Pharyngula

June Sheldon was an adjunct professor of biology at San Jose/Evergreen Community College, teaching genetics. Here’s one account of a lecture she gave.

On June 21, 2007, June Sheldon, an adjunct professor teaching a human heredity course, answered a question about how heredity affects homosexual behavior by citing the class textbook and a well-known German scientist. She noted that the scientist found a correlation between maternal stress and homosexual behavior in males but that the scientist’s views are only one set of theories in the nature-versus-nurture debate mentioned by the textbook. Sheldon then explained that the class would learn in a later chapter of the textbook that homosexual behavior may be influenced by both genes and the environment.

Here’s another.

In the class discussion, Sheldon noted that the nature/nurture question was complex. She said that from the nurture point of view, fathers who wanted heterosexual sons might choose to treat their wives with courtesy. She also argued that from the nurture point of view, a theoretical possibility is that some women might have chosen lesbian relationships after having had bad heterosexual relationships.

These all sound like reasonable discussions of the issue. Of course, they are all written after the fact, so maybe the presentation has been cleaned up a bit. After all, a student found the lecture to be grounds to make a formal complaint.

On June 21st, our session of Human Heredity class was based on a development chapter. Professor Sheldon began to talk about something that had no mention in the textbook. I found many parts of her lecture highly offensive and unscientific. She presented this information, however, as hard science.

She said that a German study found that pregnant mice, when subjected to severe stress, would produce gay male rates. She said that the scientists cut off part of the pregnant mouse’s tail and dipped her in scalding water. I later found a website explaining what I’m quite sure is the study she was referencing. The study only used one mouse in the experimental group and one mouse in the control group. Not only that, the study did not explain how they determined the offspring were gay.

Professor Sheldon said that there are hardly any gay men in the Middle East because the women are treated very nicely. That comment was inaccurate, baseless, and offensive. First of all, determining a gay population is very difficult, and somewhat impossible if the atmosphere in that region is completely intolerant to gays. Also, I found it offensive that she thought women who must have written notes from a man to attend school are treated nicely.

A student asked Professor Sheldon what causes homosexuality in women. Professor Sheldon promptly replied that there aren’t any real lesbians. According to her, women simply get tire of relationships with men and pursue them with women.

To conclude her lecture, she addressed the men in the classroom, saying that if they want a “nice,” and strong son, they should treat their wives very nicely (do things like “open doors for them”). And she said, if they wanted a “sensitive” son, they should abuse their wives.

Even after a month of waiting to cool down, I am still horribly offended.

There are some things in that account that are bizarre: few gay men in the Middle East? Women who have sexual relationships with other women aren’t “real” lesbians? Just by that account, I’d agree that there might have been some weird assertions in the lecture. However, I teach genetics, too, and I know that students often come away with very garbled interpretations of what I taught, and I have the exam scores to prove it.

It’s also odd that the student doesn’t like the study he or she thinks the professor referenced. The maternal stress theory of homosexuality is a real, if somewhat controversial (like every theory about homosexuality), idea that has conflicting evidence in support about a contributing factor to sexual orientation. It’s perfectly appropriate to discuss it in class, especially if the professor also acknowledges other theories.

There are some red flags in that complaint, too. Complaining that she was lecturing about “something that had no mention in the textbook” is an argument that irritates me no end. That’s the point of having a professor — they’re there to discuss ideas with you. A class is not an exercise in regurgitating facts from the textbook. It’s also suspicious that this is a subjective account written a month after the event. The student has been sitting there stewing in outrage for weeks, and then assembles a complaint? Bleh. Throw it out on those grounds alone.

Then there is the fact that the student complains over and over about being offended. What do you want? Feel-good pablum in which you’re affirmed in what you already know? If you’re offended, speak up and argue. This was a wonderful opportunity: ask the professor to back up details of the experiment in question (Sheldon has since said that she was talking about the work of Günter Dörner, which really does involve more than one pair of mice). If you’ve got information that says the numbers in the experiment were weak, say so, and ask her to look into it. This is another reason professors are kind of useful to have around — they’re more responsive than your textbook, or should be.

I’d like to see more concrete evidence of invalid instruction than this. How about an exam question that is graded wrong if the student argues that homosexuals are not more rare in the Middle East than anywhere else? How about copies of powerpoint slides that assert nonsense? Let’s see some evidence of errors of substance.

Unfortunately, this complaint has gotten Sheldon’s contract terminated. She’s an adjunct, the university has the privilege of not renewing her contract (although it looks like they didn’t follow their own grievance procedures), so there’s probably not much she can do to oppose this, but Sheldon has filed a legal complaint anyway. Good luck to her. If professors could be dismissed on the basis of a single student complaint that they were “offended” by the content of a lecture, there wouldn’t be any of us around anymore.

I can’t say that I’m at all impressed with SJCC’s commitment to academic freedom, or their excessive reaction to a single student’s complaint. There is something more going on there, and they aren’t being forthcoming about it.

Comments

  1. #1 wazza
    July 19, 2008

    I know that some women do turn to lesbianism if they have bad experiences with men. Women are more prone to bisexuality than men – it just seems easier for them to accept. But there are also real lesbians who can only be happy in a relationship with another woman. Nature and nurture seem to both have an effect here, as in most things.

    Personally, I suspect that homosexuality is a way of producing sons who will help keep the tribe prosperous without themselves producing children to strain the tribes resources – the study of german homosexuals showed that second sons were more likely to be gay than first sons, third sons more likely than second… so the first son’s straight, the second son’s gay, he doesn’t have children but instead brings in food for his brother’s kids, aiding in their survival without fathering their competitors… and also, gay men seem to be better at childcare than straight men (anecdotal evidence, I’ll admit; it’s common in Fiji to make gay men into childcarers, though) and that might be another aspect of the same selection for individuals more likely to produce homosexual children later in the family, in order to increase the chances for the firstborn son’s children.

    Lesbianism, on the other hand, is probably an outgrowth of a socially determined bisexuality in women; by engaging in social bonding through sex, women can hold the tribe together, and so the desire to have sex with as many people as possible would be adaptive; lesbianism would be as odd, and only as odd, as true heterosexuality (in my experience, mostly the result of post-christian social constructs amongst women) in this model.

    Of course, I could be blowing smoke out of my ass, but considering the facts I’ve seen, this is the best explanation I could come up with.

  2. #2 Blake Stacey
    July 19, 2008

    Ah, the old “teaching material not in the textbook” trick!

    I recall a story my high-school chemistry teacher once related about the time the principal received a giant list of complaints which a “concerned parent” had sent on their child’s behalf, detailing all the ways the chemistry teacher was a horrible influence. On one page was the complaint, “She teaches us things which are not in the textbook”, and a couple pages later, many items down the list, it said, “She does nothing except stand in front of class and read out of the book.”

  3. #3 Quiet Desperation
    July 19, 2008

    There are some things in that account that are bizarre: few gay men in the Middle East? Women who have sexual relationships with other women aren’t “real” lesbians?

    Also: Women in the Middle East are treated kindly?

    Someone needs to talk to Leila Hussein- oops, wait, you can’t. She was gunned down in Basra. OK, maybe Atefah Sahaaleh- nope, wait. Executed at age 16 for “crimes against chastity.” Mehrangiz Kar? Ah! Still alive! There you go.

    http://www.secularism.org.uk/dawkinssayswomenwilldefeatmilita.html

    http://www.coxandforkum.com/archives/MullahJustice-X.gif

  4. #4 raven
    July 19, 2008

    Sounds like a few Death Cultist fundie morons in admin.

    They think they are hunting for witches and can’t tell the difference between witches and scientists. And don’t care.

    Reminds me of the recent case of the guy at Iowas SE (or SW) community college who was fired for refusing to teach that all of western civilization traces back to a walking, talking snake 6,000 years ago.

    She should sue for being EXPELLED by religious bigots. Might have grounds on the basis of religious discrimination just like Chris Comers. If the facts are as presented, she was terminated on the basis of one complaint by some religious fanatic that contains nothing but a bunch of lies.

  5. #5 PZ Myers
    July 19, 2008

    I don’t know if this is religiously motivated — it could also be political correctness run amuck.

  6. #6 Carlie
    July 19, 2008

    Does academic freedom mean teaching things that are demonstrably wrong, though? I would think that would be labeled under “incompetence”. I’d say that “there’s no such thing as a real lesbian” is as untrue as “the sun revolves around the earth”.

  7. #7 raven
    July 19, 2008

    It is odd that this happened in San Jose, California. As far as I know, this isn’t exactly Berkeley but it isn’t Orange county either.

    Be interesting to see what comes up in discovery.

  8. #8 MAJeff, OM
    July 19, 2008

    In all of the conversations about nature/nurture and the like causes for Teh Gay, one of the things that gets so overlooked is that throughout history there have been a hell of a lot of ways of institutionalizing a variety of sexual practices. In some societies, forms of same-sex activity are nearly universal (this is often during masculine initiation periods and “man-making” ritual activity).

    There’s a lot of social mediation between biological desires and social identities, and “Gayness” is a particular socio-historical category of being (as is Heterosexuality). This always frustrates somebody, but not everyone who desires or has sex with a member of the same-sex is Gay; there isn’t some uniformity of desire activity and identity that can all be boiled down to fetal development or genetics. Hell, even some of the neural pathways that receive sense stimuli and produce sexual responses are produced through the course of life and social interaction.

    Anyhoooo, I just find questions of social organization to be far more interesting–and far more useful and important politically–than whether or not there’s some kind of gay gene or that we have a specific finger-length ratio (damn I’m fussy that one went away because soccer players supposedly had the same length and I thought I might have a shot at Lungberg), but that everyone should be free to choose whichever gender they desire.

    [/babble]

  9. #9 Lumographia
    July 19, 2008

    ‘…scientists cut off part of the pregnant mouse’s tail and dipped her in scalding water.’ And scientists wonder why many people don’t like them? I can understand HUMANE research on animals in attempts to combat life-threatening diseases, but TORTURING animals for the purpose of scratching an intellectual itch seems rather psychopathic. The religious seem to justify such treatment of animals in the food and fashion industries as being sanctioned by their god (since they were supposedly created for no other purpose than our benefit); but what could the secular justification possibly be? Simply that we can? That because we have power over them we may exercise that power in any way we see fit? After all, ‘might is right’ has had such wonderful effects throughout history, so let’s just keep functioning under the tyranny of that philosophical tenet.

  10. #10 PZ Myers
    July 19, 2008

    Right…but the question is, did she actually teach that?

  11. #11 JoJo
    July 19, 2008

    I have the strong suspicion that there’s more going on than one student complaint. When I was a graduate student two entire classes complained about one untenured professor and nothing was done about him. Granted, anecdote does not equal data but ordinarily one complaint would mean, at most, a counselling session with the department head or some such response.

  12. #12 extatyzoma
    July 19, 2008

    MAJeff,

    interesting, maybe homosexual behaviours/thoughts are totally ‘normal’ in most individuals and only repressed because of current social constraints. There is no way to know what even the most self asserted straight guy actually thinks in private.

  13. #13 Elf Eye
    July 19, 2008

    Lumographia, to echo PZ’s point in # 10:

    Right…but the question is, did anyone actually do that?

  14. #14 MAJeff, OM
    July 19, 2008

    I have the strong suspicion that there’s more going on than one student complaint. When I was a graduate student two entire classes complained about one untenured professor and nothing was done about him. Granted, anecdote does not equal data but ordinarily one complaint would mean, at most, a counselling session with the department head or some such response.

    There are also a number of other mediating factors (as I’m sure you know). Like, is it a tenure track line or a one-semester contract? Or, what’s the type of complaint; is it that somebody said “fuck” or that they’ve consistently failed to even show up for class?

    But, whatever.

    I agree, though, in guessing that there would seem to be more than one class lecture here.(I certainly hope so.) I’ve heard of teachers being let go during a semester, (and I’ve had several complain to me about other adjuncts and tenured folks), but they had to be fucking up pretty bad to be let go in the middle of a term.

  15. #15 Matt Penfold
    July 19, 2008

    It is the issue of offence I find odd.

    The complaint seems to be about bad teaching, or what the student claims was bad teaching. Now I can understand being upset if you think you are being taught badly, especially if you are paying for your education (*). Why and how is what you consider to be bad teaching offensive ?

    *. I have never been very clear what a community college is in the US. Here in the UK they are secondary schools that also open some classes to the public. Any charge is normally only a few tens of pounds.

  16. #16 Anthony
    July 19, 2008

    The Royal Society, and the market shelf Psychology Today, have both published articles offering Sexually Antagonistic Selection as an explanation for homosexuality. This explanation fits with all current homosexuality-related data (twin data, sibling data, birth order data, kin fitness data, brain differences data, etc) and provides a nice evolutionary justification for homosexuality.

  17. #17 MAJeff, OM
    July 19, 2008

    There is no way to know what even the most self asserted straight guy actually thinks in private

    That’s one thing that I think needs to be made clearer (“troubled” if I was getting all pomo and shit) in such studies (this is me getting all fussy about reification). They rely on self-identification, and there’s something of an unproblematized assumption that identity is an external expression of (an assumed to be static) internal desire. There’s a lot more in that relationship than often gets acknowledged.

    I just want to make clear how much more complex it is than is often assumed. After all, I doubt there’s a gene for finding leather harnesses or rubber body-suits erotic, but (some) people’s bodies certainly do respond!

  18. #18 Notorious P.A.T.
    July 19, 2008

    What’s this “offended” crap? I hear people saying it all the time but I have no idea what it means. If you don’t like what someone says, don’t listen. If someone says something untrue, correct them. If someone tries to incite violence, report them. Other than that, what is there? What is “being offended”?

    And why do people think they have a right not to be “offended”?

  19. #19 Matt Penfold
    July 19, 2008

    With regards the number of homosexuals in the Middle East, I wonder if there was confusion between the actual numbers and the numbers that are open about their sexuality.

    Given the strong religious sentiments often expressed in the Middle East it would not be surprising if gay men were less open about their sexuality. I would suspect you would find the same if you compare States within the US. I imagine someone living in the Bible Belt is far less likely to be open than someone living on the East or West coast.

  20. #20 miui
    July 19, 2008

    The comments from the professor are odd (and the Muslim ones are downright ignorant), but I’ve had professors introduce weird subjects. I enrolled in a class for Emotional Sociology, and the professor introduced us to The Secret in the first lecture. She wanted us to follow what The Secret says and keep a diary. I walked out from the class and enrolled with another professor. I was in the class to learn about sociology, not to be introduced to woo. Could that Genetics student have done the same thing instead? Walk out of the course and enroll with someone else? Maybe log it into ratemyprofessors.com

  21. #21 MAJeff, OM
    July 19, 2008

    I enrolled in a class for Emotional Sociology, and the professor introduced us to The Secret in the first lecture. She wanted us to follow what The Secret says and keep a diary.

    Oh, please, tell me it was Sociology of Emotions.

    The Secret? I could see doing an analysis of it as a social product and the role it plays in certain things (like how people use it or the ideas in it to construct communities and identities), or subjecting the ideas in it to sociological analysis…..but none of that sounds like what was going on, and–as a teacher of sociology–that annoys the shit out of me.

  22. #22 Dutchgirl
    July 19, 2008

    When I was a student I always jumped at the opportunity to argue with the prof in class. It greatly enriched my learning experience because I would receive either a no-holds-barred correction of my own thinking, or be put on the hot-seat to explain why I was correct. A pet peeve of mine has always been students who say nothing during class, or to the prof during office hours, yet complain about the class constantly to anyone who will listen. They are not engaging in education, they simply want confirmation of their own view.

  23. #23 Escuerd
    July 19, 2008

    Matt Penfold #16:

    A community college in the U.S. is a postsecondary education institution that generally offers two-year degrees, and usually costs less than a larger university. People often attend them for a year or two before transferring to a university in order to save some money.

  24. #24 Dr. T
    July 19, 2008

    As Dr. Myers noted, the only facts we have about this story are the school, the instructor, the subject, a disgruntled student, and a firing. I do think that if this instructor spent more than two minutes discussing the genetics of homosexuality, then she made an error in judgment. I would have said that there have been numerous human observational studies and animal experimentation studies, most of them poorly designed, and none of them providing convincing evidence for or against a genetic basis for homosexuality.

    To Lumographia: Torturing animals is not science. I don’t know if the researcher did amputate rat tails and scald rats. If so, that was unnecessary cruelty. Scientists sometimes need to study animals in stressed conditions. In this study, the stress to the pregnant rat should have been continuous. Intermittent severe pain is not physiologically equivalent to chronic stress. Ways to achieve chronic stress include inducing fear of predators or fear of attack. That would be a much more realistic (and less cruel) way to mimic chronic stress in a human.

  25. #25 Big Cat
    July 19, 2008

    PZ, you are right; there is indeed something more going on here, and I would sure like to know what it is. Your first link, the one defending Sheldon’s position, goes to lifesite news, which appears to be a Christian pro-life site linked to the Alliance Defense Fund (founded by Pat Robertson) which appears to be representing the professor in court. Why is the ADF going to court to defend academic freedom in a non-creationist case? The ACLU frequently defends the rights of those it disagrees with, including right wingers. But this would be a first for the ADF. I sure would like to know the rest of the story.

  26. #26 MAJeff, OM
    July 19, 2008

    People often attend them for a year or two before transferring to a university in order to save some money.

    Not all people transfer. Community Colleges also tend to offer more vocational and less liberal arts oriented education. That’s not to say there’s no liberal arts, but it has a lesser emphasis in the overall structure of education. A lot of para-professional and vocational training programs are also included within community college curricula. For a lot of people, an Associates Degree is a pathway to a career, not just to a university.

  27. #27 Sili
    July 19, 2008

    What puzzles me is that if we take the charges levelled at dr Sheldon at face value they make her sound like a religious conservative: homosexuality is a choice, no true Scotsman lesbian, women need to be treated with respect and reverence …

    Something about this doesn’t rhyme.

  28. #28 Kagehi
    July 19, 2008

    Lumographia, you seem to be presuming that 70% of the scientists, at least are what, faking being religious? And, a lot of prior experiment on animals was done before animal right laws, under the purview of scientists that where even less secular than they are today, which is why a *lot* of science, ranging from archeology that ignored certain kinds of items and considered them irrelevant in tombs and temples, like… mummies, or large dinosaur bones (this one was seriously sad when 50 years later they reviewed the documents, found that the temple was dedicated to worship of a giant, but that the bone found was thrown in the trash, or dumped in some crate, mislabeled, then thrown out as junk later), to male, Christian types trying to prove the validity of monogamy, by claiming that all birds exhibit it, having failed to note that the females may “nest with” a single male, but will/do mate more often with the ones that are not their nest mates. And those are just two idiocies, one of which was morally atrocious, and the other simply blinkering stupidity, which came out of presumptions about how the world worked, according to faith inserted into science.

    This isn’t to say that secularists wouldn’t do something like the whole mouse tail stuff either, just that there are fewer of them willing to justify it with, “Well, god gave me dominion over them, so I can do what I want, then interpret the evidence in what ever way fits what I want to see. And, sadly, as much as we would like it to be otherwise, sometimes there are no other means to “test” certain theories, and the results *can* be important.

    Think about this. What if some pathogen was “suspected” to cause cancer, but not in everyone, but no one knew the trigger, and someone figured out, from an animal version, that what is needed is high stress, physical injury *and* the pathogen? How long is it likely to take to find that out, unless someone stumbles on it while doing the “hurtful” research? Whether or not you consider it a poor justification, the reality is, we simply don’t have the tools yet to find out, never mind predict, what effects certain stresses *will* have on animals, never mind people, and your left with the choice of never knowing, and risking that the missing facts might be critical for something, or trying to get the information in a way that is as humane as you can be, while still doing the experiment. And, I would say that, compared to dunking half the mouse in, the tip of the tail is pretty tame, and “right thinking” Christian scientists have done far worse back when they where 80-90% of the scientific community.

  29. #29 MAJeff, OM
    July 19, 2008

    Your first link, the one defending Sheldon’s position, goes to lifesite news, which appears to be a Christian pro-life site linked to the Alliance Defense Fund (founded by Pat Robertson) which appears to be representing the professor in court. Why is the ADF going to court to defend academic freedom in a non-creationist case?

    Robertson found the ACLJ (American Center for Law and Justice). Yes, it was an intentional rip-off of ACLU. It’s based in Virginia along with his “university.”

    ADF is based in Arizona and specializes in anti-gay work about as much or more often than it does creationist work. It’s actually quite a bit less “respectable” than the ACLJ–even crazier than Robertson’s outfit.

