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When Faculty Attack!

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A conservative sent me a passive-aggressive email concerning University of Iowa professor Ellen Lewin’s intemperate response to a passive-aggressive email the College Republicans sent about “Conservative Coming Out Week.”  Instead of completing the Circle of Irony by responding to that conservative in an equally intemperate fashion, I would like to spend a moment pointing out the obvious:

The professor’s response (“FUCK YOU, REPUBLICANS”) is clearly inappropriate, but in her defense, the College Republicans were just as clearly trying to be “provocative” by appropriating the language of the causes they oppose.  They claim, for example, that they can host something called “Conservative Coming Out Week” without ever stopping to think about who exactly kept homosexuals afraid to exit the closet.  Thin as liberal support for gay and lesbian causes frequently is, it is safe to say that the people who currently wish “those people” were back in the closet weren’t the most ardent supporters of them exiting it.

Similarly, I’m sure the College Republicans chuckled to themselves when they first saw the phrase “Animal Rights BBQ” because they’ll be asserting their rights to barbeque animal … while simultaneously demonstrating their commitment to punning ungrammatically.  I should add: that latter commitment extends to all matters ungrammatical, as evidenced by their decision to host the discussion “Whose Conservative Anyway?  Guess which athletes, movie stars, and performing artists are Republican.”  This is not to say that Dr. Lewin’s response was appropriate, even if

In 2010, Lewin’s salary from the University of Iowa was $94,800.00 plus benefits.  In her spare time, [she] was written books entitled, Inventing Lesbian Cultures in America, and Gay Fatherhood: Narratives of Family and Citizenship in America.

My annoyance at the grammar of these proponents of English as an official language aside, the strange juxtaposition of Dr. Lewin’s salary and what she does “[i]n her spare” times speaks to the fundamental misunderstanding about what academics do and what their responsibilities are that snakes through the article and the comments below it.  Professors don’t write books in their “spare time” because they have no spare time.  Academics devote what these conservatives are calling “spare time” to professional duties these same conservatives would call “was written books.”  Obviously, the implicit claim is that this professor on the public dole has enough “spare time” to “was written books” about gays and lesbians instead of how awesome George Washington was, because as Dr. Lewin herself pointedly noted, this is all about conservatives’ tactically “delicate sensibilities.”

Were the College Republicans actually offended that a professor responded to their offensive provocation in a manner that demonstrated she was provoked by their offense?  Absolutely not.  As their faculty advisor (and fellow devotee to writing English good) wrote:

It’s not my place at this point to debate the merits of whether the CR message was offense, but let me remind you that they have First Amendment rights as much as you do[.]

The point can’t be the merit of a conservative student organization openly mocking homosexuals and animal rights activists, because so long as they do so without explicitly saying “FUCK YOU, HOMOSEXUALS” and “FUCK YOU, ANIMAL RIGHTS ACTIVISTS,” they’re merely exercising their right to implicitly say “FUCK YOU, HOMOSEXUALS” and “FUCK YOU, ANIMAL RIGHTS ACTIVISTS.”  In short, the point can’t be about the merit of the College Republicans’ argument because it has no merit: it’s all about the tactical employment of rhetorical legerdemain in the service of a hateful ideology.

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  • Malaclypse

    It’s not my place at this point to debate the merits of whether [or not] the CR message was offense (sic), but let me remind you that they have First Amendment rights as much as you do[.]

    I don’t believe writing “FUCK YOU REPUBLICANS” is actually vaguely violating anybody’s speech right.

    • SEK

      I was going to address that hypocrisy — which is evident there but rampant in the comments — but the post was getting a little long. Here was favorite, though:

      The greatest thing about being an American is our freedom to express ourselves. For a professor to denegrate students engaging in that activity is intolerable.

      It’s intolerable for a professor to exercise her right to free speech in response to a student organization exercising its right to free speech!

      • PhoenixRising

        For a professor to denegrate students …

        Either you forgot the (sic) or you won the thread. Trying to form a possible def. for ‘denegrate’ that doesn’t involve toxic skin bleach that used to be sold in Essence magazine back when my pediatrician’s office subscribed. (Yeah, I was that kid who would read anything, and?)

