University did respond to the student body with yet another mass email encouraging “civil and respectful discourse” I am not convinced this slap on the wrist is a strong enough statement. What if this had been a “Coming Out Week” for gay and lesbian students and a professor, or student for that matter, responded with the same statement (“#*@% [F-Word] YOU)… it would have been considered a clear cut case of hate speech.
It’s true Professor Lewin has as much freedom of expression as the College Republicans and I support that concept, but lead by example Professor. Have a dialogue, host a civil debate or organize a peaceful protest. Engage those you disagree with instead of telling them to go fly a kite in the rain-that is after all what you should be teaching your students.