  30. #30 miui
    July 19, 2008

    @MAJeff #22

    Yes, it was indeed “sociology of emotions” and not “emotional sociology.” I’m 27 but sometimes I makes mistakes of a senile ol’ lady.

    It bugged the hell out of me too at the time. I walked out of the lecture in the middle of the movie, right at the part where the kid got his bike through “positive” thinking.

  31. #31 aratina
    July 19, 2008

    The student account is rather disturbing, but if her RateMyProfessors.com comments are in any way realistic, she wasn’t the easiest professor to follow along with and she does have PowerPoint slides of the lectures. Also it would help to know what book she was using as required reading material.

    I am reminded of a psychology course I took wherein the professor brought up Freud’s theories, which are very similar to what Sheldon is being accused of espousing. Freudian psychology was not brought up as the truth but as historical fact and we did have to know about the basics of Freud’s theories on one test.

    Professors are not there to indoctrinate students but to facilitate their learning, yet it does seem to me that many students feel that professors must agree with students ideologically or else receive bad reviews (too liberal, too hard, too conservative, too stupid, etc.). This is even more pronounced in courses that cover global warming and politics, for instance. But this isn’t Sunday School, as a student you’re supposed to bear the burden of studying.

  32. #32 MAJeff, OM
    July 19, 2008

    I sometimes do unconventional themes (like using Run Lola Run to explore causal relationships as a lead in to a lecture/discussion on experimental design while teaching a research methods course), but there’s a pedagogical reason related to doing sociology. Sometimes I wonder what the hell some incompetent people get hired and rehired. It’s very frustrating for those of us who do our jobs well, and quite a few students have told me how frustrating it is for them as well.

  33. #33 miui
    July 19, 2008

    @MAJeff #22

    Yes, it was indeed “sociology of emotions” and not “emotional sociology.” I’m 27 but sometimes I makes mistakes of a senile ol’ lady.

    It bugged the hell out of me too at the time. I walked out of the lecture in the middle of the movie, right at the part where the kid got his bike through “positive” thinking. I don’t think that the professor had an “analysis of The Secret as a social phenomena” in mind. I say this because she wrote her positive version of Ten Commandments on the board before she showed us the movie. Like, instead of “You shall not covet others’ etc.” it was “You shall use others’ possessions as a positive goal for yourself…” or something cheesier. It’s been a while. More preachy than academic. Definitely NOT sociology.

  34. #34 Zeno
    July 19, 2008

    I’m a community college faculty member in California. To expand on Escuerd’s reply (@ #24) to Matt Penfold, the community colleges in most states (it’s not completely uniform across the nation) have a four-fold mission:

    (1) We provide instruction equivalent to the first two years of the four-year college/university bachelor’s degree; students who seek these courses typically transfer to a four-year college or university upon completing their course work at our school.

    (2) We provide technical/vocational training programs (several of which result in professional certificates of mastery) for people looking to enter or advance in various trades and occupations; these occupational aspects of community colleges tend to reflect the locale (the “community”) in order to supply local businesses and industries with trained personnel. In many cases local businesses may contribute equipment (computers, electronic instruments, auto tech tools) or scholarships in sponsorship of these programs.

    (3) We serve as an unofficial “continuation high school” for students who dropped out of (or did poorly in) high school, because our developmental (a euphemism for “remedial”) courses cover all of the secondary school curriculum, including the basics of math, English, and history. Students who survive the developmental courses may then proceed to options (1) or (2).

    (4) We have on-demand courses that local people want to take. These may not always be oriented toward future education or job advancement, but simply serve the community’s interests. Examples include creative writing (possibly for publication, but also for personal enrichment), hand crafts, dancing (or other recreational physical activities), and classic movie appreciation.

    It’s a wide range of open-admission education.

  35. #35 Notorious P.A.T.
    July 19, 2008

    Teh

    Please, no. That isn’t cool, it isn’t cutting edge. It’s stupid.

  36. #36 Elf Eye
    July 19, 2008

    In Virginia, if you earn an associate degree at a community college with a GPA of 3.0m or better, you can transfer to a four-year state school and earn the bachelor’s while still paying community college fees.

  37. #37 outlier
    July 19, 2008

    It sounds to me like the professor was making tongue-in-cheek statements poking fun at anti-gay, anti-woman attitudes, which the student is, either actually or ostensibly, interpreting as anti-gay and anti-woman.

    So, either the complainant genuinely misinterpreted the prof’s intended meaning (which makes her a moron), or she’s misconstruing meaning to harm the professor for some other reason…

  38. #38 windy
    July 19, 2008

    whether or not there’s some kind of gay gene or that we have a specific finger-length ratio (damn I’m fussy that one went away because soccer players supposedly had the same length and I thought I might have a shot at Lungberg)

    Not if you keep spelling it like that… it’s Ljungberg ;)

  39. #39 Kobra
    July 19, 2008

    What a dubious complaint!

  40. #40 MAJeff, OM
    July 19, 2008

    Not if you keep spelling it like that… it’s Ljungberg ;)

    I noticed the missing j as soon as it was posted.

    *sigh* Freddie *sigh*

  41. #41 Numad
    July 19, 2008

    “[F]ew gay men in the Middle East?”

    Everybody knows that there are no gay men in Iran!

  42. #42 genesgalore
    July 19, 2008

    that little tinkertoy box of codons is full of suprises.

  43. #43 Amplexus
    July 19, 2008

    @ #15

    A community college in the United States is a post-secondary(After high-school). It is an eclectic but small scale version of a University. The one I take some classes at usually has about a half dozen people per department.

    At the one I go to the tuition for 2 semesters is about $3500 which is about as much as a ten year old used Honda Civic.

    The University I also go to charges about $400 dollars per credit. Average of $1200 PER CLASS. 1200 x 4 =4800

    4800 x two = $9600

    Which is about how much an emergency spleenectomy and ambulance service costs if you don’t have health insurance.

    America is a strange place

  44. #44 MAJeff, OM
    July 19, 2008

    Everybody knows that there are no gay men in Iran!

    not yet anyhow.

  45. #45 sleepers
    July 19, 2008

    There has to be more going on with that teacher than just one student’s complaint. However, if she did say what the student claims that’s pretty messed up. If she said it, then she should have been penalized.

  46. #46 Sili
    July 19, 2008

    So Ted Haggard’s Iranian?!!

  47. #47 LisaJ
    July 19, 2008

    Oh, give me a frigging break! I cannot believe that this woman lost her position based on one student complaint. And let’s face it, undergrads should not have this kind of power – they tend to think they know everything when they really don’t know what’s good for them or what a good teacher really is. I was one not too long ago, so I should know!

    I don’t think it should even be up for debate that this woman should be fired for what she supposedly said based on this one student’s account. Even if she did say those things in class (which I doubt that she did, at least not to the exaggerated extent this student claims), the students should be encouraged to get their heads out of their asses and start asking questions and create a dialogue with their teacher, not write complaint letters. Ridiculous!

  48. #48 Michael
    July 19, 2008

    Here is a summary of the investigation:

    http://www.thefire.org/pdfs/072372588722ef496a1916957eb84e87.pdf

    During this meeting
    June admitted stating in her Human Heredity course that mistreatment to pregnant
    women at a certain point in the pregnancy can cause male homosexuality. She also stated
    that there was no such thing as true female homosexuality. She stated that she believed
    that her opinions were consistent with mainstream scientific thought by the biology
    community.

    I also read the textbook June used for the course in human heredity. This book clearly stated that the causes for homosexuality were a subject of debate in the scientific community. The book did not mention female sexuality directly.
    Based on my investigation I conclude that June Sheldon was teaching misinformation as science in a science course.

    The complaint seems to be that out of a gazillion studies on homosexuality she picked a few that just happen to fit nicely into the religious view of homosexuality as an avoidable disease. There is no mention in any of these documents on the FIRE site that she mentioned any of the tons of other studies that point to different mechanisms.

    I don’t know about academic freedom, but its hard not to get away with the impression that Ms. Sheldon was not really trying to give her class the big picture of the research on the issue.

  49. #49 Lago
    July 19, 2008

    There are more gay Muslims than some might suggest. Here is an example of why the measure of them are so low. It is a bit long, but in the end,,, you’ll get the point.

    I used to post on Spymac under the same name. I was considered an atheist by most of the religious people, even though I am actually agnostic.

    I was attacked with the same strawmen we are all attacked with in here, with one group claiming I was intolerant when I pointed out flaws in Christianity’s supposed compassion for our fellow man, and others for my supposed lack of balls to make similar comments about the Muslim faith. My questioning of their tolerance got one guy so mad he demanded Spymac get rid of me or he was going to have the Canadian government charge them with hate crimes in an international court. Of course this did not fly, especially when the people from Spymac saw my argument.

    My argument (which was actually a question):

    I would ask if an Old Jewish woman, who worked her whole life helping her fellow man, and believed with all of her heart she was doing the work of God, should go to hell, while Jeffery Dahmer, who died a Christian, should go to heaven? And if the answer was “yes,” I asked them to justify this action on moral grounds other than, “because God says so.”

    The above question had Christians flipping out and calling me intolerant over and over again. Even Spymac had to ask them how my question qualified as any type of intolerance. None of them could answer this, but they yelled as loud as they could anyways.

    They finally settled down to claiming I would not dare say similar things about the Islamic religion. I tried to tell them the only reason I was not talking about problems with the Muslim faith, was simply due to the fact that there were no muslims posting on the threads. Due to this revelation, the Christians called in some Muslims. To their shock, I started in on the muslims as well on their lack of tolerance. Several times Spymac had threatened me with being banned for this, but numerous people came and posted in defense of me and demanded that Spymac show where I had been intolerant. Each time Spymac backed down, …until the gay Muslim showed up.

    One day a Muslim came in and started to spout on about how great Islam was, and how it was about peace. The odd thing was that he had a Brad Pitt avatar with Pitt with his shirt off. I clicked onto the Muslim’s bio and his picture section was mostly of half naked men in various poses. I had to double check if this was guy or not, because, for a second, it seemed this had to be a girl. Then I saw he had pictures of himself, and sure enough, he was a he. It was a bit beyond obvious I was dealing with a gay man. All his links were to do with “sexy men” and he had written adoring love poems about different guys.

    I decided to simply ask the guy straight out (sorry, bad pun(s)) and asked, “How is your religion so peaceful if your fellow country men would kill you just for being gay?” Spyman flipped out and said I was now being intolerant of gays. How this was so, I never figured out. The Muslim was so shocked that I had figured him out that he disappeared. About a day later…I was banned for a week. I simply told Spymac to screw themselves, and never went back. People tried to defend me, but no one listened at Spymac.

  50. #50 James F
    July 19, 2008

    #44 MAJeff wrote:

    Everybody knows that there are no gay men in Iran!
    not yet anyhow.

    You beat me to it! Classic SNL short!

    I know you say there’s no gays in Iran
    but you’re in New York now, baby!

  51. #51 andyo
    July 19, 2008

    Teh

    Please, no. That isn’t cool, it isn’t cutting edge. It’s stupid.

    Posted by: Notorious P.A.T. | July 19, 2008 2:37 PM

    You missed the “gay.” The “Teh” needs to be accompanied of “gays” right after. Although I believe that if spelled “gayz”, it is probably a more accepted usage.

  52. #52 raven
    July 19, 2008

    At the one I go to the tuition for 2 semesters is about $3500 which is about as much as a ten year old used Honda Civic.

    The University I also go to charges about $400 dollars per credit. Average of $1200 PER CLASS. 1200 x 4 =4800

    4800 x two = $9600

    One of my pet peeves. College and universities have gotten ridiculously expensive. When I went to a good state U., it was heavily subsidized by the state. I think tuition was a few hundred a quarter, been a while and it kept changing (going up of course). They did that because they thought an educated population was more valuable and would eventually pay it back in taxes through increased job skills, productivity, and staying off the streets.

    I managed to graduate debt free with no loans through the usual various means of students everywhere.

    I’d really hate to try that again. The community colleges allow people to take the first 2 years and even live at home before entering the adult world of perpetual indebtedness. I know people hitting 30 who are still paying off their student loans.

  53. #53 raven
    July 19, 2008

    During this meeting June admitted stating in her Human Heredity course that mistreatment to pregnant women at a certain point in the pregnancy can cause male homosexuality. She also stated that there was no such thing as true female homosexuality. She stated that she believed that her opinions were consistent with mainstream scientific thought by the biology community.

    Well, I don’t agree with her claims. I never even heard the one about mistreating pregnant women. The one about no female lesbians is odd since there are quite a few on the WC, especially the bay area, and they aren’t exactly hidden.

    But so what? This is college not sunday school and any student has the right to disagree.

  54. #54 James F
    July 19, 2008

    andyo @51:

    Teh

    Please, no. That isn’t cool, it isn’t cutting edge. It’s stupid.
    Posted by: Notorious P.A.T. | July 19, 2008 2:37 PM

    You missed the “gay.” The “Teh” needs to be accompanied of “gays” right after. Although I believe that if spelled “gayz”, it is probably a more accepted usage.

    To be fair, he’s doing it for teh lulz.

  55. #55 Karen
    July 19, 2008

    I don’t know about community colleges in general, but those in the south San Francisco Bay Area such as Evergreen/SJCC are packed to the roof. Even if there are multiple sections of a class taught, the chance of changing sections is nil.

    On the other hand, classes aren’t so enormous that you can’t engage the instructor in a good argument. But if the student is young, she may not have the self-confidence to do so.

  56. #56 J
    July 19, 2008

    PZ actually does acknowledge the existence of “political correctness”, outside of right-wingers’ fantasies. Good for him. He is an exceedingly more intelligent and respectable person than many of his followers around here, who have become positively deranged by their obsessive devotion to political correctness and far-left politics.

  57. #57 Drew
    July 19, 2008

    PZ, you’ve lost the plot this time. I don’t understand your support for Sheldon. If there’s any truth in any of the ridiculous comments Sheldon made (whether they were sarcastic or serious), at the very least she needed to have been suspended pending an investigation. Either she is lacking in scientific integrity or she has poor judgment in public lecturing.

    I agree with that there is more to this case than has been released, but if anything, it seems like there’s a liberal bias here – pretty impressive for you Atlantic cousins. I really can’t understand why you seem to be taking Sheldon’s side.

  58. #58 J
    July 19, 2008

    I wouldn’t rule out the possibility that all this woman did was suggest that maybe there are few gay men in the Middle East as compared with the West. This alone seems sufficient to arouse the wrath of the PC diehards (or the “Voices of Reason”, as I like to ironically call them). Academia could really be in the grip of an intolerant and draconian sort of politically correct thought police.

  59. #59 eyerock
    July 19, 2008
  60. #60 eyerock
    July 19, 2008

    And also the opinion of other students in her classes

    http://www.ratemyprofessors.com/ShowRatings.jsp?tid=427805&page=2

  61. #61 john
    July 19, 2008

    HMMM. A professor fired for obstinate stupidity after complaints? Sound a bit familiar? I’m amazed you had the guts to post this with what is going on in your own life, or is this a frightened plea for support.

  62. #62 Michael
    July 19, 2008

    eyerock @ #59

    That document lays out her view on procedural mistakes that were in her view made in the process. Unfortunately the exhibits are missing and her views on the subject of the lectures is not really included.

  63. #63 J
    July 19, 2008

    From the link Eyerock provided, it seems the majority of her students seem to hate her guts. But aren’t they just students from one class?

  64. #64 Steve D
    July 19, 2008

    Who ever is responsible for the “Professor Sheldon said that there are hardly any gay men in the Middle East because the women are treated very nicely.” comment apparently hasn’t been to the Middle East.

    Homosexual behavior appeared to be common the parts of the Muslim world that I traveled through. A western male in Saudi Arabia is constantly accosted in public by gay men cruising for hook ups. I accidentally caught my male staff in Pakistan engaging in a naked group-grope in the shower. The same types of thing occurred in my travels through Egypt, Malaysia, and Indonesia. A Indian Muslim college in Singapore explained to me that “women are for children, boys are for fun.”

    I came the the conclusion that the tighter the women-folk were locked up by a culture, the more gay the men became. I suspect the ladies were doing the same kind of things behind closed doors.

    I wasn’t overly impressed with the way the Muslim men treated their women either.

  65. #65 Amplexus
    July 19, 2008

    @ 61

    HMMM. A professor fired for obstinate stupidity after complaints? Sound a bit familiar? I’m amazed you had the guts to post this with what is going on in your own life, or is this a frightened plea for support.

    Did you read any of PZ’s commentary on this? I guess not because you will see that he came to the defense of this professor on multiple fronts.

    Pz affirms that there some unknowns in the field of biology now and this can be an area of discussion.

    John, check out the dungeon tab.

  66. #66 Celtic_Evolution
    July 19, 2008

    @ john # 61

    I’m sure I’m not the only one, but I missed the part where your post was relevent to… well… anything.

    But I’ll give it a whirl…

    you think it’s ironic cause PZ spouted his recent tirade regarding catholic crackers in his classroom to students… oh wait, that didn’t happen.

    Hmmm… so you must think it’s ironic cause you think PZ is in some danger of losing his job over comments made on his personal blog… oh wait… that isn’t going to happen either… you know, tenure and all.

    OK, I give up… there’s actually no relevent comparison. You’re just an idiot. Glad we cleared that up.

  67. #67 raven
    July 19, 2008

    I came the the conclusion that the tighter the women-folk were locked up by a culture, the more gay the men became. I suspect the ladies were doing the same kind of things behind closed doors.

    That is absolutely true. They keep the women away from the guys on pain of death to the women if they get laid. They guys often turn to each other or children to channel their sex drive. In Afghanistan it is so common it is part of the culture.

    Women can’t even drive cars in Saudi Arabia.

    It’s all very medieval and counterproductive.

  68. #68 John
    July 19, 2008

    But but but OFFENSIVE!

  69. #69 Grammar RWA
    July 19, 2008

    It is the issue of offence I find odd.

    The complaint seems to be about bad teaching, or what the student claims was bad teaching. Now I can understand being upset if you think you are being taught badly, especially if you are paying for your education (*). Why and how is what you consider to be bad teaching offensive ?

    Assuming the student’s report is accurate:

    A statement like “there are no true lesbians” is not merely wrong; it is also very often coming from bigotry. If my money were going to support bigots, and so making the world a worse place to be, I’d be offended. A bit of investigation is necessary, but then if the school has can save money by getting rid of someone who’s teaching bigoted bullshit, great.

  70. #70 hje
    July 19, 2008

    This is an inevitable result of treating students like customers. College is not fast food, even though it is often marketed in terms of convenience.

    I’ve read course evaluations for faculty where students complain about having to attend class, about having to read a textbook, about having to know something that wasn’t mentioned it lecture (but was in aforementioned textbook), about having to attend class on time. about having to shut up so others in class can hear, having to learn about things that “bore” them, etc.

    I love teaching but the environment has really shifted so that a small but very vocal subset of students can influence decisions on promotion and tenure. These students fervently believe they are entitled to what they have not earned, and their parents often back them up.

  71. #71 Grammar RWA
    July 19, 2008

    This is an inevitable result of treating students like customers.

    They are customers. College is not cheap. People go because it is an investment that will usually allow them to negotiate for more money later. Educational institutions render a service for a fee. If you don’t like it, change the economic system of the nation. ;)

  72. #72 hje
    July 19, 2008

    Evaluations on Rate My Professor should be taken with a huge grain of salt. They do not always reflect a consensus of the type that would be obtained by reading a faculty member’s course evaluations. Even for this faculty member mentioned in this post, they are all over the place.

    Sometimes they are little more than legal libel espoused by some disgruntled student “consumer” hiding behind of anonymity of the internet.

  73. #73 dysphemism
    July 19, 2008

    I agree that offending someone is not and should not be grounds for dismissal as an educator. But if the allegations made by the student are true, at the least it would mean that an authority tasked with educating students about a complex issue selectively presented evidence to support a number of conclusions which, ideologically-motivated or not, are not widely supported (and in some cases, such as, “there are no true lesbians,” largely rejected) by the scientific community of the field she teaches. It is one thing to have a theory that contradicts the established orthodoxy (and more power to ya, if you topple an idea and replace it with a better one – you’d just better have some damned good evidence), it is quite another to approach the teaching of a complex and contentious issue with selective evidence and unsupported conclusions and assumptions, and to present this to your students as fact. We rail against creationists trying to sneak in absolute pablum by selective evidence presentation and screaming oppression on the part of the scientific establishment, why should we not be equally upset when an educator similarly narrows the scope of the conversation by citing opinion as fact and presenting only a narrow slice of the myriad, conflicting studies on an ongoing issue? If this is in fact what has happened here, then she has done a great disservice to her students.