    • DrDick

      The right of free speech does not mean the right to be free of criticism (however vulgar), unless of course you are a conservative.

    • I don’t believe writing “FUCK YOU REPUBLICANS” is actually vaguely violating anybody’s speech right.

      It’s the Sarah Palin school of First Amendment interpretation – if you don’t agree with my hateful bigotry and then speak out against it, you’re oppressing me.

  • Dave

    What are you nattering about? Honestly, it is precisely your problem that you can’t come back with “FUCK YOU, REPUBLICANS” or its equivalent. This oh-ho-ho look at the bad grammar bit makes you sound like an asshole.

    • Malaclypse

      Wouldn’t want someone who teaches rhetoric to discuss grammar. That would be totally out of bounds.

      Bonus points for the Agnew reference.

    • hv

      Wait, we can’t say “fuck you” and we can’t get arch or pedantic?

      How the heck are we supposed to infringe the free speech rights of college republicans? Throw us a bone, here.

  • c u n d gulag

    I can see the College Republicans e-mail now:

    “‘Whose’ responsable four thes grammaticel an speling erors?”

    • Lindsay Beyerstein

      “Whose Conservative?” is a great question. Charles Koch’s conservative? BP’s conservative? James Dobson’s conservative? The birthers’ conservative?

      • SEK

        I was actually forced to include the second sentence precisely because I didn’t want it to sound like they were asking one of those insightful questions.

        • R. Johnston

          As I was reading the first sentence I was puzzled. That second sentence really made the difference. Apparently my instinct is to give conservatives more credit than they deserve, which is odd considering that my instinct is usually to not to give them any credit at all.

      • rea

        Satan’s conservative.

    • Goobergunch

      The e-mail also invited people to a “College Republican meeting that night at 8pm in 71 Schaeffer Hall with showing of ‘Journey’s with George’ in honor of President George W. Bush.” I felt that the punctuation used in the title was a particularly appropriate honor.

      • DocAmazing

        Journey’s with George?

        Don’t stop believin’, College Republicans…

  • todd.

    “The professor’s response … is clearly inappropriate”

    What? No. That response is 100% great.

    Or, maybe 97%. To go all the way, she could have responded to further criticism with a gif of herself popping a jersey that says “Ivory Tower” and added “TENURE, bitches, WHAT?”

    • SEK

      Great for Facebook, absolutely, but not after hitting the “Reply” button to the students who sent it. A time and a place, etc.

  • DrDick

    That mischaracterization of faculty duties and work would be laughable if it were not shared by so many Republican legislators.

  • Some Guy

    The professor’s response (“FUCK YOU, REPUBLICANS”) is clearly inappropriate, but funny.

    Although, the obvious better response would have been, “Unless it involves you all prancing around on a float of a giant, neon pink Constitution in your flashiest colonial-bondage outfits, while blasting a house-techno remix of Sweet Home Alabama: I don’t care. Commit, you pussies.”

    Perhaps this is but a part of the reasons of why I am not a college professor.

  • Matt

    “The professor’s response … is clearly inappropriate”.

    I understand the response to be Fuck you, Republicans, so I’m missing something. Is the comma misplaced?

    • Rarely Posts

      I think it’s inappropriate because fucking is awesome, and the statement “fuck you” should generally be reserved for semi-flirtatious banter with attractive but mildly annoying people.

      The proper response would have been more along the lines of: “Please stop being so annoying, stupid, and evil.”

      • Incontinentia Buttocks

        Swearing can be a natural, zesty enterprise. But unfortunately there are some people who engage in it compulsively and without joy.

        • Spokane Moderate

          The Little Goldstein Urban Achievers, yes, and proud we are of all of them.

          • Kurzleg

            Expletive?

        • Or without flair or skill.

  • Manju

    I think the republicans were trying to trick the enemy into revealing themselves, like Pastor Jones or the Danish Cartoonists were doing.

    In this case, the ideal result would’ve been for the Professor to try to shut down the upcoming coming-out week. Campus censorship of conservatives is the best claim college republicans have to the mantle of oppression, which is not to say its much. But its something. And it has demasked some progressives.