    Reading her reply, I only wish that this had been handled in a way more reflective of the policies of the institution – it sounds like they didn’t follow their own rules. While we cannot know whether other complaints were made or not, I think if that were the case the college had a responsibility to perform a thorough, open investigation.

  74. #74 Candy
    July 19, 2008

    Reminds me of the recent case of the guy at Iowas SE (or SW) community college who was fired for refusing to teach that all of western civilization traces back to a walking, talking snake 6,000 years ago.

    Coincidentally, there was an article about the gentleman in question in today’s Des Moines Register. He settled his lawsuit against the community college for $20,000. (Please don’t judge Iowa community colleges by this one, as it’s located in the lunatic western part of the state. I attend DMACC Urban in Des Moines and we have, for example, an absolutely wonderful bio prof there. Prf. Bitterman would never have been fired for this at DMACC.)

    It’s sad but true that adjunct profs have few if any employment rights at community colleges. Even full-time profs don’t have the type of security seen at major universities.

    All that said, I doubt this woman was fired because of the complaints of one student. It sounds like at best she was teaching dubious science as accepted.

  75. #75 hje
    July 19, 2008

    They are customers. College is not cheap.

    If you want to be treated like a “customer,” then I suggest you attend some institution like the University of Phoenix.

    So I’m assuming you think if you pay 20 grand, then you are entitled to that “A,” regardless of how little time you “invest” in actually studying. All you have to do is show up (or not, depending on how you feel).

    Yea, right. And don’t tell me about money, I worked to pay my way through school.

  76. #76 Brownian, OM
    July 19, 2008

    And I thought Dean Martin was dead.

  77. #77 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    July 19, 2008

    HMMM. A professor fired for obstinate stupidity after complaints? Sound a bit familiar? I’m amazed you had the guts to post this with what is going on in your own life, or is this a frightened plea for support.

    Try and pay attention johnny.

  78. #78 Candy
    July 19, 2008

    Evaluations on Rate My Professor should be taken with a huge grain of salt.

    Reminds me of the RMP comment a friend who teaches English at a community college received: “I thought he was rude and kind of a jerk.”

    Hmmm, thought I. Perhaps you just didn’t like the low grade you received due to redundancy.

  79. #79 Zeno
    July 19, 2008

    Candy: It’s sad but true that adjunct profs have few if any employment rights at community colleges. Even full-time profs don’t have the type of security seen at major universities.

    I’m aware of several community colleges that have a seniority system in place for adjunct faculty, so that those part-time instructors who have taught for the longest continuous period of time have priority when teaching assignments are made. If class loads are reduced or more full-time faculty choose to teach overloads, then the junior adjunct faculty may not get assignments while the senior adjuncts still get classes. There is no real security of employment for adjunct faculty, but senior adjuncts are usually hired year after year, if they remain available. (And I recall a case when a senior adjunct began screwing up royally and regularly, but our dean still had to set up a classroom supervision and review process before letting him go; the seniority system protected him insofar as summary dismissal was not allowed; and he would have survived had he straightened out.)

    As for full-time faculty members, we have fairly strong tenure rights under Assembly Bill 1725, enacted in California in the 1980s, which established a four-year process for earning tenure and a review system for denying it. I believe the details vary from college to college depending on how the review systems were implemented via negotiated union agreements. It’s pretty robust at my school.

    As a part-time faculty member at SJCC, Ms. Sheldon was probably an at-will instructor without seniority protection (or perhaps lacked the seniority to come under that umbrella). I don’t know the SJCC policies nor can I tell from the information provided whether the policies were followed in her case.

    A part-timer’s life is not an easy one. Adjuncts often have trouble making a living and are frequently and accurately characterized as “freeway fliers” because they shuttle among multiple campuses to amass a full teaching load.

  80. #80 DaveH
    July 19, 2008

    @MAJeff. Strangely, one of my lesbian friends also lusts after Freddie Ljungberg, to the extent that she (stereotype alert) named one of her cats after him. Even more confusingly, she *is* a true Scotswoman.

    On topic, we simply don’t have enough data about the whole Sheldon case. I smell shite, but I don’t know whose shoe it’s on yet.

  81. #81 Blake Stacey
    July 19, 2008

    DaveH (#80):

    On topic, we simply don’t have enough data about the whole Sheldon case.

    Agreed. Ain’t no harm in deferring judgment until more facts become available.

    Incidentally, wasn’t philos locked up in the dungeon for, quote, “Being a demented fuckwit and world-class asshole”? I must confess I haven’t seen that handle used by anyone other than its original claimant.

  82. #82 RBH
    July 19, 2008

    PZ wrote

    However, I teach genetics, too, and I know that students often come away with very garbled interpretations of what I taught, and I have the exam scores to prove it.

    One of my practices when I was professing was to have students who were having problems in class bring their class notes to me during my office hours for us to review together. I swear that in some cases it was impossible to figure out what class they were in from the content of the notes. The relationship between what’s said by a professor in class and what gets into students’ notes (and heads) is very loose.

  83. #83 Mike Brotherton
    July 19, 2008

    As a science professor, I’m sympathetic. What students perceive is indeed quite different from the truth sometimes, and small things can get blown out of proportion. I too have gotten evaluations that say “he includes material not in the textbook” and “he teaches straight from the textbook” (criticisms than can be pluses depending on the quality of the textbook!). If this is the only real issue with the prof, I too feel that SJCC has erred. Adjunct prof is really a terrible position, though, with bad job security, and adjuncts get let go all the time for all sorts of reasons. If you’ve got some potentially offensive views (supported by science, perhaps), learn to get REALLY good at presenting them or save them for after securing tenure. The assistant prof period seems to be the time to learn to be politically aware.

  84. #84 r?nato
    July 19, 2008

    He is an exceedingly more intelligent and respectable person than many of his followers around here, who have become positively deranged by their obsessive devotion to political correctness and far-left politics.

    funny; it’s the far right-wing which back in the 80s made an obsession out of criticizing ‘politically-correct’ speech on campuses.

    I guess political correctness – like judicial activism – is subjective in the right-winger’s mind.

  85. #85 Odie
    July 19, 2008

    “I’ve read course evaluations for faculty where students complain about having to attend class, about having to read a textbook, about having to know something that wasn’t mentioned it lecture (but was in aforementioned textbook), about having to attend class on time. about having to shut up so others in class can hear, having to learn about things that “bore” them, etc.”

    I have to echo the sentiments expressed above by some students (this is at a 4-year university). And by the way, everything in the following list is true.

    They’ve complained that I presented material in class that wasn’t explicitly within the text; that I tested them on required reading that wasn’t presented in lecture; that I expected them to be able to do simple math (addition, subtraction, multiplication and division) in an economics course; that I expected them to actually do the assigned reading; that I called on them in class when their hand wasn’t raised; that I reduced their grade on a paper when they turned it in with numerous spelling and grammatical errors, no list of references and no sources cited; that I wouldn’t let them turn in work two weeks late when they provided absolutely no explanation for why it was so late; that they are always an “A” student, but they got an “A-” in my class; etc.

    There are just some students who think that the rules shouldn’t apply to them or that they’re entitled to a grade. It’s a small subset, but they seem to be more vocal than the majority of students. Whether something like that was going with this adjunct is unclear. But some student comments should be taken with a grain of salt.

  86. #86 sailor
    July 19, 2008

    The idea that there are no gay men in the middle east because women get treated so nicely is batshit crazy, and without any foundation whatever. Usually executing gay men cuts down the number willing to come out of the closet, and honor killings and subjugation are no way to treat women, nor is wrapping them up so much cloth you cannot see them and they can hardly see out. If he managed get her fired by hitting a weak spot I’d say he hit a good one.

  87. #87 Grammar RWA
    July 19, 2008

    They are customers. College is not cheap.

    If you want to be treated like a “customer,” then I suggest you attend some institution like the University of Phoenix.

    So I’m assuming you think if you pay 20 grand, then you are entitled to that “A,” regardless of how little time you “invest” in actually studying. All you have to do is show up (or not, depending on how you feel).

    Yea, right. And don’t tell me about money, I worked to pay my way through school.

    I said if you don’t like it, change the economic system. Otherwise save your breath. (fingertips?) I’m not talking about myself. But we all know how capitalism works.

  88. #88 wrpd
    July 19, 2008

    I graduated from an inner-city Chicago public high school. I mostly worked my way through college so it took ten years. The first school I went to was a highly selective small private college. We were expected to have a certain level of intelligence and education. I had a full scholarship–in fact I was awarded three full scholarships. It was not easy but I made it through the first year.
    I left for a number of reason, the major one was my feeling of isolation. I grew up in Chicago and was able, from an early age, to take advantage of everything the city had to offer. The school I went to had 1,400 students and the town had about 20,000 people. I felt confined and stifled.
    The next school I attended was a private community college in Chicago. It cost more than public community colleges and was a little more selective, but I still found that the level of education of the students was lower than my high school. For example, my English Comp class instructor took us on a tour of the school library because most of the students had never been in a library. It was sad. I was able to ace all of my classes with my brain set on semi-conscious. The school closed that year for financial reasons.
    The last school I attended was the University of Illinois at Chicago. Most of the people who graduated from high school with me who went to college went there. Over the years I noticed a considerable decline in the college-readiness of the students. One of my last classes was a Latin 101 class, an elective for me. It was torturous. The professor once asked the class to find the verb in a short Latin sentence. The rest of the class was bewildered because they did not know what a verb was. This was another effortless A for me.
    This all happened in the 70s and I don’t know how things are now. I hope things have improved at the level of public education.
    I need to know more about this woman’s case. This could be the case of one student’s overreaction or it could be similar to Matt LaClair’s situation.

  89. #89 hje
    July 19, 2008

    I said if you don’t like it, change the economic system. Otherwise save your breath.

    Say you want to get into Yale or Stanford (but don’t have the credentials). You just get in the queue just like at McDonald’s and wait your turn like all the rest of the paying customers? I’d like one BS in Biology to go, with honors, but hold the hard work.

    It’s just a simple economic transaction open to anybody that has the dough. That’s how our economic system works, right? You pay, and get the ‘A’, It’s the American way!

    Here’s my money.
    Give me what I want.
    Now! And smile while you’re doing it.
    No?
    Let me talk to your manager!

  90. #90 Pierce R. Butler
    July 19, 2008

    In my early twenties, I spent some time roaming around the Middle East and the Mediterranean, and can tell you with no doubt whatsoever that opportunistic gay male chickenhawks were a regular part of street life in Egypt, Israel, Turkey and Afghanistan (but not, fwiw, in Iran, though I was only in Tehran for a week, and didn’t explore the back streets as thoroughly as I did elsewhere).

    Not much later I developed a hypothesis similar to that attributed to June Sheldon, having gotten to know several lesbians and hearing that they’d all been abused by men. That speculation lasted as long as it took for me to recall that all the heterosexual women I’d gotten to know seemed to have had the same experiences.

  91. #91 aleph1=c
    July 19, 2008

    The only difference between community colleges
    and high schools is that community colleges
    have ash trays.

    Not in California!

  92. #92 Candy
    July 19, 2008

    The only difference between community colleges
    and high schools is that community colleges
    have ash trays.

    No ashtrays at our community college, thankfully. As of July 1st, statewide smoking ban in place.

    Community colleges probably vary widely in quality of education, and every state has different standards. I’m in the paralegal program at mine; the classes are pre-law, taught by attorneys. I’ll receive my AS and certification as a paralegal. Our program standards are pretty high. It’s long been the joke that DMACC paralegals were better prepared for the bar exam than the law grads at local ungodly expensive private school. I doubt that’s true, but it does reflect the level of skill paras are expected to acquire. If I decide to continue on to law school, I can transfer my credits.

    All full-time profs are required to have a master’s degree or higher. I must say I’ve had some truly excellent instructors, including my Gen Biology teacher, who was a gem.

    The general ed classes do have a number of students who are not as well-prepared for the college experience, but the college does a good job of easing them in. We have a high number of immigrant and other minority/non-traditional students, which is wonderful, but they struggle with challenges that the largely middle class para students don’t face. Nevertheless, most of the gen ed classes I’ve taken have been challenging, students and instructors lively and engaged, and I really enjoy the immigrant students, who work hard, ask questions, and generally don’t bitch and moan about homework. A great stepping stone to a career or higher education in many cases.

  93. #93 usagi
    July 19, 2008
    This is an inevitable result of treating students like customers.

    They are customers. College is not cheap. People go because it is an investment that will usually allow them to negotiate for more money later. Educational institutions render a service for a fee. If you don’t like it, change the economic system of the nation. ;)

    Posted by: Grammar RWA | July 19, 2008 5:24 PM

    Pure, unmitigated bullshit. They are students. The service colleges render is the opportunity to be awarded a degree by completing a series of required tasks. Failing to complete the required tasks means that you are not eligible to receive the degree no matter how much money you’ve paid for the opportunity.

  94. #94 amphiox
    July 19, 2008

    I partially disagree usagi. They are both students and customers. They are paying not just for the opportunity to be awarded a degree, but also a learning experience and for quality teaching. Otherwise why not just pay for an internet self-study course?

    They are not owed a degree or good grades, but they are owed good performance by their teachers.

  95. #95 aleph1=c
    July 19, 2008

    Possibly a little bit off topic, but here’s a story about my brush with academic freedom.

    I teach high school geometry. We learn several theorems for demonstrating that two triangles are congruent, including side-side-side (SSS), side-angle-side (SAS), and ASA. There is no ASS theorem because one triangle can be acute and the other obtuse, even if the ASS hypothesis is satisfied. I always hear someone giggle and say ass, to which I reply, “There’s no ass in geometry.” After several years, a student complained that I said ass and I got called into the principal’s office, etc. I told the principal that I say that so they will remember, and besides, I could just be talking about donkeys (after all, there is the “ass’s bridge” theorem in Euclid’s Elements). She didn’t buy it. Just then, an office helper who had taken my class a few years before walked in. I asked her, “Do you remember anything from geometry class?” She said, “There’s no ass in geometry,” and then proceeded to explain it to the principal.

  96. #96 Goldfishflakes
    July 19, 2008

    Strictly on the subject as to whether a student has a right to take issue with a professor over material…

    Unlike free public grade school…we pay out our butts to attend college here in the states! So, it should be ultimately up to the students as to whether we feel we are getting what we paid for.

    Now, I do know that some students are entirely too sensitive and give the professors more than a hard time. There should be a set standard of how the university deals with issues between faculty and students.

    There has to be some balance though. The professors should have academic freedom, but also have a working knowledge of the student body they are teaching. For instance, a professor wouldn’t make it in a university here in the south teaching hard core evolution in the classroom. This is because (a random guess–) 90% of so of the student body are christians.

    In my Biology course last semester the professor covered evolution (overview), but had to preempt the lessons with a disclaimer. Fortunately, noone made a scene or walked out.

    Now, my intro Bio course last fall…my professor made mere general statements about evolution (nothing distinct) and a christian student started a bunch of crap right there in the middle of class. I don’t think it went anywhere, but he continued to be very vocal all semester. Mostly, idiotic comments and tail-chasing questions.

    So, there needs to be something on both sides to protect the professors but also ensure that we do not get stuck with some quack professor who disguises his course as science and once you are past the university drop date–pounds you with Intelligent Design crap.

  97. #97 Robert
    July 19, 2008

    What kind of college fires a lecturer based on one complaint? As a rule of thumb, any truly offensive lecture would spawn several complaints. Not to mention the failure to follow through with an investigation…

    Personally, I think the college let her go for an unrelated reason, and used the complaint as an excuse. If so, they deserve the lawsuit.

  98. #98 aleph1=c
    July 19, 2008

    For instance, a professor wouldn’t make it in a university here in the south teaching hard core evolution in the classroom.

    Sounds like the south is trying to fuck us over.

  99. #99 Goldfishflakes
    July 19, 2008

    Yeah…seems so! I plan on transferring to MSU next year…hopefully. I figure that I would get a better science education in Michigan.

    Yeah, it was crazy that my professor last semester felt he had to preempt his lesson with a disclaimer. I mean, if the students in there did not know that evolution was going to be taught–they do not need to be a science major! (The Biology courses I’m in are for science majors strictly)

  100. #100 JoJo
    July 19, 2008

    They are customers. College is not cheap.

    If you want to be treated like a “customer,” then I suggest you attend some institution like the University of Phoenix.

    So I’m assuming you think if you pay 20 grand, then you are entitled to that “A,” regardless of how little time you “invest” in actually studying. All you have to do is show up (or not, depending on how you feel).

    I suspect I know what Grammar RWA is complaining about. When I was in graduate school, I had a professor who was quite ignorant about the course material ully and another professor who hated to answer students’ questions because he had his lectures set to last 50 minutes each and questions threw off his timing.

    If I’m paying large amounts of money for a service, I expect the people providing the service to be competent and act professionally. Contrary to some instructors’ (and even more administators’) belief, schools are for the benefit of students. Sure, the student has to meet responsibilities as well, but there are requirements of ability and even common courtesy that some faculty fail to achieve.

  101. #101 Azkyroth
    July 19, 2008

    HJE, there’s nothing wrong with reminding a professor who is apparently under the impression that you have been granted a generous favor by being selflessly given the opportunity to give your money to the school and sit in his or her class that you paid to be there and that you expect to get something for your money, including fair treatment and a recognition on the part of the professor that YOU are not there to serve THEM. This in no way implies a belief that a person is simply entitled to an A with no work.

    Or would you take this professor‘s side?

  102. #102 JoJo
    July 19, 2008

    Rerun because part what I wrote disappeared.

    They are customers. College is not cheap.

    If you want to be treated like a “customer,” then I suggest you attend some institution like the University of Phoenix.

    So I’m assuming you think if you pay 20 grand, then you are entitled to that “A,” regardless of how little time you “invest” in actually studying. All you have to do is show up (or not, depending on how you feel).

    I suspect I know what Grammar RWA is complaining about. When I was in graduate school, I had a professor who was quite ignorant about the course material. The entire class were dissatisfied customers. When I was an undergraduate, I had one professor who was a bully and another professor who hated to answer students’ questions because he had his lectures set to last 50 minutes each and questions threw off his timing.

    If I’m paying large amounts of money for a service, I expect the people providing the service to be competent and act professionally. Contrary to some instructors’ (and even more administators’) belief, schools are for the benefit of students. Sure, the student has to meet responsibilities as well, but there are requirements of ability and even common courtesy that some faculty fail to achieve.

  103. #103 Dave Godfrey
    July 19, 2008

    When I was at university, the professor regularly referred to stuff that wasn’t in the textbook because it had only just made it into the primary literature (In my experience palaeoanthropology was a good example of this). For courses like this the textbook is your jumping off point for further research. You can’t expect to be spoon-fed after you leave school.

  104. #104 jinko
    July 19, 2008

    what a stupid moron you are, PZ Myers.

    You fail to see the obvious: it is intellectualy and morally wrong to proclaim a preference for one sexuality, and that the cause of homosexuality is the mistreatment of women.

    These notions’ teaching are akin to the “teach the controversy” nonsense of ID.

    She was right in being sacked, as one cannot have a lecturer spouting personal borderline-homophobic views in class. It is not “perfectly appropriate to discuss it in class” by a long shot. Perhaps we should revisit the racial eugenics and allow the discussion that Africans are inherently stupid, based on bizarre evidence.

    While we’re at it, try to get some black students opinions.

    Have you no idea? I would hate to be taught by you, PZ Fool.

    “Commitment to academic freedom” does not include offensive material.

    “The student has been sitting there stewing in outrage for weeks, and then assembles a complaint? Bleh. Throw it out on those grounds alone.” Perhaps the student was afraid of utter morons such as yourself behaving in an unsympathetic, quasi-homophobic-approving manner, while carefully deliberating if indeed they were sufficiently insulted as to make a formal complaint. Not an easy task for anyone to do.

    Fool.

    “I can’t say that I’m at all impressed with SJCC’s commitment to academic freedom, or their excessive reaction to a single student’s complaint. There is something more going on there, and they aren’t being forthcoming about it.” You have been in acadaemia too long. People do not come to see you as a moral arbitrator of total, unfettered (and unhinged) pure thought; nor as a guiding, shining light of superior intellect and knowledge. People come to be educated in a non-threatening atmosphere, without fear of personal attack and insult by perverse, morally corrupt, hate-filled individuals, espousing their own crackpot theories of why a significant minority of people have somehow ended up with the short-straw of being gay.

    You have lost the plot.

    “How about an exam question that is graded wrong if the student argues that homosexuals are not more rare in the Middle East than anywhere else? How about copies of powerpoint slides that assert nonsense? Let’s see some evidence of errors of substance.”

    This is where people such as yourself fall down. You refuse to see homosexuality in any light other than a grey-area; a place where, through not-so-clever use of statistics, decades-old reasearch, avoidance or disregard of any and all studies that result in genetic inheritablity being a likely cause; you obfuscate, challenge, confuse, muddy and muddle the fundamental basis of an individual’s lovelife, for no purpose other than your own selfish “academic freedom” of prejudice and bigotry.

    Astonishing to the say the least.

    Perhaps you are more like the christians than you would like to admit.

  105. #105 Phoenix Woman
    July 19, 2008

    They are not owed a degree or good grades, but they are owed good performance by their teachers.

    And part of that good performance involves telling the little darlings when they’re full of shit.

    Of course, that’s the very part that’s most likely to get the profs in trouble, because then the little darlings run screaming to their parents, who then whip out their checkbooks and beat the school’s administration about the heads and shoulders with them, which causes the school’s admin to dump a perfectly good teacher and instead hire someone who will act like the good little McDonald’s “customer-oriented” employee that the parents and students want to see.

    There’s a comic strip called 9 Chickweed Lane which, among other things, features a college professor dealing with students who think that paying tuition and showing up for class means they deserve an automatic “A”. I wish I’d saved one particularly pungent series.

  106. #106 Becca
    July 19, 2008

    +1 to what dysphemism said on this one.

    I don’t think we have enough data to know if the instructor was devoting an excessive amount of time to random debatable content (e.g. “they treat women nicely in the middle east”).

    However to understand what is “offensive” about it, let’s turn it around for PZ:
    “There are no real atheists!”
    “If you want to avoiding having atheist kids, you need to be nice to your wife.” (implying, if you have horrible atheist kids you must be a bad parent… Does that also imply that if you are a horrible atheist, it must be because your father was a wife beater, or something?)

    Seriously, the opinions sound really warped. They may have been warped by the instructor, or the student may have missunderstood.

    In any event, what gets to me most about the story is the report the college didn’t follow protocol in firing her. If that’s true, I hope the woman wins her legal case (as annoying as it might seem there’s a chance that would mean the legal system would reward a woman with seriously bizarre teaching behavior). Adjuncts have little enough protections. If an institution is really skeezy enough to not follow their own policy, that’s pretty messed up.

  107. #107 NanuNanu
    July 19, 2008

    @jinko
    Now say it again without the juvenile insults. If you have read this blog in the past you could tell That PZ is most definitely not homophobic. While I agree that the comments attributed to her are borderline bigoted and just plain idiotic (middle eastern men nicer to women? wtf??) PZ’s whole point is that we DON’T know if she actually said them because proper procedures weren’t followed and that the importance of academic freedom in this case is that a teacher shouldn’t be automatically sacked just because of one complaint.
    If they were out of line or expressed opinions contrary to the evidence as undeniable fact then a proper investigation would most likely have turned it up. The entire point of this is that procedure wasn’t followed and someone lost their job.

    And I would just like to say that if her comments were, in fact, recorded accurately then censure of some sort is appropriate

  108. #108 hje
    July 19, 2008

    … including fair treatment and a recognition on the part of the professor that YOU are not there to serve THEM. This in no way implies a belief that a person is simply entitled to an A with no work.

    As a department chair I expect teaching excellence of myself and my faculty–and I am in the position to evaluate it. The trouble is–and this has definitely become more of a problem in the last 5 years–is that there are a small but very vocal subset of students who believe they are entitled to what they have not earned (and this is not just by the prof’s evaluation, it is also in comparison to their performance of their peers). My faculty (including myself) have won teaching awards (based on student input), yet at the same time have had to deal with shit from these unhappy “consumers.”

    These individuals can make a lot of noise about how they are not being served as a student “consumer.” The first thing they do is remind you how much they are paying for tuition. Then they pursue their complaints of unfairness (always arguing that the professor is a complete fuck-up) to chairs, deans, and provosts. They get their parents to do the same (and they tell you how much ,they are paying for tuition). And in some cases, disgruntled students enlist their peers in a smear campaign.

    When you investigate the complaints (especially asking other students about their experiences), they usually turn out to be meritless. But then you have to deal with this BS again when the promotion and tenure committee reviews course evaluations and finds these evaluations and begin to question the chair of whether this is symptomatic of some deeper problem.

    Of course you can avoid all of this by not expecting much of students. praising them lavishly for their un-informed opinions, being their buddy, and giving them all A’s–and even better, taking them out for ice cream at the end of the semester. [I’ve seen this happen.] Sure the better students will complain about being cheated, but not very much and if they do tell other students–how many of these will be outraged to the point of contacting administrators by the prospect that they can get an easy A from some prof?

  109. #109 The Chemist
    July 19, 2008

    I will start by saying that there is a lot to suggest the teacher may have crossed a line. However even if she did, it’s not one that’s set in stone, and it’s not a firing offense.

    That said, to everyone who refers to ratemyprofessors.com, as an undergraduate student in the internet age, allow me to inform you that I have in the past found such devices to be particularly useless. Unless the professor is exceptionally good, or exceptionally easy, favorable comments rarely appear at all, leaving the the page open to the disgruntled. I rely a lot more on word of mouth from good students.

    Just for shits and giggles, PZ has a profile there as well.

    There certainly are homosexuals in the ME, but too many people laugh at the idea that women are treated nicely. Less important is how we view it, and more important is whether women there perceive it. The idea that every ME woman lives in perpetual hell from birth is an exaggeration. While there are a number of extreme cases, people who grow up in a society generally find it easy to observe it’s mores. See “relative adaptation”.

    That said, I’m not sure it’s helpful in the context of nurture aspects of homosexuality.

  110. #110 amphiox
    July 19, 2008

    Phoenix Woman, I’m familiar with 9 Chickweed Lane. It is quite a blast, actually.

    jinko, have you actually read PZ’s post? I mean all of it? If so, you need remedial courses in reading comprehension, and fast. Your tirade, minus the dumb insults, MIGHT have had some small iota of validity if the complaining student’s version of events was the absolute, certain truth, and the only side of this story. But we don’t know that, do we?

  111. #111 David
    July 19, 2008

    Jinko,

    Hypersensitive much? If you bothered reading the letter by the Professor and the court papers you would clearly see that nothing offensive was presented. And more importantly it was a matter of the school not following it’s own procedures.

    The impression, that you give me ,is that you seem to seek offense, just like the student in question. I am geting pretty damn sick of people feeling the need to beat the drum of offense everytime somebody talks about this subject. It is an over-reaction coming from an emotional insecurity built up by society feeling the need to powder the diapers of every baby who can’t take speach they don’t want to hear. In short grow up.

  112. #112 craig
    July 19, 2008

    Educational institutions render a service for a fee. If you don’t like it, change the economic system of the nation. ;)”

    No need to change the economic system of the nation… just need to recognize that just because our economic system is based on profit, that doesn’t mean that EVERYTHING has to be profit-driven.

    Make schools free for all, paid for with taxes, tariffs on foreign-made goods, etc. Same with health care.

  113. #113 Azkyroth
    July 19, 2008

    Jinko:

    FIRE! READY! AIM!

    Idiot.

  114. #114 windy
    July 19, 2008

    If they were out of line or expressed opinions contrary to the evidence as undeniable fact then a proper investigation would most likely have turned it up.

    Look up Michael’s comment #48 – according to the Dean, she did express some strange views in class.

  115. #115 NanuNanu
    July 19, 2008

    #114 Windy:
    Well as my reading comprehension doesn’t seem to be up to snuff today I’ll just say that if the fire report is correct and I’m understanding where and when it came from then I think dismissal was the appropriate action.

    But I’ll just close my mouth (keyboard?) for now to prevent making a further ass out of myself and wait for further evidence.

    ;o

  116. #116 NanuNanu
    July 19, 2008

    oh, but I would like to say that regardless of whether or not you agree with PZ’s assessment of the matter it is ridiculous to read into his post any malicious undertones. Jinko was way off base.

  117. #117 windy
    July 19, 2008

    Becca:

    However to understand what is “offensive” about it, let’s turn it around for PZ:
    “There are no real atheists!”
    “If you want to avoiding having atheist kids, you need to be nice to your wife.”

    Good point. As for why the student didn’t speak up in class, perhaps he/she didn’t want to be outed as a homosexual right then and there (since taking offense could have been interpreted that way). The student didn’t handle this very well but:

    (PZ:)

    It’s also suspicious that this is a subjective account written a month after the event. The student has been sitting there stewing in outrage for weeks, and then assembles a complaint? Bleh. Throw it out on those grounds alone.

    The teacher waited several months to make a complaint – even considering that it takes time to put together a lawsuit, are you sure you don’t have a double standard, PZ? :)

  118. #118 ao9news@yahoo.com
    July 19, 2008

    I think Jinko has a stick up his/her ass. What did bad bad PZ do to you little boy/girl? Way to overreact.

  119. #119 Elf Eye
    July 19, 2008

    Judging from what Sheldon writes in her defense (referenced in comment # 59), she complains that the correct procedures were not followed in dealing with a complaint of “discrimination.” However, looking at the justification for her dismissal, she was dismissed on grounds having to do with questions about her competence. If the latter is true, “academic freedom” is nonstarter as an issue.

  120. #120 Bob Carroll
    July 19, 2008

    Phoenix Woman, I saved that strip, and put on my bulletin board at work. (Yep, a prof) The teacher said, in response to the student’s whine, “That’s called grade entitlement. Yes, I’m strongly in favor of it. The grade you’re entitled to is an F.” After the student left, she comments “He’s such a thumbsucker.”

    Since I’m not at work right now, this is a paraphrase.

    And for #104, **** *** and the horse you rode in on.

    Bob Carroll

  121. #121 brokenSoldier, OM
    July 19, 2008

    If I’m paying large amounts of money for a service, I expect the people providing the service to be competent and act professionally. Contrary to some instructors’ (and even more administators’) belief, schools are for the benefit of students. Sure, the student has to meet responsibilities as well, but there are requirements of ability and even common courtesy that some faculty fail to achieve.

    Posted by: JoJo | July 19, 2008 8:31 PM

    While that may make sense on a superficial level, the reason the customer analogy does not work in academia is because in a setting of customer/service provider, there is an obligation on the part of the provider to ensure that the customer gets exactly what they want. In academia, you are paying admission to a place in which if you do not pass muster, you do not necessarily get what you want.

    The entire point of PZ’s expression of doubt is that the student’s claims are obviously specious. He criticizes the professor’s citation of a study, saying that the study was ambiguous and not wide enough – in terms of test subjects – to be viable. The problem is that the student was referring to the wrong study. I imagine if he was truly paying much attention, he would not have gotten this detail wrong.

    Also, his objections to this one professor – which may very well be a misrepresentation of what actually took place in that classrom – center on the fact that he was horribly offended by this professor. In speaking in terms of the school providing a service, he is paying the school, not that professor, and if he finds a statement by a professor so offensive that he feels like he doesn’t want to be subjected to them any further, he has every right to avoid that one professor’s class in the future. There are other professors at the university that provide the exact same “service” that this one does, and that is beside the fact that ensuring students do not get offended is by no means a part of a professor’s job description. As PZ pointed out, university classrooms are forums for education and debate, and if he truly was so opposed to what was being said in the class, he should have risen and presented his objections once the floor was open for the students. And if it was so obviously offensive and flawed, it should not have been very hard for the student to refute.

    This all comes down to the fact that no one is arguing that what the woman said was not possibly offensive in some way, but rather that a single complaint letter from a single student should not be grounds for dismissal of a professor. Had the university conducted an inquiry as to what was actually said in the lecture and then evaluated whether or not they wished to employ her based on what she actually said, I doubt many would have a valid objection. What is inexcusable about this situation is that the university seemingly reacted to what they perceived as PR damage on a hot-button social issue and got rid of the professor before it turned into a full-blown nightmare in the arena of public opinion. That is no way to run an institution of higher learning.

  122. #122 windy
    July 19, 2008

    This all comes down to the fact that no one is arguing that what the woman said was not possibly offensive in some way, but rather that a single complaint letter from a single student should not be grounds for dismissal of a professor. Had the university conducted an inquiry as to what was actually said in the lecture and then evaluated whether or not they wished to employ her based on what she actually said, I doubt many would have a valid objection.

    Again, there was an inquiry, see comment #48…

  123. #123 E.V.
    July 19, 2008

    Can it be agreed that all arguments relating to firing of this adjunct professor and the specifcs of what she taught are largely speculative at this time, Jinko? That was fairly clear from PZ’s thread intro.
    Making Sheldon and the student strawmen – strawpersons -er- strawpeople – only serves an agenda from your own eliptical thinking. The jumping off point for the original topic is: “There is something more going on there, and they (SJCC) aren’t being forthcoming about it.” Better?

  124. #124 Damian
    July 19, 2008

    We will have to see if PZ changes his mind after reading about the investigation. I’m not sure if the incident warranted dismissal or not, and I am not knowledgeable enough to know if this level of incompetence usually results in such an action. I have no problem with the decision, though.

    To be sure, June Sheldon is either incompetent, or has an agenda — or both. Both would seem likely, and she was wrong to misinform her students, particularly on such an issue. It is fairly clear that the views that she expressed are nothing like the consensus view about homosexuality. That Sheldon attempted to make out that they are to the investigators, as well, is rather damning.

    For anyone who misses #48, these are the findings of the investigation:

    I have concluded an investigation on a student complain filed against June Sheldon on July 25, 2007. I met with June and the FA on September 6, 2007. During this meeting June admitted stating in her Human Heredity course that mistreatment to pregnant women at a certain point in the pregnancy can cause male homosexuality. She also stated that there was no such thing as true female homosexuality. She stated that she believed that her opinions were consistent with mainstream scientific thought by the biology community.

    June agreed to a meeting with the full-time biology faculty to discuss this issue. After I tried to schedule this meeting in October, I received an e-mail from the FA stating that June had decided that she would not meet with the biology faculty.

    Since receiving this information, I have met individually with the four full-time faculty members in the biology department. I asked each faculty member two questions. The first question was about their perception of the mainstream scientific thought on the nature verses nurture question of homosexuality. The second question was on their perception about the scientific validity of the statement that there were no true female homosexuals.
    All four faculty members expressed the same perception that the nature versus nurture question was very complex and current scientific thought indicated that a combination of genetic and environmental factors were involved in homosexuality. Three of the faculty members strongly felt that the scientific community was in agreement that there were female homosexuals.
    The fourth faculty member stated that she had done no reading and had no information on that particular scientific topic.

    I also read the textbook June used for the course in human heredity. This book clearly stated that the causes for homosexuality were a subject of debate in the scientific community. The book did not mention female sexuality directly.

    Based on my investigation I conclude that June Sheldon was teaching misinformation as science in a science course. I feel that these statements were grievous enough to warrant withdrawing her SRP status and Spring 08 assignment.
    Leandra Martin

  125. #125 clinteas
    July 19, 2008

    What dysphemism @ No 73 said !

    And,on the few gays in the Middle East issue:

    Kinda takes the fun out of coming-out if you get executed for it,doesnt it.

  126. #126 Netwatcher
    July 19, 2008

    The ADF, a Fundimentalist Christian Legal Fund, that spends its time harassing Homosexuals and Aethiests, has taken up this case and filled suite against the university.

    While I don’t know what Dr. Sheldon actually taught in that anymore then anyone else does “Including PZ”, but I do know who she spends her time with, and thats not the kind of observational evidence that gives her argument credibility.

  127. #127 gramomster
    July 19, 2008

    miui (20) and MAJeff (21)

    The Secret!?!? NOOoooooo!!!!
    I’m an adjunct Soc instructor, my hubby, who is pursuing his PhD is a visiting, both in MI.
    In his graduate level Sociology of Emotions, the ONLY text was “The Dance of Intimacy”. Pop psych that we sold a ton of off the self-help shelves when I worked in a local bookstore. How is this even at all relevant or acceptable?! Yikes!

    wrpd (88)

    I don’t know if others have found this, but the writing, spelling, grammar and logic abilities in many many many of my students are woefully lacking. They couldn’t write (or think) their way out of a wet paper bag. Tenses are all over the place, redundancies abound, and there is often no relevance to the topic. A couple of examples from my most favorite paper ever:

    “It’s not only unconstitutional, it’s against the 14th amendment.” To the constitution…

    and, in trying to explain the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage:
    “…had to take into account previous precedents such as the case of Brown v Board of Education.” Which relates to same-sex marriage… how exactly?

    My 16 year old (dropped out, starting college next month) noted that perhaps, had the writer used Plessy v Ferguson, maybe he could see some relevance. Separate but equal and all that. 16. Failed high school so badly, he left, and tested directly into college level courses. No remedial courses at all. Go figure.

    Another shining example of our world-class education system.

    *sigh*

  128. #128 Michael
    July 19, 2008

    Obviously the teacher answered the student’s question wrong, first of all, there is link to your reproductive cells and experience with the environment. Homosexuals cannot reproduce, so there are no homosexual genes being transferred from one generation to the next, so the German scientist was wrong. She was obviously making a politically correct statement, but had no science to back it up. The question remains, should she have been fired (if this is true) as a result of her misguided answer? Well reviewing what she said, I don’t think so. The answer didn’t seem that severe to me. Also Academic Freedom consists of teaching from both sides of an argument for critical thinking purposes. Obviously, this teacher’s answer was one-sided.

  129. #129 JoJo
    July 19, 2008

    brokenSoldier, OM #121

    While that may make sense on a superficial level, the reason the customer analogy does not work in academia is because in a setting of customer/service provider, there is an obligation on the part of the provider to ensure that the customer gets exactly what they want. In academia, you are paying admission to a place in which if you do not pass muster, you do not necessarily get what you want.

    Perhaps we’re talking past each other. As I said before, the student has responsibilities that he or she must meet. If these responsibilities are not met, then the student will cease being a student.

    However, and this is a major however, there are concurrent responsibilities for the school. I can and have got annoyed when the school has failed to meet their end of the bargain. If I’m paying large amounts of money to a school I do expect competence and courtesy from the faculty and administration.

    I once had a professor who was clearly incompetent to teach a class that I was paying over a thousand dollars to take. Every student in the class went en masse to complain to the department head about the instructor’s demonstrated incompetence. When the department head failed to give us satisfaction, we saw the Graduate School Dean. He tried to give us the brush off until someone said the magic words: “I’m a lawyer.” We got a new instructor who could teach the class.

    As far as I’m concerned, I carried out my end of the bargain. I attended classes, I did homework, I studied for and passed tests, I wrote papers which were given passing grades, and I paid a sizable chunk of change to the school. The school failed to properly carry out their part, which was to supply someone with the knowledge and ability to teach the class. This failure continued until the customer-students offered a viable threat to the school.

  130. #130 brokenSoldier, OM
    July 19, 2008

    Again, there was an inquiry, see comment #48…

    Posted by: windy | July 19, 2008 10:35 PM

    I do stand corrected. It does seem, though, that the investigation was of the cursory, hurried type that seeks to minimize exposure of a potentially damaging incident. I wonder if, had the center of this complaint not been such a volatile social issue, the university would have simply suspended her for a period of time in order to examine the body of the her work with the university – rather than one classroom lecture – before dismissing her from her duties. Had it been a less provocative issue, I think it would be more likely that she would have been disciplined for her improper actions and put on probation, and maybe have had her duties limited for the duration of that probation. To me, the fact that the school did not follow their own published procedures for handling grievances gives an indication to the possibility that they simply wanted this bad press to go away in the shortest amount of time possible, and removing the professor from her job was the most expedient way to do so.

    BTW, thanks to Damian for posting the expanded version of Martin’s letter – it’s quite easy to understand why I was mistaken when I read through the entire letter.

  131. #131 brokenSoldier, OM
    July 20, 2008

    If I’m paying large amounts of money to a school I do expect competence and courtesy from the faculty and administration.
    I once had a professor who was clearly incompetent to teach a class that I was paying over a thousand dollars to take. Every student in the class went en masse to complain to the department head about the instructor’s demonstrated incompetence.

    Posted by: JoJo | July 19, 2008 11:49 PM

    I definitely didn’t intend to talk past you. But I’m with you on the above statement about expecting competence, I just disagree with how the student handled the situation, and the inconsistencies in his complaint would have given me at least a bit of pause had I been an administrator at that university.

    And your example brings up another point I was wondering about. I’m in no way trying to minimize or excuse the ridiculous statements she made (re: no female homosexuals), but I do wonder why there wasn’t a more widespread reaction to her lecture. In your example, the administrator had absolutely no excuse for ignoring the complaints, because the sheer abundance of students complaining necessitated that he at least look into it. In this case, the fact that only one student complained – and a month later to boot – is what makes me a little apprehensive about the whole thing. That’s not to say that the professor did not step outside her bounds, but rather suggests that the inquiry should maybe have been a bit more thorough, especially if the end result was her termination.

  132. #132 yoshi
    July 20, 2008

    #128

    “Homosexuals cannot reproduce”

    My sperm is as potent as any straight guy and its been proven.

  133. #133 Richard
    July 20, 2008

    #128 said: “Homosexuals cannot reproduce, so there are no homosexual genes ”

    That’s ridiculous. By that reasoning, no genetic disease should exist that causes sterility. After all, these genetic mutants wouldn’t be able to reproduce, therefore they could not pass on their sterile genetic makeup!

    And yet, a number of genetic mutations _do_ occur that cause sterility, Klinefelter syndrome being just one example.

    It is important to remember that evolution does not occur at the creature level — it occurs at the gene level. It is also important to remember that genetic mutations can occur which are deleterious to the carrier’s reproductive potential.

  134. #134 John Morales
    July 20, 2008

    yoshi @132: Blam!

    As nice a king-hit as I’ve ever seen.

  135. #135 Blake Stacey
    July 20, 2008

    Homosexuals cannot reproduce, so there are no homosexual genes being transferred from one generation to the next, so the German scientist was wrong.

    On the Planet of Gay Strawmen in Delusion Dimension X-22, yes. On Earth, the use of the term “homosexual genes” suggests a science education drawn from The Onion.

  136. #136 Esme
    July 20, 2008

    I had a whole long rant written out in response to all the people conflating “being offended” and “being whiny and feeling entitled to only hear things you already know.” It included my coming out story, where I corrected one of my (public) high school teachers for talking out of his ass about bisexuality, and less than a second after starting my comment with “as a bisexual” was cut off, the subject was changed, and was not called upon again for the rest of the semester. Normally I’m a fan of this blog (though the comments section, less so). But frankly, I think I’m just gonna cut out the rest of that rant and say this:

    Privilege, you’re doing it right, PZ

  137. #137 Kagehi
    July 20, 2008

    Homosexuals cannot reproduce, so there are no homosexual genes being transferred from one generation to the next, so the German scientist was wrong.

    Heh! Halfwit. Someone doing studies on deer found a correlation between genetics, behavior, and the capacity to produce offspring. The findings where that, basically, females with a **high** degree of femaleness tended to breed more successfully and have more offspring, many of which where *less aggressive* when male. Males that where highly aggressive bred more, but tended to produce aggressive female offspring. Nature has created a bit of a trade off. For every *successful* female, you need an failed male, and for every successful male, you need failed females. The **traits** needed to have both appear to be incompatible within a single individual, so evolution has been *unable* to produce a species, at least with deer, but one can presume this explains other species too, which produces both highly successful and prolific females, which have high breeding success (instead of attacking males that approach them), without the trade off that *some* of those offspring will be genetically flawed males, with poor capacity to pass on genes, and produces highly successful males. You can’t *have* both in a population without some females being *too* male, and some males being *too* female.

    Now, think about how this relates to humans, given that you see the same variation. Some females that are so aggressive men don’t, as a rule, want to go near them, and who also may even dislike males, males that can’t deal with females at all, nor compete with other males successfully, and given that, with humans, there is no “heat season”, which would “force” those reluctant females to breed anyway.

    I mean **Duh!!**

    Here is the point. The genes in species that go into heat are “less” effected by this, though humans do have a “slight” increase of attraction and seeking out companionship during a few days out of each month, which some other studies have shown to be clearly a real effect. But, the same mechanisms that generated the flip flop genetics, which evolved to make sure there are mostly semi-successful males and females, by also producing unmales and unfemales, and super-males and super-females, should exist in humans, and for the same reason. A semi-male isn’t going to always *want* to breed, a semi-female isn’t always going to be willing to, and the result is “fewer” offspring than if you allow for genetic mutants that are the equivalent of both Errol Flynn *and* Hercules.

    So far, there is a “lot” of evidence, both direct and indirect, suggesting that this is what is, in part, happening, and none to suggest its all “choice”. Its also pretty clear why, under such conditions, you get “choice” having and effect. Its no more likely that you are going to have three categories gay, straight and bi, than it is in any way rational to claim that the only ‘eye colors’ are blue, brown and green, with *no* variations between them.

    Again, this is, from my perspective, so bloody obvious that only a fool that has never thought about how much variation “exists” in humans, with respect to any other attribute, or looked at enough (or any) evidence to have a clue what they are babbling about.

  138. #138 eyerock
    July 20, 2008

    I wonder how everyone would have responded to this is she said that black people were not as evolved as white. It was a bigoted idea that was floating around the science classrooms for a while. This is the same thing. Bigoted BS, allegations such as these deserve attention. And, if the lady said what was accused then she got what was coming to her.

  139. #139 Eshto
    July 20, 2008

    Somehow my professors at UW-Madison were able to talk about the “stress during pregnancy” theory without making bigoted statements along the lines of “so unless you want a gay baby, don’t beat your wife.”

    WTF?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?

    If what the student says is true (and according to the investigation, it is), then the professor is an incompetent, homophobic fucktard and deserved to get canned.

  140. #140 John Morales
    July 20, 2008

    I wonder how everyone would have responded to this is she said that black people were not as evolved as white.

    Nice strawman.

    Your example is nothing like the actual situation.

    As a simile, it fails epically.

  141. #141 John Morales
    July 20, 2008

    Eshto:

    If what the student says is true (and according to the investigation, it is), then the professor is an incompetent, homophobic fucktard and deserved to get canned.

    You sound so definitive.
    No doubt you can provide or point to evidence for your claim. This is the internet, after all.

  142. #142 brokenSoldier, OM
    July 20, 2008

    I wonder how everyone would have responded to this is she said that black people were not as evolved as white.

    Posted by: eyerock | July 20, 2008 1:08 AM

    The exact same way that people here are responding to your idiotic claim above – that it has nothing to do with the truth of the subject which it presumes to discuss.

    Nice strawman.
    Your example is nothing like the actual situation.
    As a simile, it fails epically.

    Posted by: John Morales | July 20, 2008 1:23 AM

    Yeah, it is quite the epic fail, and I’d add that it is a deliberate one at that. Since no mention was made having anything to do with the evolutionary equivalence of homosexuals, eyerock’s babble was simply intended to be so inflammatory that it blinds people to its obvious flaws. Man, someone obviously hasn’t spent much time around this site and its regulars at all.

  143. #143 windy
    July 20, 2008

    You sound so definitive.
    No doubt you can provide or point to evidence for your claim. This is the internet, after all.

    Argh! What’s wrong with people tonight? RTFI ;)

    “according to the investigation, it is (true)” = the investigation says (at least some of) the allegations are true, Eshto is not making any definitive claims beyond that.

  144. #144 jackson
    July 20, 2008

    Windy,

    You keep saying that there was some investigation into this matter, but if that were the case, wouldn’t there be some sort of investigation into this matter? I’ll wait for some sort of investigation into this matter before making any statements.

  145. #145 Ichthyic
    July 20, 2008

    Yeah, it is quite the epic fail, and I’d add that it is a deliberate one at that.

    one might further label it a red herring.

    something trolls often utilize as cheap bait.

  146. #146 craig
    July 20, 2008

    Look, I’m a fecking idjit when it comes to this thinking stuff, I have an 8th grade education and don’t know anything about genetics…

    But it occurs to me that isn’t it at least possible that genes that have expressed themselves as homosexuality in a male, while perhaps lessening the likelihood that that male will reproduce – might also be present in that male’s siblings? And that that male’s homosexuality might in some way enhance the likelihood that that sibling’s offspring will survive to reproduce, thus helping ensure the propagation of the genes that led to that male’s homosexuality?

    Am I thinking clearly here?

  147. #147 Raiko
    July 20, 2008

    Funny.

    I’ve never been with a man, I find men quite nice, I have never had a problem with them, but I still have no desire to be in a relationship with them. I guess I am impossible.

  148. #148 John Morales
    July 20, 2008

    But it occurs to me that isn’t it at least possible that genes that have expressed themselves as homosexuality in a male, while perhaps lessening the likelihood that that male will reproduce – might also be present in that male’s siblings?

    I have no idea. All this stuff about geno and pheno types and evo-devo and nature vs. nurture gives me a headache.

    Quote me this if I pontificate on the matter.

  149. #149 windy
    July 20, 2008

    You keep saying that there was some investigation into this matter, but if that were the case, wouldn’t there be some sort of investigation into this matter? I’ll wait for some sort of investigation into this matter before making any statements.

    Yes, if only there had been some investigation, and someone had pasted the findings of that investigation here, then it would be possible to scroll up and read them. Really!

  150. #150 AaronH
    July 20, 2008

    I took one of her classes at San Jose State University a few years ago and can confirm that she has been saying bizarre things of this sort for a long time. She is a christian who barely keeps it out of the class room. At the time I was a computer science student transitioning to biology so I went to talk to her in her office hours where she gave me studies that she and her husband wrote in support of the view that all the fossils of human ancestors where really just ape skulls. I’m going to bet that the college has been getting complaints for a while and has been looking for a reason to get rid of her.

  151. #151 Damian
    July 20, 2008

    I don’t know if anyone has read, “Straight science? Homosexuality, evolution and adaptation”, by Jim McKnight, but these are his conclusions about our understanding of the evolution of homosexuality.

    He admits himself that the book is “speculative” in parts, but I would be interested to hear what others think of his suggestion concerning the arguments for gay rights?

    “Where are we then? At the conclusion of such a book the author should be able to offer a few erudite pronouncements on the state of homosexuality and provide directions for future research. While we have done the latter in many areas, unfortunately the evidence is far from complete and the problem with which we started remains. Why there are homosexuals, and why does homosexuality survive, are still questions to be answered. Yet our analysis has not been a futile enterprise and several trends are gradually emerging.

    ? Male homosexuality is a separate sexual orientation from lesbianism and has a different aetiology.

    ? There are a range of male homosexualities with at least five types of homosexual aetiology.

    ? There is a substantial biological basis to at least two forms of male homosexuality and a genetic basis to at least one type.

    ? Genetics merely provide a predisposition towards homosexuality rather than mandating it. That is, the gene/s are variable in penetrance.

    ? Nevertheless, in aggregating these predispositions, it is clear that gayness
    is as much a matter of orientation as of preference.

    ? Therefore, human variation both genetic and behavioural will ensure a range of sexual behaviours, fantasies and emotional attachments ranging from exclusively homosexual to exclusively heterosexual.

    ? The genetics of male homosexuality are variable in penetrance and are likely to be modified by other genes (polygenic transmission).

    ? The genes for homosexuality cause differential development between gay men and straight men at stages following conception and at puberty.

    ? The homosexual genotype’s phenotypic expression is influenced by environmental factors.

    Explaining these conclusions from an evolutionary perspective is problematic. It is fairly certain that exclusive homosexuality in itself is an evolutionary byproduct and that the genes for homosexuality are transmitted in a heterozygous condition where they advantage heterosexually oriented men and women. That is, homosexuality provides a heterotic advantage which balances the genes in the population via a benefit conferred on straight men rather than being adaptive in its own right. The literature provides reasonably clear evidence that homosexuals, exclusive or otherwise, have reduced reproductive rates and face the extinction of their special contribution unless bolstered by such a heterotic advantage. None of the models we review provides a clear benefit to homosexuality in a homozygous form. Therefore, summarising this book in a sentence: homosexuality is an evolutionary byproduct, part of our variable sexual orientation and held in balance against its deleterious consequences by selecting for enhanced heterosexuality.

    These are fighting words and this summary will not endear me to sectors of the gay community, which have an agenda of acceptance predicated on homosexuality being part of normal, that is, expected human variability. We started this chapter with a quotation from a lesbian activist who characterised our research as having an obsession with heterosexuality as ‘normality’. Yet is natural normal? As Futuyma and Risch (1984) observed, such an appeal ‘is based on the untenable presumption that what is biologically “natural” is also good’. Ardill, and researchers who are her ideological companions, are keen to argue a statistical normality. That if you can demonstrate a substantial percentage of the population follow some practice such as masturbation it must be normal, that is, expected. On this basis they argue that homosexuality be accepted as a common human behaviour. This seems misguided to me. Too many nasty behaviours such as rape and child abuse are more common than homosexuality, yet we would not include them as normal human sexual variation, or should we? This seems a dangerous line to take in arguing for gay rights. To follow this line of argument is to have to rely on morality to decide normality and, as we have seen, morality is as shaky a concept as is statistical normality.

    Perhaps a cleverer way forward with the natural-is-good argument is to rely on the defence that homosexuality is unchosen. Despite all the problems it has given us, the triumph of psychiatry over the last 150 years was to afford the protection of labelling to those who are different and who were made that way. We no longer torture schizophrenics, because they have the protection of having an unchosen illness. By analogy, we may argue that many areas of human activity have similar protections today. We no longer punish the unemployed for cyclical economic downturns, the exceptionally bright child for being unable to fit into class, and so on. If we can move the argument forward just a little to an acceptance that for some gay men there was little choice in the way they are, then we can move on to the more important question of whether homosexuality is a behaviour needing remediation as with the schizophrenic, or special support and encouragement as with the exceptional child. In the argument that homosexuality is a net benefit to mankind, an evolutionary analysis of its adaptive potentials will make a significant contribution.

    Even so, I think an even better argument is that homosexuality is part of our nature and that a substantial percentage of the human community shares genes that confer advantages on those lucky enough to have them. We are a species with a close genome. Differences between you and me are less than 0.1 percent, about three million base pairs, and much of that is just noise–a trivial difference. So all genetic variation is priceless. In this sense, homosexuality is as precious as any obscure miracle cure hidden in a Brazilian rain forest. Yet to be clear about this, their disposition is really ours too. As much as the gay community is a reservoir for these genes and
    may aid their perpetuation, if what we have seen here is any indication, straight men (or women) carry them forward from generation to generation and this is the final answer to homophobia. Contrary to what Ardill and others might think, this does not argue that ‘Normal requires abnormal’ and, by implication, that gay men are losers in life’s reproductive lottery.Rather, it acknowledges that there are many ways to play the evolutionary game in a rapidly changing species. Viewed this way, questions of normality become issues of adaptiveness and, as we have seen, usefulness changes as quickly as our times. Gay men, rather than being abnormal, are reservoirs of adaptive variation. Our species shares too much in common to be excluding anyone.”

  152. #152 Ichthyic
    July 20, 2008

    I’m going to bet that the college has been getting complaints for a while and has been looking for a reason to get rid of her.

    I was thinking the same thing, but her legal complaint states that there were no registered complaints in her jacket previous to this one.

    so, either the uni decided to file previous complaints outside of her file (unusual), or there really were no previous recorded complaints.

    It does seem strange that the uni would use one complaint of such a trivial nature to terminate her contract, but if they are basing it on multiple complaints, one does have to wonder how they were keeping track.

    While a controversial lead-in to the subject of academic freedom, I wonder if it is really a good one.

  153. #153 John Morales
    July 20, 2008

    windy:

    Yes, if only there had been some investigation, and someone had pasted the findings of that investigation here, then it would be possible to scroll up and read them. Really!

    Yeah, but there’s this.

    And this:

    December 6, 2007
    I have concluded an investigation on a student complain filed against June Sheldon on
    July 25, 2007.
    […] Based on my investigation I conclude that June Sheldon was teaching misinformation as
    science in a science course. I feel that these statements were grievous enough to warrant
    withdrawing her SRP status and Spring 08 assignment.
    Leandra Martin

    is not the findings of the investigation, but the opinion of Leandra Martin, who apparently has authority.

    Don’t let me stop you from jumping to conclusions, however.

  154. #154 craig
    July 20, 2008

    My attitude is that basing the demand for equal rights for gays on the argument that it is not chosen behavior is a mistake.

    It doesn’t MATTER if its a choice or not. Gays have equal rights which need to be recognized, period. Whether homosexuality stems from nature or nurture is an interesting scientific question, but should not in any way be a legal question.

  155. #155 craig
    July 20, 2008

    I have to clarify my last post since I seem to be somehow saying that if homosexuality stems from nurture, that means that it can be chosen for or against by the person.

    I should have said whether it is nature, nurture, or choice doesn’t matter.

    Nobody makes straight people undergo testing to see if their plans to marry are based on an innate psychological or natural attraction for their partner, rather than it just being a choice of a person who seems to be a good life partner, ability to share the rent, or as a way to save on taxes, or satisfy a mother’s impatience.

    So gays shouldn’t have to jump through that hoop either.

  156. #156 windy
    July 20, 2008

    is not the findings of the investigation, but the opinion of Leandra Martin, who apparently has authority.
    Don’t let me stop you from jumping to conclusions, however.

    Oh, for fuck’s sake. That is obviously the investigation that people have been referring to, and Martin was the author of the investigation, so she is presumably capable of summarizing her own findings even if that’s not the total text of the investigation. Maybe it was a sucky investigation and fell short of the university requirements, but this “what investigation? what investigation?” nonsense is just obtuse.

  157. #157 Ichthyic
    July 20, 2008

    She is a christian who barely keeps it out of the class room.

    If what AaronH says here is correct, and that was what the investigation noted determined as well…

    I wonder if the Disinformation Institute will be looking to her as their next poster child?

    I mean, Gonzales didn’t get tenure, but here is someone they can spin as having been “fired for religious beliefs”, even if it wasn’t really the case.

  158. #158 Damian
    July 20, 2008

    Following on from windy [#156], Sheldon has admitted (and not since denied, unless someone has evidence to the contrary) that she did indeed “state in her Human Heredity course that mistreatment to pregnant women at a certain point in the pregnancy can cause male homosexuality”, and, “that there was no such thing as true female homosexuality.

    Also, “She stated that she believed that her opinions were consistent with mainstream scientific thought by the biology community.”

    It is perfectly reasonable to judge Sheldon on those points alone, and without the need for further speculation. This is in not simply “Martin’s opinion”, but a factual account of what Sheldon was teaching in her Human Heredity course.

    Unless, again, it is repudiated.

  159. #159 brokenSoldier, OM
    July 20, 2008

    I mean, Gonzales didn’t get tenure, but here is someone they can spin as having been “fired for religious beliefs”, even if it wasn’t really the case.

    Posted by: Ichthyic | July 20, 2008 4:59 AM

    It definitely sounds like something they’re likely to do, though they will be offering a fundamentally flawed argument – which the DI is also fond of doing – because she was fired explicitly for presenting assertions that seek to validate her own personal opinions – rather than presenting objective scientific instruction – in a classroom dedicated to the pursuit of science. Then again, accusing the DI of using misleading tactics in research is a bit like telling a kangaroo it hops too much.

  160. #160 John Morales
    July 20, 2008

    Windy: Sorry, but I’ve worked for Federal, State and Local Government here over the years. Investigations at times have a way of finding what they set out to find, and even when not sometimes get interpreted in interestingly convenient ways.

    It may well be the case that the investigation was genuine and the result fair, but I certainly don’t have enough information to assign reliability weightings to the linked documents.

    Damian, I suspect that any competent interrogator could get you to admit certain things which, out of context, appear to be improper.

  161. #161 Moses
    July 20, 2008

    Lesbianism, on the other hand, is probably an outgrowth of a socially determined bisexuality in women; by engaging in social bonding through sex, women can hold the tribe together, and so the desire to have sex with as many people as possible would be adaptive; lesbianism would be as odd, and only as odd, as true heterosexuality (in my experience, mostly the result of post-christian social constructs amongst women) in this model.

    Of course, I could be blowing smoke out of my ass, but considering the facts I’ve seen, this is the best explanation I could come up with.

    Posted by: wazza | July 19, 2008 1:27 PM

    1. I’m reminded of Bonobos.

    2. If you’re blowing smoke out your ass, at least you’re doing by thinking and trying to come up with an explantion that doesn’t involved a made-up religion and a non-existent god.

  162. #162 windy
    July 20, 2008

    It may well be the case that the investigation was genuine and the result fair, but I certainly don’t have enough information to assign reliability weightings to the linked documents.

    You’re barking up the wrong tree since none of us has done that (besides PZ and several other people who criticized the student’s complaint), some of us have simply been pointing out what the existing investigation says.

  163. #163 John Morales
    July 20, 2008

    OK, windy. What does it say? Because I haven’t seen the actual report, but only Leandra Martin’s allusion to it.

  164. #164 Colby Olson
    July 20, 2008

    In San Jose, CA? I can’t believe that.

  165. #165 windy
    July 20, 2008

    windy. What does it say? Because I haven’t seen the actual report, but only Leandra Martin’s allusion to it.

    Sheldon quotes Martin’s letter in her complaint:

    83. On December 6, 2007, Defendant Martin issued a letter that concluded her “investigation” into the alleged student “complaint.” Defendant Martin wrote that during her September 6, 2007 meeting with Ms. Sheldon, “June [Sheldon] admitted stating in her Human Heredity course that mistreatment to pregnant women at a certain point in the pregnancy can cause male homosexuality. She also stated that there was no such thing as true female homosexuality. She stated that the believed that her opinions were consistent with mainstream scientific thought by the biology community.” A copy of Defendant Martin’s December 6, 2007 letter is attached as Exhibit 13 to this Complaint.

    The letter is Martin’s summary of her investigation, posted and linked here repeatedly: Sheldon puts “investigation” in scare quotes because it didn’t follow procedure, but agrees that it is the summary of Martin’s findings. For all we know there is no other report of the investigation. Calling the letter mere “allusion” or “opinion” is your own invention.

  166. #166 truth machine, OM
    July 20, 2008

    Bleh. Throw it out on those grounds alone.

    You’re being an utter idiot and an ass, along with others who have knee-jerk defended the teacher and attacked the student. And because of that bias-driven haste, you may well be defending a version of John Freshwater.

  167. #167 truth machine, OM
    July 20, 2008

    is not the findings of the investigation, but the opinion of Leandra Martin, who apparently has authority.

    What kind of idiocy is that? Martin wrote “I have concluded an investigation … Based on my investigation I conclude…” That is the finding of her investigation.

    Because I haven’t seen the actual report, but only Leandra Martin’s allusion to it.

    You are mighty thick; the report of the investigation was posted here and that is what you quoted from.

  168. #168 Damian
    July 20, 2008

    Actually, while John has made no mention of this [so I assume that he hasn’t read it or he would have], there may be more to this story than Martin suggests. Just below the passage that you cite, windy, is this:

    Ms. Sheldon actually stated to her class that stress imposed on pregnant women could cause male homosexual behavior, according to a German scientist’s (Dr. Dörner) research, but that the topic was complex.

    Defendant Martin took the female homosexuality issue out of context. Ms. Sheldon was unaware of any research by Dr. Dörner on the topic of female homosexual behavior.

    and also:

    The letter also noted that Defendant Martin met individually with the four full-time biology faculty members at SJCC.

    Defendant Martin wrote that she “asked each faculty member two questions. The first question was about their perception of the mainstream scientific thought on the nature verses [sic] nurture question of homosexuality. The second question was on their perception about the scientific validity of the statement that there were no true female homosexuals. All four faculty members expressed the same perception that the nature versus nurture question was very complex and current scientific thought indicated that a combination of genetic and environmental factors were involved in homosexuality. Three of the faculty members strongly felt that the scientific community was in agreement that there were female homosexuals. The fourth faculty member stated that she had done no reading and had no information on that particular scientific topic.”

    Defendant Martin also wrote that the textbook used in Ms. Sheldon’s Human Heredity course “clearly stated that the causes for homosexuality were a subject of debate in the scientific community.”

    Ms. Sheldon never disputed the answers given by the four full-time biology faculty members at SJCC. Her statements in class on June 21, 2007 were similar to the views of the four fulltime biology faculty members.

    So I am going to have to withdraw the claim that what is contained in Martin’s letter is “factual”, and “all that we have to go on.”

    There is clearly dispute about what actually happened in the classroom, as well as what was said to Martin as part of the investigation.

    Whether intentionally or not, John is correct in stating that the letter is the opinion of Martin, and the “facts” are clearly disputed by Sheldon.

  169. #169 truth machine, OM
    July 20, 2008

    the letter is the opinion of Martin

    Of course it is, just as any report is an opinion of its author. Dean Martin wrote “I conclude … I feel …”. Conclusions are always epistemologically subjective, and subject to doubt.

  170. #170 John Morales
    July 20, 2008

    Any correctness I may have is inadvertent, as I said I only have the info in the links to go by and I’m not investigating the matter further.

    truth machine:

    That is the finding of her investigation.

    Maybe I am thick. I assumed an investigation would follow some mandatory protocol and be carried out by more than one person. I have no idea how these matters are handled in the U.S..

  171. #171 clinteas
    July 20, 2008

    She said stupid stuff like not treating your preggers wife nicely makes your son go gay,that arabs are less gay coz they treat their women nicer,and that there are no true lesbians.

    If that is true,I have no doubt she should be fired because she is clearly a lunatic.

    And yes,we dont know for sure,its he said,she said.Fair enough.
    And the Uni seems to be going on the”investigation”by one person alone,who then asked 4 dudes in faculty,that doesnt sound like a process one would want to be investigated under,no doubt.

    However,if she said those things its stated she said,then she is fucked in the head and misrepresenting scientific data in class,and then its good she was fired.

  172. #172 truth machine, OM
    July 20, 2008

    FWIW, here is Sheldon’s termination letter:
    http://www.thefire.org/pdfs/517d6446b0d0106578e4f257e55414a7.pdf

    and here’s FIRE’s letter to the president of SJCC’s Board of Trustees:

    http://www.thefire.org/index.php/article/8969.htm

  173. #173 truth machine, OM
    July 20, 2008

    Maybe I am thick. I assumed

    That’s redundant.

    be carried out by more than one person

    Sigh. It was carried out by the Dean of Mathematics and Science, who “met individually with the four full-time faculty members in the biology department” after Sheldon “decided that she would not meet with the biology faculty“.

  174. #174 John Morales
    July 20, 2008

    truth machine, thanks for the links.

    I note Ms Sheldon was removed pursuant to Section 87665 of the Education Code*.

    *

    The governing board may terminate the employment of a temporary employee at its discretion at the end of a day or week, whichever is appropriate. The decision to terminate the employment is not subject to judicial review except as to the time of termination.

  175. #175 Damian
    July 20, 2008

    truth machine, OM #169:

    Of course, but I was originally [and rather naively] arguing that Martin’s letter was the only [official] evidence that was available, and as nobody had denied that the contents of Martin’s letter were factual, it was therefore perfectly reasonable to judge Sheldon on that content. And to some degree it still is, but I thought that it would be dishonest of me not to take back at least some of the claims, given that certain “facts” are in dispute.

    It was my own fault for not thoroughly reading the legal complaint by Sheldon.

  176. #176 John Morales
    July 20, 2008

    truth machine, I get it. windy, I meant to include you in my last comment too.

    I’ve opined I don’t know enough to make any definitive statements, you’ve picked my reasoning. Fair enough.

  177. #177 truth machine, OM
    July 20, 2008

    certain “facts” are in dispute

    I definitely agree, which is why I think PZ’s “Bleh. Throw it out on those grounds alone.” is idiotic and all those who jumped all over the student without knowing the facts are being jerks. My own impression from what’s available is that the investigation was quite shoddy; asking faculty their opinions of a student’s allegations and making a decision based on that is ridiculous — there needs to be some confirmation that the student’s charges were accurate. And my suspicion is that the student misunderstood and overstated at least some of what Sheldon said. But those are only impressions and suspicions, and aren’t worth much.

  178. #178 truth machine, OM
    July 20, 2008

    I’ve opined I don’t know enough to make any definitive statements, you’ve picked my reasoning. Fair enough.

    I’m not sure what you’re at here. If you go back and read Windy’s #143, you’ll see that she wasn’t making any definitive statements and was noting that Eshto wasn’t either, other than as to what the documents posted here say, accurately or not.

  179. #179 John Morales
    July 20, 2008

    truth machine:

    be carried out by more than one person

    Sigh. It was carried out by the Dean of Mathematics and Science, who “met individually with the four full-time faculty members in the biology department” after Sheldon “decided that she would not meet with the biology faculty”.

    Are you saying the faculty members were investigators rather than witnessess? Because I don’t follow how your quote indicates that more than one person was doing the investigating.

  180. #180 John Morales
    July 20, 2008

    truth machine: re #143 – I already admitted I assumed wrongly and therefore was mistaken. It was an opinion.

    As it happens, you’ve presented yours in #177 and I concur.

    PS I used to think I was a pedant.

    (Sifu!)

  181. #181 truth machine, OM
    July 20, 2008

    Because I don’t follow how your quote indicates that more than one person was doing the investigating.

    It indicates that Dean Martin intended to have a meeting between Ms. Sheldon and the biology faculty, and Ms. Sheldon unwisely (at least in hindsight) turned down that opportunity to clarify what she had actually stated in class. Although the investigation that the Dean subsequently carried out apparently was rather shoddy, I don’t know why one would assume that the protocol of a community college in regard to an adjunct professor would call for such an investigation to be run by anyone other than the Dean of the department.

  182. #182 windy
    July 20, 2008

    asking faculty their opinions of a student’s allegations and making a decision based on that is ridiculous

    I assumed that Martin asked them in order to determine if Sheldon’s “opinions were consistent with mainstream scientific thought by the biology community”, like she claimed.

  183. #183 truth machine, OM
    July 20, 2008

    PS I used to think I was a pedant.

    False dichotomy. Me being a pedant doesn’t negate you being a pedant.

    I generally prefer not to let on, but …

    :-)

  184. #184 Fernando Magyar
    July 20, 2008

    Christian types trying to prove the validity of monogamy, by claiming that all birds exhibit it, having failed to note that the females may “nest with” a single male, but will/do mate more often with the ones that are not their nest mates.

    Here is a real good example of documented long term monogamy in birds.

    http://monado2.blogspot.com/2007/05/living-scientific-life-gay-flamingoes.html

  185. #185 truth machine, OM
    July 20, 2008

    I assumed that Martin asked them in order to determine if Sheldon’s “opinions were consistent with mainstream scientific thought by the biology community”, like she claimed.

    Right. But my point was Martin never established that the questions that she asked the faculty about were Sheldon’s opinions, rather than claims by a student that Sheldon said those things. However, I forgot that Martin stated that “June admitted” to the statements. However, it seems that Ms. Sheldon is now denying that she made those statements.

  186. #186 MAJeff, OM
    July 20, 2008

    Posted by: Michael | July 19, 2008 11:45 PM

    It’s always fun when biggoted morons decide to pay a visit.

    Put your brain back on its shelf. It’s obvious you don’t know how to use it.

  187. #187 John Morales
    July 20, 2008

    tm:

    I don’t know why one would assume that the protocol of a community college in regard to an adjunct professor would call for such an investigation to be run by anyone other than the Dean of the department.

    Cultural myopia. I live in South Australia, we’re heavily regulated by legislation, especially in the professional spheres (teaching included).

  188. #188 truth machine, OM
    July 20, 2008

    John,

    After reading all the materials, it seems there was supposed to be a “Determination panel” in the case of a formal complaint .. but there was only an informal complaint, and none of the required procedures were followed. If Ms. Sheldon’s defense and lawsuit are anywhere near accurate, then she was handed a raw deal, the college did everything wrong, Dean Martin is incompetent, and the student grossly misunderstood or misrepresented what was said in class. That’s a big ass if, but I lean toward it being true. I think there’s been a lot of rash statements here in the absence of sufficient evidence for which people should be ashamed … including my own and myself, and I would delete my #166 if I could. And I think Damian went through a similar process long before I did, and should be commended for his #168 and #175.

    And on that note, I’m going to sheepishly shut up.

  189. #189 truth machine, OM
    July 20, 2008

    Except for

    Homosexuals cannot reproduce, so there are no homosexual genes being transferred from one generation to the next

    Uh, WRONG, on both counts.

  190. #190 NickG
    July 20, 2008

    PZ: “The student has been sitting there stewing in outrage for weeks, and then assembles a complaint? Bleh. Throw it out on those grounds alone.”

    Perhaps because if you have a homophobic teacher you might want to finish the course before you complain about her to the dean? That delay is understandable, especially if his grade in that class is important to his future.

    It is ideal to always stand up at the time and call people out on homophobia (and sexism, racism, etc.) Unfortunately, having been in that circumstance I’ve made the same decision. As a med student and resident, I saw a boatload of homophobia. It wasn’t until I felt comfortable in my position (the last few years of residency) that I felt able to call people on this. Having the chief see you as a whining queer resident doesn’t make for an easy month on trauma surgery.

  191. #191 Aquaria
    July 20, 2008

    I know too many students complain about bullshit–it’s almost always–“Whut? U mean I have to come to class and pay attention and take notes and participate? I didn’t have to do that in high skool!” And then they’re mad because they get a bad grade because they didn’t go to class, pay attention, and etc.

    Most professors do a splendid job–for those who want to learn enough to do the things necessary to get the learning. And some of them are so awesome, they can get the kids who don’t want to learn to learn. But bad professors are out there.

    I know a lot of people gave examples of students who complain about being tested on things that weren’t covered in the lectures/syllabus/textbook, when those subjects were covered. But I had a prof (Economics), who, when he wasn’t telling us how wonderful Ronald Reagan was, decided it would be okay to give us our first test, supposedly covering the first two chapters of the textbook–with relevant lectures, on material he had never addressed in class. I found the relevant informations in chapters 7-9. But not until after all of us in the class flunked the dang test! Every single one of us. And this fucktard still said he gave us the correct test, and we “shoulda known all the material covered in the test.”

    Just about the entire class was in the dean’s office immediately after class ended. Several of us had the test, our notes, the syllabus–one girl had even tape recorded the lectures.

    None of it mattered.

    The admin told us we just needed to “study harder,” and essentially blew us off.

    22 kids withdrew from the course that day. We lost our money, but it was worth it.

  192. #192 windy
    July 20, 2008

    If Ms. Sheldon’s defense and lawsuit are anywhere near accurate, then she was handed a raw deal, the college did everything wrong, Dean Martin is incompetent, and the student grossly misunderstood or misrepresented what was said in class. That’s a big ass if, but I lean toward it being true. I think there’s been a lot of rash statements here in the absence of sufficient evidence for which people should be ashamed … including my own and myself, and I would delete my #166 if I could.

    IMO, you got it right the first time. But even what you say above is not inconsistent with Sheldon making some bigoted statements and attempting to spin it afterwards.

    This part of the FIRE letter is very fishy:

    Dean Martin continued to investigate the content of Sheldon’s classroom discussion. On December 6, Martin reported that she had investigated Sheldon for saying that “there was no such thing as true female homosexuality.” Martin reported that she had met with “the four full-time faculty members in the biology department” and had asked them about the “nature versus nurture question” and whether “the scientific community was in agreement that there were female homosexuals.” All four faculty members reportedly replied that the nature/nurture issue was “very complex” and that both genetic and environmental factors were involved in sexual orientation. Martin, however, reported that Sheldon “was teaching misinformation as science in a science course,” and Martin recommended that Sheldon be removed from the SRP.

    They don’t actually deny the “female homosexuals” part but skip over it. Maybe she was only talking about Dörner’s research as she claims (#168), but then why the digression into the habits of Middle Eastern men? Or was that complete fabrication by the student too?

  193. #193 Tsugradstudent
    July 20, 2008

    I would like to point out that there are some huge implications of this court case, if it gets to trial. Ms. Sheldon was released from her teaching duties, according to the administration “Based on my investigation I conclude that June Sheldon was teaching misinformation as science in a science course.”

    Now, it has also been concluded where she stands on the nature vs. nurture debate with her statements that there are no real lesbians, and gay males are created because while their mother was pregnant with them, someone abused the mother-causing maternal stress.

    If the court upholds her firing based on teaching misinformation, then this means that the court is rejecting the idea that homosexuality is a choice. This could be a potential Pandora’s box in regards to Gay Rights. It could have lasting implications. I think it will all be down to how the opinion is written either way the cookie crumbles, so to speak.

  194. #194 MAJeff, OM
    July 20, 2008

    Most professors do a splendid job–for those who want to learn enough to do the things necessary to get the learning. And some of them are so awesome, they can get the kids who don’t want to learn to learn. But bad professors are out there.

    And for those of us who care about teaching, those bad professors are also highly frustrating. They don’t have the same effect on or power over us, but their poor teaching also makes our jobs more difficult. Because of them we often have to go over material that should have been presented or was done wrong, or our departments lose potential students because of bad experiences with those poor teachers.

  195. #195 Brian Macker
    July 20, 2008

    “Based on my investigation I conclude that June Sheldon was teaching misinformation as science in a science course. I feel that these statements were grievous enough to warrant withdrawing SRP status and Spring 08 assignment.”- Leandra Martin

    Sounds reasonable but it wasn’t what the complaint was about. I guess if a black person found it offensive that a professor was teaching that blacks were racially inferior based on dubious science then that professor might then get fired on the science and not the offense.

  196. #196 MAJeff, OM
    July 20, 2008

    In one of those odd moments of confluence, this thread–especially the comments by folks talking about being queer in educational spaces and dealing with anti-queer teachers–is taking place about a day later than a conversation thread on a queer studies list I’m on about what kind of difference queer instructors make in the classroom.

  197. #197 Aquaria
    July 20, 2008

    I don’t know if others have found this, but the writing, spelling, grammar and logic abilities in many many many of my students are woefully lacking. They couldn’t write (or think) their way out of a wet paper bag. Tenses are all over the place, redundancies abound, and there is often no relevance to the topic.

    I really didn’t want to jump on this one, but I have to.

    You’re not the only one who’s observed this.

    At my son’s school, the practice writing for the state grade promotion test, then known as the TASS was posted on the walls. I noticed that too many papers got high marks, despite terrible narratives and even worse craftsmanship (spelling, punctuation, grammar). I mentioned how terrible writing was getting high marks on the TASS to more than one teacher.

    And this is what the answer always was: “Oh, we don’t care about that. We’re trying to inspire their creativity.”

    I just about blew a gasket every time I heard it, and usually shouted something along the lines of:

    “No, you ignorant twit, you are not here to inspire creativity! You are here to teach children how to communicate effectively. Teach them how to spell and punctuate, how to construct a sentence, use the proper tenses–all of that! The kids who want to write beyond schoolwork will. You can encourage, but you cannot force that, just like you can’t force any kid to be Mozart with a piano–and Mozart didn’t become Mozart without having to learn the basics and do the dreary work of practicing scales until his fingers ached! Not everyone will be or will want to be or even need to be a creative writer. If you teach the foundation of the language, the creative writers will be better writers faster, and the other kids will somehow get the tools they need to write a decent paper when they have to! What the #### is wrong with you that you don’t understand that?!”

    Needless to say, my son’s teachers were always…uh…AFRAID of me. I wonder why..

  198. #198 Emmet Caulfield
    July 20, 2008

    Dean Martin continued to investigate the content of Sheldon’s classroom discussion.

    Then performed a duet of “That’s Amore” with Gina Lollobrigida.

    :-P

  199. #199 amphiox
    July 20, 2008

    I hear you, Aquaria. Few people know how much work young Mozart actually did, thanks to the “encouragement” of his father. It is estimated that by the time he was seven or so, he had practiced music for as many hours as a modern concert pianist of about 20 years experience had in his/her entire life!

    You don’t need to encourage creativity in anybody, really. It’s spontaneous in children and actually requires learning to suppress.

    What you do need to do is teach them to give form and structure to their creativity so that they can express it ways that others can understand!

  200. #200 amphiox
    July 20, 2008

    I have only experienced academia from the student’s side of the equation. Perhaps surprisingly, or luckily, or just because I’m some weird mutant, I have loved every single one of my teachers and every single one of them inspired me to learn in at least one way or another.

    I have gotten the impression from many of them, and I don’t know if this is true, that at and above the University level, instructors are not given any training in teaching, nor are do they seem to be recruited or evaluated based on teaching ability (how wrong am I here? I suspect quite a bit!) So it seemed to me that my instructors were actually amateurs in the business of instruction, with varying degrees of talent in varying aspects of it.

    At any rate it seemed to be that the onus is on the student to adapt his/her learning style to suit the instructor, if he/she wanted a positive experience.

  201. #201 Aquaria
    July 20, 2008

    Because of them we often have to go over material that should have been presented or was done wrong, or our departments lose potential students because of bad experiences with those poor teachers.

    Funny you mention that…

    Several of us students refused to take any Economics courses there after that fiasco. One of the guys was an Economics major, and withdrawing threw a real wrench into his timetable. He ended up transferring to another town’s community college–but only after having very long fact-finding sessions about their Economics department in advance.

  202. #202 Mooser, Bummertown
    July 20, 2008

    It isn’t bad enough you have to slice up Zebrafish, what they have never harmed so much as a hair of your dog, but now you’re torturing mice, too? That is disgusting.

    BTW- How is homosexual behavior significant in biology? Any species ever extincted cause all the males were too busy cornholing each other to procreate? The only reason “homosexual behavior” is studied is because we desperately want to find a way for men to have families.

    While I readily admit I’m an amateur biologist (and homosexual, but I’m always willing to give the matter further study) has homosexual behavior but a big crimp in the population supply? Nope.

  203. #203 E.V.
    July 20, 2008

    PS I used to think I was a pedant.
    False dichotomy. Me being a pedant doesn’t negate you being a pedant.

    You bein’ funny?

  204. #204 NickG
    July 20, 2008

    @202

    BTW- How is homosexual behavior significant in biology? Any species ever extincted cause all the males were too busy cornholing each other to procreate? The only reason “homosexual behavior” is studied is because we desperately want to find a way for men to have families.

    While I readily admit I’m an amateur biologist (and homosexual, but I’m always willing to give the matter further study) has homosexual behavior but a big crimp in the population supply? Nope.

    Ted? Ted Haggard is that you?

    Oh wait, no its just a straight fundie troll who wants to utilize a bizarre twist on an argumentum ad verecundiam by claiming to be a homosexual ‘amateur biologist’. The tip off was not actually that you used the phrase ‘cornhole’ or that you use ersatz quotes around the phrase ‘homosexual behavior’ (an absolute fav of the religious right… see ‘homosexual marriage’). It was also not that you used the term homosexual rather than gay or queer or even that you suggested your sexual orientation as an adult was not fixed.

    The real tip off is that your grammar is fucking atrocious. Any gay man with even a minimal education that you claim to have wouldn’t use such ignorant hick diction. Honey, if you are queer then I am the tooth fairy.

  205. #205 Canuck
    July 20, 2008

    RIght, there are no homosexuals in the Middle East. What a crock. More like “the closet in the middle east is bolted and padlocked so tightly closed that if a gay man stuck so much as a toe out of the closet he would be stoned by the peace loving followers of Islam.” I don’t have any research to base this on, but I’d put money on it as a more realistic proposition than the fluff she was spouting.

    That said, I teach in university and a lot of our “millennium” students are whiny, entitled, and mentally lazy. I’m very disappointed in the overall picture in University. In 30 years things have changed drastically.

  206. #206 Diego
    July 20, 2008

    I was an adjunct instructor for a while, and although the teaching was fun it was frustrating feeling so marginalized. The pay was so poor that I was working three jobs at once to make ends meet. I guess there is a big pool of applicants so colleges can treat adjuncts as disposable, but I think it’s not a wise approach.

  207. #207 C. Sullivan
    July 20, 2008

    I’m enough of an academic idealist to believe that the offensiveness of an idea should have no bearing on whether or not it belongs in the classroom. The only important criterion should be whether the idea is well-founded.

    If a professor shows a consistent pattern of telling students things that are demonstrably very badly founded, there’s an obvious case for administrative intervention. However, I think the bar for this should be relatively high. Making a few bizarre, or even outrageous, statements about homosexuality or any other topic shouldn’t qualify. Anyone who’s been an undergraduate will probably have heard a professor say something stupid, quite possibly in response to a question falling outside his or her immediate expertise. This kind of thing may be regrettable, but it shouldn’t be grounds for dismissal.

    It certainly sounds to me like the college overreacted to what was, after all, a single complaint. Or if the administration wanted to get rid of Sheldon for other reasons, and the complaint was just an excuse, it was a bloody lame one.

  208. #208 Steven Dunlap
    July 20, 2008

    to #82 and others who have written about the difference between the words that come out of your mouth and what students think they heard:

    Mangled history and other amusing students’ exam answers

    Some of these made the e-mail rounds in the mid-90s, but I found a few new ones this morning while researching this post.

    #86 and #205 and others on the topic of how nicely women are treated in the Mid-east and no gays, etc.:

    There exists a truly bizarre belief on the part of an extreme (and I hope small) faction of lefy feminists that the U.S. is the worst place in the world for women and that women are better off in the Mid-East because, as one nut of my acquaintance once said, in Islamic countries “women get protection and respect.” I somewhat unwisely brought up the topic of clitoridectomies during that conversation. Not to make too much of a Mid-East pun, but denial is definitely Not just a river in Egypt.

    For # 193 on the question of legal determination of homosexuality as a choice.

    I have to add the caveat that I am not a lawyer. If any lawyers are reading this, please correct me if I’m wrong. The court need not make a definitive determination on the “choice” question in the lawsuit. It needs only to determine whether such a statement on the nature vs. nurture debate has any merit and/or relevance to a scientific discussion on the topic. I hope this makes sense (as all the college professors in this thread lamenting the poor writing skills they encounter makes me a bit nervous).

  209. #209 Tsu Dho Nimh
    July 20, 2008

    @190 … “Perhaps because if you have a homophobic teacher you might want to finish the course before you complain about her to the dean? That delay is understandable, especially if his grade in that class is important to his future.

    In the complaint,it states that the student withdrew the day of the lecture on homosexuality – the “Chapter 6″ that is referred to. There was no grade or future at risk.

    What I find outrageous is that on the basis of one informal complaint by an anonymous student, with no evidence from other students that what was claimed was said was actually said … she is fired and removed from the list of potential instructors

  210. #210 Moses
    July 20, 2008

    They are customers. College is not cheap. People go because it is an investment that will usually allow them to negotiate for more money later. Educational institutions render a service for a fee. If you don’t like it, change the economic system of the nation. ;)

    Posted by: Grammar RWA | July 19, 2008 5:24 PM

    Coledje! Ur DOIN IT WRNG!!!!

  211. #211 Kagehi
    July 20, 2008

    Here is a real good example of documented long term monogamy in birds.

    Fernando, I didn’t say it didn’t necessarily exist, but the studies being done by the people ***I*** was saying got it wrong where looking at song birds and other species, and projecting from invalid investigations that ***all*** birds exhibited monogamous behavior, therefor it validated their point. This was stupid, invalid, theologically driven, research, which reached incorrect conclusions, which *remained* the scientific opinion for much of the last century and a half (I misstated that the invalid information was a result of 50 years ago). Your example of it actually happening is no more a validation of that prior false result than claiming that all bears have white fur would be, by basing research on fur colors purely on polar bears, nor where the original conclusions valid, since it did the opposite, and by doing the equivalent of looking at the general population of bears, concluding that most looked sort of brown, therefor one should assume that “all of them” across the world where brown, while failing to notice all the block, gold and white ones.

    Yes, it can be true, of some species. It was however invalid ***because** it was incorrectly drawn from invalid studies of birds that **did not actually exhibit the behavior**.

  212. #212 aratina
    July 20, 2008

    As for whether homosexuality is caused by nature or nurture, it seems pretty clear that it is both because the word ‘homosexuality’ encompasses a range of components including sexual orientation and sexual preference (in its concious/unconcious and individual/societal forms) and probable/historical sexual behavior.

    Like x-handed vs. y-handed people. At the orientation level, genetic x-handedness does not mean an x-handed person must always write with their x hand; it does not exclude x-handed people from exclusively using their y hand to write. It also does not prevent x-handed people from enjoying writing with their y hand. A person who is genetically ambidextrous could write enough times with their x hand that they come to exclusively write that way. A person who has always written with their x hand could one day decide to write with their y hand. And a person who always writes with their x hand could hide that fact (unconciously or conciously) and tell others that y-handed writing is preferred.

    Plus, the word ‘choice’ is thrown about without considering our development as humans. Can we really say that children make choices in the same way adults make choices? The things we do as humans (especially as children) could very well be in-the-moment choices, but after we have built habits out of them don’t they cease to be choices? For instance, learning a language is a choice (in the sense that a person could choose to not learn one) but it is also forced on us by the sociocultural environment and we are already primed for it genetically.

    When does a person become straight or gay anyway? Before a person came out, were they lying about their sexual orientation or is it only after coming out that it is a consciously choosable identity? Is a person who historically engages in sex with same-sex partners a homosexual despite their underlying genetic structure? Was the gay man who spawned four children from a 40-year marriage to a woman actually straight until he came out? Was he gay the whole time? Is the 60-year old woman who raised three children a lesbian when she and her best friend start sleeping together? Straight people rarely have to grapple with these issues so the science just isn’t well developed yet.

    I think conservatives need to find a better moral foundation than religion. Human rights should not depend on whether homosexuality is intrinsically genetic or actively decided on. Sex between mutually consenting people may carry risks (pregnancy, breech of trust with others and STI’s) but those are not reasons to make sex in any of its forms illegal (we take far greater risks involving complete strangers while driving a car). Likewise, personal relationships should not be regulated at all if they don’t cause harm to other people (and no, seeing or even knowing that people you despise kiss or hold hands is not harmful, just turn your head).

  213. #213 NickG
    July 20, 2008

    Tsu Dho Nimh @209 “What I find outrageous is that on the basis of one informal complaint by an anonymous student, with no evidence from other students that what was claimed was said was actually said … she is fired and removed from the list of potential instructors”

    Well, OK I missed the part about withdrawal. However, pretty much by definition, at this point the student is not anonymous unless there was a rash of withdrawals from her class on the day in question (since all she needs do is compare her rosters pre and post that lecture). That alone might make me hesitate given the exact discussion that is going on here.

    C. Sullivan @207: “I’m enough of an academic idealist to believe that the offensiveness of an idea should have no bearing on whether or not it belongs in the classroom. [snip] If a professor shows a consistent pattern of telling students things that are demonstrably very badly founded, there’s an obvious case for administrative intervention. However, I think the bar for this should be relatively high. Making a few bizarre, or even outrageous, statements about homosexuality or any other topic shouldn’t qualify.”

    OK, change that statement to race, and the lecture is to students including some African Americans. (Ex: James Watson’s racist comments.) Or replace it with Holocaust denialism and there are Jewish students in the audience. Still feel that academic ideals trump the right of students of color or students who are descendants of holocaust survivors to have a safe and positive learning environment?

    Now that does not mean that I advocate respecting everyone’s sacred cows (or crackers). However if a group of people by virtue of their inclusion in a group has been subject to heinous discrimination, violence, execution, and systematic dehumanization (as have Jews, African Americans, LGBT people, etc) then this is a special case that requires protection. The difference is to whom is the wrong done? If its a cracker, have at it. If its a person (or group of people) not so much.

    So no, its not right for a white professor in Alabama to refer to the Bell Curve or what James Watson said and defend it. That is the equivalent of yelling ‘fire’ in a crowded theater because it continues to marginalize and disempower groups that have been historically subject to profound abuse and violence. Free speech comes with responsibilities – especially if you are in a position of authority.

  214. #214 gaypaganunitarianagnostic
    July 20, 2008

    Until Iran openly denounced gays, I read numerous accounts of how prevalent homosexuality was in the middle east, (the Arab middle east, anyway. Iran is not Arab) That there more homosexual acts per time unit that hetero, (and they STILL managed to out-breed Israel). The Koran is as anti homosexual as the Bible, but Arab tradition sometimes overruled scripture.
    “homosexuals don’t reproduce.’ I ones saw a guy’s daughter dancing with his lover. Lots of gays of both sexes try marriage before ‘coming out’ some stay on the ‘down low.’
    I have entertained the idea that there is a ‘homophile trait’ which allows same sex co-operation, so that men, unlike tom cats or bulls, can cooperated on projects.

  215. #215 Ezekiah
    July 20, 2008

    One thing I haven’t noticed mentioned is a very clearly done analysis of the major differences between the different sources that PZ decided to use for this blog post (though of course some people have commented on the bias of the first two, and many have jumped on the “the student is always a jackass” bandwagon). And yes, I do acknowledge that I have a bias.

    The first source (LifeSiteNews.com) is secondhand (and I would consider a secondary resource), as is the second source (Foundation for Individual Rights in Education). In contrast, the student source is clearly firsthand (and a primary resource). As a kid, I was taught that secondhand accounts are more likely to lack context, or have details changed (the game “Telephone” springs to mind) and should be subject to scrutiny because of their nature. Not that firsthand accounts shouldn’t be scrutinized. Just because a kid writes in zer diary: “Today I punched the mailman and then I became king of the world” doesn’t make it true. However, with secondhand sources (especially ones which don’t even quote the student, or professor, outside of the obligatory “offensive” in quotation marks), I feel like even greater scrutiny is required.

    Next is the specificity (or lack thereof) of each of the accounts. The first account (as quoted by PZ Meyers) says:

    On June 21, 2007, June Sheldon, an adjunct professor teaching a human heredity course, answered a question about how heredity affects homosexual behavior by citing the class textbook and a well-known German scientist. She noted that the scientist found a correlation between maternal stress and homosexual behavior in males but that the scientist’s views are only one set of theories in the nature-versus-nurture debate mentioned by the textbook. Sheldon then explained that the class would learn in a later chapter of the textbook that homosexual behavior may be influenced by both genes and the environment.

    What “well-known German scientist”? Perhaps this is nitpicking, but one would think that a well researched article on the topic could provide us with this scientist’s name in order that the reader can verify zer credentials, and potentially look up zer research. Alternately, why would an article choose to *not* include the specific detail of the scientist’s name? There are certain “well-known” scientists who are well known for their shoddy work, or for their biased findings, or for the fact that they are quoted widely but never published in peer-reviewed journals. I’m not saying this is the case with this particular scientist, mainly because I DON’T KNOWN WHO ZE IS. Thus it makes it a little hard for me to look up what there is available on zer. (Yes I know that PZ found that the professor in question says it was Günter Dörner, however that doesn’t change that the article in question does not mention it, nor that PZ linked to it in the first place).

    There are some other vague points in this first article which are less easy to pin-point. Yes, professors do say on occasion: “it is a complex issue, we’ll learn about it later”, but generally not after giving an example of one of many competing theories. For instance, would someone say in response to evolution: “one theory is that the flying spaghetti monster created the whole world while drunk, of course there are other theories as well, and we’ll get to them later”, or would that be (rightly) considered a fairly leading proposition.
    I suppose one could argue that I’m using a specious comparison because His Noodley Appendage isn’t considered by the scientific community as an alternate theory (and again rightly so), however I think the point stands that presenting one of many possibilities and then saying: “of course there are more, I just won’t mention them now” implicitly gives support to that theory, and based on the way memory works, makes it more likely to have that theory remembered after all others have faded into (memory) oblivion.

    A grudge I have against this article is that it sort of reads like this to me: “On June 21, 2007, June Sheldon, an adjunct professor teaching a human heredity course, answered a question… about homosexual behavior by citing the class textbook and [some scientist, we swear that ze has credentials], She noted that the [scientist who has credentials, but you don’t know what they are, nah nah] found a correlation between maternal stress and homosexual behavior in males, [but then covered her ass by saying that there are other theories as well, even though she didn’t bother to mention any of them, or at least we aren’t going to mention them] in the nature-versus-nurture debate mentioned by the textbook. Sheldon then [told that class that they’d cover it later, thus putting off any substantive debate on the issue].”

    There are a lot of things that could have been replaced in those oh so discreet bits that I edited out. Perhaps she’d noted a well-known German scientist who did research in the 1800s, perhaps she then said “and there are some people who disagree, even though frankly I think this is the best theory, but yeah I guess there’s some debate on the issue”, perhaps when someone raised a hand she said: “we’ll be talking about this later in the semester, when the textbook gets to it, let’s move on”. I’m not saying she did, but the first report is so vague that ANY OF THESE THINGS COULD HAVE HAPPENED and an article written like this would still be technically accurate, if not very forth-coming.

    The second account says: In the class discussion, Sheldon noted that the nature/nurture question was complex. She said that from the nurture point of view, fathers who wanted heterosexual sons might choose to treat their wives with courtesy. She also argued that from the nurture point of view, a theoretical possibility is that some women might have chosen lesbian relationships after having had bad heterosexual relationships.

    This has quite a bit MORE specificity to it. This specificity brings up some serious questions. It was at about this point that I questioned PZ saying: “These all sound like reasonable discussions of the issue”.
    Why is a biology teacher giving prescriptive advice to students about how they should treat their wives if they want heterosexual sons? Why not say that men should make sure their wives are stressed in order to have homosexual sons? This (article) definitely implies that she found straight children a boon. Thus pointing to at least an ideological slant to her teaching. If she were simply giving out information about theories, that may be considered intellectual freedom, but then telling the class that “for outcome x you should do a” implies both that outcome x is the desirable outcome and also that the theory in question is the most comprehensive one. Devil’s advocates may say: “maybe she was joking” but why then would the article defending her not say that?
    The article then says that she “argued that from a nurture point of view,… some women might have chosen lesbian relationships after having had bad heterosexual relationships” This strikes me in a similar way as the previous article. The professor is reportedly giving credence to one theory over others. One which (I don’t think it is unfair to point out) is considered offensive by many queer activists. (Which I will get to later).

    The last of the articles:
    On June 21st, our session of Human Heredity class was based on a development chapter. Professor Sheldon began to talk about something that had no mention in the textbook. I found many parts of her lecture highly offensive and unscientific. She presented this information, however, as hard science.
    She said that a German study found that pregnant mice, when subjected to severe stress, would produce gay male rates. She said that the scientists cut off part of the pregnant mouse’s tail and dipped her in scalding water. I later found a website explaining what I’m quite sure is the study she was referencing. The study only used one mouse in the experimental group and one mouse in the control group. Not only that, the study did not explain how they determined the offspring were gay.
    Professor Sheldon said that there are hardly any gay men in the Middle East because the women are treated very nicely. That comment was inaccurate, baseless, and offensive. First of all, determining a gay population is very difficult, and somewhat impossible if the atmosphere in that region is completely intolerant to gays. Also, I found it offensive that she thought women who must have written notes from a man to attend school are treated nicely.
    A student asked Professor Sheldon what causes homosexuality in women. Professor Sheldon promptly replied that there aren’t any real lesbians. According to her, women simply get tire of relationships with men and pursue them with women.
    To conclude her lecture, she addressed the men in the classroom, saying that if they want a “nice,” and strong son, they should treat their wives very nicely (do things like “open doors for them”). And she said, if they wanted a “sensitive” son, they should abuse their wives.
    Even after a month of waiting to cool down, I am still horribly offended.

    Ok, clearly the student is VERY specific as to what occurred in the classroom on that date. According to the student, the professor cited a German study with mice being dropped in scalding water as evidence for maternal stress while pregnancy causing male homosexuality. That gay men aren’t in the Middle East due to this theory. She then said that real lesbians don’t exist. And concluded by saying that men who want strong sons should treat their wives gently, and if they want a “sensitive” (presumably a euphemism for gay) son they should abuse their wives. According to the student.

    These are all very specific things that the student is reporting the professor said. I have been taxing my brain to see how the student just misheard, or misconstrued entirely benign comments as being this outlandish and yes, offensive. According to PZ: “I know that students often come away with very garbled interpretations of what I taught, and I have the exam scores to prove it.” Which is just another way of saying: “Students say the darn’dest things” right? PZ, do students ever put absolutely non-sequitorial comments into those “garbled interpretations” or do they make dumb, if perhaps understandable mistakes? I certainly suspect the later, and your willingness to immediately invoke the “damn, some students are dumb” trope is frankly disappointing. What about all the students which DON’T misconstrue your comments? At what point does the specificity of the comments help lend credibility to this student’s claim?
    In fact, I have a challenge for all the commentators who seem to be throwing up their hands in dismay at the student’s silly allegations (made a whole MONTH after the incident!!!). Please, I beg of you, present a reasonably specific account of what the professor could possibly have said that would have been misconstrued by the student into the claims that ze makes in zer complaint. I’d like even one theory as to what mental labyrinths the student went through before coming up with the outlandish claims made, before I’m going to reject this student as having clouded memories.

    Next I’d like to take a look at the ideological biases of the articles.
    LifeSiteNews.com is a site which includes a section on “abortion methods” using anti-choice rhetoric (including “salt poisoning [saline injection]” and “partial-birth abortion” which is not recognized by any medical association, but is used by anti-choice advocates as a stand in for “Intact dilation and extraction”). They further have a section called “Latest Headlines” with the “Marriage” in quotation marks whenever referring to same-sex marriage. Methinks the website has a small homophobic section (in addition to the bad science evidenced by their abortion rants), and so their articles about a professor accused of homophobic remarks might well be taken with an industrial sized cow lick of salt. I realize now I’m just being gratuitous, but I couldn’t help but really enjoy the: “If God is not great: Why all the fuss?” animation/ad they have. Yes, yes, freedom of expression must be extended to even those whose opinions we disagree with. But letting those opinions be taught as scientific fact is not part of it.

    FIRE seems to be a general free speech site, so we’ll overlook the fact that in their “In the News” section they term certain types of education “indoctrination” (such as in this gem of a balanced piece: ‘All whites racists’ Indoctrination revived!, which said at one point: “Students came forward “in droves” in 2007 to complain, FIRE said, also citing concerns over indoctrination about homosexuality and environmentalism.”) Yes indoctrination about homosexuality! Wait for it, wait for it? Could it be they are also opposed to “the homosexual agenda”? Why yes they do include articles written by people who also believe in the existence of a gay agenda. Funny how professors potentially teaching homophobic science should have their right to do so protected, but education about homophobia is called indoctrination. Oh I guess I didn’t overlook their bias now did I.

    Ok, last thing: PZ, would you consider it offensive if someone taught something blatantly wrong and passed it off as the truth? I would. In fact, I can’t think of a better word than that for my emotions when someone tells me something I know to be untrue/unfounded is also in a position of authority in order to enforce my compliance with that sentiment. When did we decide that Politically Correct is so evil that offending people is not a valid complaint? When something is both offensive, and incorrect, that makes it all the more troubling.
    And at what point did everyone on this blog spontaneously decide that the history of science being used to “prove” racist presuppositions is in no way related to the history of science being used to “prove” homophobic suppositions? It seems like if people are going to reject that analogy, they have to do a better job than saying (paraphrase) “it isn’t related doofus”. So how isn’t it?

    I tried to keep the snark to a minimum but I think I failed.

  216. #216 D. C. Sessions
    July 20, 2008

    That’s the point of having a professor — they’re there to discuss ideas with you. A class is not an exercise in regurgitating facts from the textbook.

    Well, more properly that’s what some professors are there for.

    I’ve had both extremes. At one end was a department chair who insisted on taking the 300-student introductory classes and then making appointments to get to know each and every one so that he could pass along his passion for physics. At the other was one who walked into a graduate class on the first day and announced to the class that “you are all wasting my time,” followed by the announcement that although he was required to keep office hours he would fail any student who showed up in his office, as he would anyone who spoke up in class (even to ask clarification or a repeat of something inaudible.)

    All generalizations are invalid, including this one.

  217. #217 Grammar RWA
    July 20, 2008

    While that may make sense on a superficial level, the reason the customer analogy does not work in academia is because in a setting of customer/service provider, there is an obligation on the part of the provider to ensure that the customer gets exactly what they want. In academia, you are paying admission to a place in which if you do not pass muster, you do not necessarily get what you want.

    Same as mutual funds. Or carnival games. The customer pays for a chance to win a prize, and frequently walks away with nothing. There is not necessarily an implicit guarantee in all transactions that the customer will get what she wants. Some businesses offer such guarantees, but only as a means of attracting more customers. Caveat emptor is the general rule.

    Several have objected that students shouldn’t be treated like customers. Contrary to several misunderstandings, I am not advocating that they should (or should not) be. My point is that, like it or not, they are customers. Capitalist economies will turn anything into a salable commodity when possible. The effect on university degrees is already obvious if so many here are complaining.

    If students’ tuition for a university, then that university will respond to student demands. There’s no way around this. If you don’t like it, then you have to work to change how universities acquire money. Any institution will respond to the demands of its funders.

  218. #218 Grammar RWA
    July 20, 2008

    Should read:

    If students’ tuition is a significant source of funding for a university, then that university will respond to student demands.

  219. #219 Grammar RWA
    July 20, 2008

    No need to change the economic system of the nation… just need to recognize that just because our economic system is based on profit, that doesn’t mean that EVERYTHING has to be profit-driven.

    Make schools free for all, paid for with taxes, tariffs on foreign-made goods, etc. Same with health care.

    Somebody got it! I’d say that what you listed counts as significant changes to the economic system, though. Free education and free healthcare would be revolutionary for the American people. But call it what you will; it sounds like an improvement to me.

  220. #220 Ichthyic
    July 20, 2008

    After reading all the materials, it seems there was supposed to be a “Determination panel” in the case of a formal complaint .. but there was only an informal complaint, and none of the required procedures were followed. If Ms. Sheldon’s defense and lawsuit are anywhere near accurate, then she was handed a raw deal, the college did everything wrong, Dean Martin is incompetent, and the student grossly misunderstood or misrepresented what was said in class. That’s a big ass if, but I lean toward it being true.

    Hmm, I rather leaned the other way, having seen a few cases of “injudicious” action on the part of various dept. committees. I agree with the conclusion that the “investigation” appeared rather rushed and a kind of amalgam of both informal and formal procedures.

    However, what AaronH said in #150 gave me pause to think Sheldon might be guilty of more than what is charged in the most recent complaint (which, being a written one submitted to the dept., would be classified as a formal one, AFAIK). The rushed investigation might be more along the lines of an ill-thought out feint towards “formal procedure” based on a history of informal complaints about Sheldon’s behavior similar to those of AaronH.

    Again, assuming Aaron’s implications are correct, that Sheldon has a bit of a history of abusing certain areas of science for some personal agenda (book written by her and her husband?), then my personal experience with committees would suggest it plausible that they simply used the first “formal” complaint filed against her to finally force action on the underlying issues. When Sheldon refused to appear in front of the impromptu “committee” to address the student’s formal complaint, I could easily see this as the “straw” that would allow such a committee to take “formal action”, even if the way they went about it wasn’t the most rigorous.

    Bottom line, I’m thinking that there is indeed something more than this one student’s formal complaint underlying the depts. action in this case, but their bungling attempt at a “formal investigation” seems likely to end up with Sheldon winning her court case.

  221. #221 NanuNanu
    July 20, 2008

    If she does turn out to be some anti-evolution anti-gay nut like #150 claims and the alleged (I say alleged because I can’t find sources, not implying anyone’s lying) participation of the ADF* then I hope that the school’s hasty dismissal and lack of following procedure won’t cause the school to have to give her anything.

    Really, the school screwed up and if she’s a bigoted nut job then their screw up could bring some benefit to both an incompetent teacher and a talking point for the right wing christian fundies about people with “different views” being kicked out ala ‘Expelled’.

    And if she’s innocent then the school fired a, presumably, good teacher over a single complaint and an informal investigation which really does not bode well for their commitment to learning.

    *Assuming of course, that she accepted their help or sought it out.

  222. #222 NanuNanu
    July 20, 2008

    #221 that word ‘both’ should be a bit earlier
    “…could bring both some benefit to an incompetent teacher and a talking point…”

  223. #223 brokenSoldier, OM
    July 21, 2008

    Grammar RWA:

    Same as mutual funds. Or carnival games. The customer pays for a chance to win a prize, and frequently walks away with nothing.

    Playing the stock market or gambling involves submitting to the variable of chance as a necessity prior to reaping any benefits from your investment. In education, there is no such chance variable – the student’s benefit resulting from his or her investment is directly related to the effort in which he or she puts into obtaining their goal of a degree.

  224. #224 truth machine, OM
    July 21, 2008

    IMO, you got it right the first time.

    I’ll stick with my position that the evidence is insufficient to make the determination.

    But even what you say above is not inconsistent with Sheldon making some bigoted statements and attempting to spin it afterwards.

    Of course it isn’t, but that’s an incredibly weak claim.

  225. #225 C. Sullivan
    July 21, 2008

    NickG, 213: “OK, change that statement to race, and the lecture is to students including some African Americans. (Ex: James Watson’s racist comments.) Or replace it with Holocaust denialism and there are Jewish students in the audience. Still feel that academic ideals trump the right of students of color or students who are descendants of holocaust survivors to have a safe and positive learning environment?”

    In a word, yes, although I think “sanitised and censored” would be a better phrase for what you’re talking about than “safe and positive”. Intellectual maturity entails being able to set feelings of offense aside and have a rational discussion about absolutely anything, racist or denialist sentiments included. (Incidentally, I think the degree of outrage directed at Watson was excessive, to put it mildly.) I would acknowledge that if you’re going to say something that your audience is likely to find offensive, it’s a good idea to express yourself as politely as possible, and make a special effort to explain why you think your statements are justified. But even when this doesn’t happen, I don’t think aggrieved squawking is ever a constructive response when an idea is put forward.

  226. #226 Fernando Magyar
    July 21, 2008

    re 211,

    Your example of it actually happening is no more a validation of that prior false result than claiming that all bears have white fur would be, by basing research on fur colors purely on polar bears,

    I know, but the mere thought of flamboyantly pink gay flamingoes lovingly raising a little chick just happens to bring a smile to my normally humorless expression.

    Then again maybe I’ll go on an expedition to see if I can find some gay polar bears with pink fur ;-)

  227. #227 windy
    July 21, 2008

    I’ll stick with my position that the evidence is insufficient to make the determination.

    As you yourself noticed, I didn’t make any definite claims about what had happened. I meant your criticism of the people who piled on the student.

    But even what you say above is not inconsistent with Sheldon making some bigoted statements and attempting to spin it afterwards.

    Of course it isn’t, but that’s an incredibly weak claim.

    I’m not sure if the claim that the student almost completely fabricated her account, and the dean flat out lied about what Sheldon had admitted to saying, is much stronger.

  228. #228 C R Stamey
    July 21, 2008

    If the professor did teach any of the things for which she is accused, IMHO she is incompetent and deserves to get sacked. PZ, I am disappointed, but I still wuv u.

  229. #229 jj
    July 21, 2008

    @7
    “It is odd that this happened in San Jose, California. As far as I know, this isn’t exactly Berkeley but it isn’t Orange county either.”

    San Jose is actually fairly liberal area (I live in Santa Cruz, 25 minutes over the hill, which is considered more left than Berkley), and it really isn’t far off from Berkley [politically]. Most of the population are either yuppies or tech industry people, and there is a lot of money. There is also a huge immigrant population of Asian, Hispanic and Indian folks. You are very correct that it isn’t like Orange (where I grew up)as it has the Liberal upper middle and upper class.

  230. #230 JCE
    July 21, 2008

    I went to school in Canada. There’s no question in my mind that a good chunk of the REAL cost of my education was paid for by others (thank you, BTW, and I promise to be a kind dictator when my plans for world domination come to fruition, muahahaha). Science labs aren’t cheap. This doesn’t mean that students don’t have the right to complain about unjust treatment or poor teaching but it does mean the “do what I want ’cause I like, yanno, PAY you” argument is full of… holes. There’s always someone else who wants your spot, little snowflake. Maybe they even want to do the work! I would also consider having a prof that caved in to the plagiarizing grade-entitlement crowd, thus watering down my grade and degree, to be a valid reason for complaint. One of the worst crimes of the grade entitlement and/or cheating crowd is the effect that it has on the morale of the students who are doing the work, especially those who are struggling and failing honestly. Word gets around. It also gets around to employers.

    How accurate is the comment made here regarding costs and state universities? They seem to be a lot like the Canadian ones.
    http://rateyourstudents.blogspot.com/2008/07/how-much-does-society-pay-for-susie.html
    I don’t know thing one about private universities in the USA but are there any where the actual cost of the program is covered by student tuition?

    Fellow 9 Chickweed lane fans: if the poster who has the strip of the magnificent Dr. Juliette Burber doing her ‘entitlement = F’ bit would be so kind as to post the date on it (or make a reasonable guess), the comics are archived here:
    http://www.comicstriparchive.com/9_Chickweed_Lane/

  231. #231 Michelle
    July 21, 2008

    “few gay men in the Middle East” Ummmmmm… yea. I mean, if they say they’re gay they’re gonna get stoned or something. So if I was gay in the middle east I’d say I’m totally hetero.

    I think some of her sayings need some discussion over, and that would’ve been the thing to do. Not get her fired.

    By the way, from what we know it’s not written anywhere that she is against homosexuals. Just because she wonders about a not PC origin of homosexuality does NOT make her a biggot.

  232. #232 NickG
    July 21, 2008

    C. Sullivan @ 225: “Intellectual maturity entails being able to set feelings of offense aside and have a rational discussion about absolutely anything, racist or denialist sentiments included.”

    I disagree with you on two points. The first is that teenaged undergraduates are not yet intellectually mature. Hell, I treated a freshman last month with a salter-harris fracture… he didn’t even have bone maturity, much less intellectual maturity. Now given that I work weekend nights in a college town as an ER physician I am perhaps exposed to the least intellectually mature undergraduates and that biases me. However if they were intellectually mature, we’d not really need to have liberal arts degrees. The maturity that you speak of is gained in undergraduate education.

    However my second issue is that even if you assume that 18 year old kids are intellectually mature, they are still in a very vulnerable position if they are a minority. And it behooves educators to take that into consideration. You don’t go into a class of African American students and suggest as Jimmy the Greek did that black athletes already hold an advantage as basketball players because they have longer thighs than white athletes, their ancestors having been deliberately bred that way during slavery. ‘This goes all the way to the Civil War,’ Jimmy the Greek explained, ‘when during the slave trading. . .the owner, the slave owner would breed his big black to his big woman so he could have a big black kid, you see.’ Sorry that’s not OK. Its repulsive and offensive. In a few rare circumstances of a harsh socratic method it might be justified, but the vast majority of the time, its just a racist, misogynistic, homophobic asshat who uses the lecture as a way of proselytizing.

    Say that to my partner (who is mixed race) and he will intellectually rip you a new one ala the Mismeasure of Man. Say it to an 18 year old African American college student and he likely doesn’t stand a chance. If you want to develop his intellectual capacity and maturity, you don’t do it with a full frontal assault. You give people a problem they can tackle rather than trying to foist your prejudices on them. So my second issue is that if we take the statements from the student at face value the intent of this instructor was likely not to develop the critical thinking skills of her students, but rather to use her power and authority to foster her own homophobia in her students.

  233. #233 Qwerty
    July 21, 2008

    On her answer to the complaint, June Sheldon lists
    http://www.borngay.procon.org as as attachment 17.

    If Ms. Sheldon is homophobic; then she probably takes some of her cues from the bad science that can be found at this website.

    For example, the site mentions the Spitzer study as a “con” for “can homosexuals change their orientation.” In short, the study of some 46 hand-picked so-called former homosexuals was of men picked by evangelical organizations. It was a PHONE study in which questions were asked of the respondents.

    Nothing was done to verify if these men actually could repond to visual stimuli of either male or female genatalia.

    For more info on this poorly done study, go to:
    http://www.religioustolerance.org/hom_spit.htm

    After the study, Spitzer claims he didn’t know that the religious organizations would misintrepret his findings. WOW!

    “He [Spitzer] told the Washington Post in 2005 that supporters of reparative therapy have misrepresented the results of his study. He said:

    ‘It bothers me to be their knight in shining armor because on every social issue I totally disagree with the Christian right…What they don’t mention is that change is pretty rare.'”

    The religious right’s simple reason for convincing people that homosexuals can change is to continue their tradition of bigotry and discimination. They don’t need gay marriage if they can change!

    Other anti-gay organizations and people listed are Dr. Joseph Nicolosi and his NARTH group that believes that gays and lesbians can be changed through reparative theapy
    and the Family Values Coalition, the Family Research Council, Campus Crusade for Christ International. I am sure you’ll get some sterling science studies on gays and lesbians from these orgnizations!

    She probably should be fired if she believes all the crap from the anti-gay organizations that is listed on this website.

  234. #234 frog
    July 21, 2008

    This sounds like a case of the continuing juvenilization of our young adults.

    Instead of standing and fighting face to face, they run off to a higher authority. And it make sense — from the continuing attempts to strip them of power, how else are they to interpret their relationship with individuals and institutions?

    But the right-wingers are going to take the wrong lesson from this as usual — instead of recognizing this as the end result of authoritarian tendencies, they’ll see this as simply PC run amok.

    Like little children, no one can stand to have their feelings hurt.

  235. #235 frog
    July 21, 2008

    NickG: Say that to my partner (who is mixed race) and he will intellectually rip you a new one ala the Mismeasure of Man. Say it to an 18 year old African American college student and he likely doesn’t stand a chance. If you want to develop his intellectual capacity and maturity, you don’t do it with a full frontal assault. You give people a problem they can tackle rather than trying to foist your prejudices on them. So my second issue is that if we take the statements from the student at face value the intent of this instructor was likely not to develop the critical thinking skills of her students, but rather to use her power and authority to foster her own homophobia in her students.

    Wrong! It’s exactly by being directly confronted that you develop strength. It’s the subtle attacks, the quiet dismissals of your voice, the slight disparagements as a “joke”, the slow marginalization that kills you in your youth.

    You never know then how much is in your own head, how much is in their heads, or how strongly to respond. You then have to carefully keep yourself on a leash, for fear that your reasonable response will be used against you — giving you a double whammy as the “crazed, emotional, child-like” minority.

    But a full frontal attack? There you can clearly flex your intellectual muscles without fear that you will be out-maneuvered quietly. There you have a fighting chance. In short, it’s a much easier problem to deal with — fewer moving parts.

    Don’t baby 18 year olds — it’s the worst that can be done to them. To patronize them is to kill them.

    (I’ve always felt safer in a roomful of Southern racists than among blue-blood Yankees looking down their nose — at least with the Southerners I can get a running start when they go for the noose.)

  236. #236 NickG
    July 21, 2008

    Frog: “(I’ve always felt safer in a roomful of Southern racists than among blue-blood Yankees looking down their nose — at least with the Southerners I can get a running start when they go for the noose.)”

    Spoken like a true straight white man who has never actually been in that situation. I grew up in North Carolina and lived in Louisiana as an adult as a gay man with a mixed-race partner. (And I was never quite sure which was worse the queer or the interracial relationship.) Anyone who has actually gotten his ass kicked or lived in fear for either of those reasons knows precisely how far and firmly your head is planted up your ass.

  237. #237 Michael#48
    July 22, 2008

    Apparently there are two Michaels here, quelle surprise…

    @ C. Sullivan # 225

    According to the student’s complaint she

    – labeled gay sons as undesirable
    – effectively advocated removing gays from the gene pool (Social Darwinism)
    – promoted the stereotype that gay men are not “nice and strong” and that they are “sensitive”

    Now replace “gay” with the name of the offended student to understand what message he was hearing from her.

    The student was there to discuss science instead he gets confronted with political viewpoints and prejudice direct at himself. According to the complaint she has also shown that she is willing to lie for her convictions because clearly she can not have reliable data to support her claim about the gay population in the Middle East.

    Even if the student was willing to out himself here and now just because the topic came up, what point would a debate with such a person serve — her false claims are clearly not rooted in honest mistakes but in her ideology.

  238. #238 C. Sullivan
    July 22, 2008

    NickG, 232, On undergraduates: “However if they were intellectually mature, we’d not really need to have liberal arts degrees. The maturity that you speak of is gained in undergraduate education.”

    Maybe we’re just going to have to agree to disagree about the level of intellectual maturity that can be expected of the average undergraduate. I think you’re giving them too little credit. But let’s assume they do indeed lack intellectual maturity, and need to develop it. Perhaps exposing them to a wide range of views, and encouraging them to examine even the most “offensive” ones in a spirit of calm, objective criticism, wouldn’t be such a bad way to go about this.

    On “Jimmy the Greek” (I assume this refers to Watson): “You don’t go into a class of African American students and suggest as Jimmy the Greek did that black athletes already hold an advantage as basketball players because they have longer thighs than white athletes, their ancestors having been deliberately bred that way during slavery. ‘This goes all the way to the Civil War,’ Jimmy the Greek explained, ‘when during the slave trading. . .the owner, the slave owner would breed his big black to his big woman so he could have a big black kid, you see.’ Sorry that’s not OK. Its repulsive and offensive.”

    This scenario sounds unlikely in the extreme, but what’s so offensive about it? The idea that genetic differences between Americans of African and European descent might extend to average thigh length? Some human populations do have differences in average physique, and some of the variation is genetic. This, in itself, shouldn’t upset anyone.

    Maybe the problem is with the idea of slave owners selectively breeding their slaves for size? This is the part that strikes me as very improbable, and of course nobody likes to think of their ancestors’ being treated like cattle (although some people do seem to like to wallow in the resulting sense of historical victimhood). However, it’s already a matter of historical record that being a slave in the American south was pretty damn miserable. The suggestion that selective breeding was practiced alongside the well-documented beatings, brandings, buyings, sellings, and other routine brutalities and indignities doesn’t really make the picture much worse, in my opinion.

    And anyway, why exactly should an African-American student, in the 21st century, be offended by having someone exaggerate the extent of the mistreatment his or her ancestors suffered more than a century ago? It’s not like old Jimmy was advocating the selective breeding of African-Americans in the present.

    Maybe there’s some hideously offensive implication lurking in there that went over my head, but I just don’t see where it could lie.

The site is currently under maintenance and will be back shortly. New comments have been disabled during this time, please check back soon.