    However, the Professor cleverly stoped short of that… though her incendiary language made it appear, to the excitable at least, that she did not.

    The CR’s faculty advisor is one of the excitable, and he clearly blew his load too soon. You need to wait until someone tries to censor before you lecture them on censorship. Its like prior restraint.

    So at the end of the day, the Professor baited the Republicans back…tricking them into making a false claim of oppression. They now appear more like Nifong than the Duke Lax.

    • Fred

      “I think the republicans were trying to trick the enemy…”

      Republicans think that their fellow citizens are ‘enemies’? That’s a sad day for the US. Poor victims, these College Republicans. Last time anyone looked Iowa had a Republican Governor.

      But they do have a Senator who “…from winning more equitable Medicare reimbursements … and obtaining federal help for natural disasters,…” (Right from his bio on his Senate Website)

      Oh, sorry, that’s Chuck Grassley, Republican. I wonder who all those College Republicans will/did vote for?

      • Manju

        Well, I’m in tactical Sun Tzu mode so I went with “enemy.”

        Now I see Terry Jones is sitting in a Dearborn jail. This means he’s managed to bait 2 enemies at once into revealing themselves. An impressive feat, even if coming from a complete asshat.

        • Malaclypse

          Well, I’m in tactical Sun Tzu mode so I went with “enemy.”

          General Manju of the Keyboard Kommandos. A brilliant tactician, often operating in “Sun Tzu mode,” a state of mind so brilliant it seems a darn shame he does not do something like enlist, so that he could engage actual enemies. Instead, he gazes out over his Diplomacy and Risk boards set up in him mom’s basement, and sneers at everyone who refuses to play with him engage with his tactical brilliance. “They all fear my brilliance,” he says to himself, as he goes off to troll blogs. “I’ll show them all, someday.”

          • Manju

            Mala: You’re commenting on a blog in order to criticize someone for the act of commenting on a blog, as oppossed to the content of the comment.

            My moms basement is bigger than yours.

            • Malaclypse

              Not at all. I was merely mocking you for “being in Sun Tzu mode,” which really in the silliest, most self-important thing I read all week.

              Are you still in this mode? I can’t be sure if you are hiding your tactical brilliance, or just being a twit.

              • I assumed that “Sun Tzu mode” was meant humorously. But far be it from me to claim perfect understanding of the ins and outs of internet rhetoric.

              • Manju

                i would stay to explain but its late and i have a date. so i must usain bolt it out of here and get into don juan mode.

                however, i’m locked in the basement so houdini mode must come frst.

              • hv

                I can’t be sure if you are hiding your tactical brilliance, or just being a twit.

                Sun Tzu says:

                Pretend inferiority and encourage his arrogance.

  • Now, I’m going to wave my hands at most of your post, because it seems aimed at particular conservatives and is, as such, not interesting.

    However, I do want to point out that when you say “a hateful ideology”, that is, I’m presuming, an evil, unserious ideology, you illustrate the notion that perhaps the idea of “Conservative Coming Out Week” isn’t all that ironic.

    We’re here, we’re conservative, get used to it.

    • Stag Party Palin

      Frrrrrrittt’z?

    • hv

      We’re here!
      Don’t jeer!
      We just want things more austere!

    • DocAmazing

      And when someone makes conservative-conservative marriages illegal, or starts pulling conservatives out of public places and tossing them in jail for acting conservative in public, or encourages physical assaults on conservatives from the pulpit we’ll recognize your oppression, Fritz.

      Until then, you’re irritants.

      • Ragout

        You have this exactly backwards. On a college campus, professors have power over students. If the professor sent a “fuck you Republicans” email to a Senator, I for one wouldn’t criticize her. But it’s wrong for a professor to send this kind of disdainful email to students.

        • DocAmazing

          Because she has control over their grades? No: just the ones in her classes. Because she can exert her professorial authority and prevent them from being able to register in needed classes? I’d love to see some evidence of this.

          The College Republicans attempted to cast themselves in the role of a despised and oppressed minority–they’re forced into the closet, by some nefarious liberal power structure that’s depriving them of their rights. In fact, they are in no such position. A professor polinted this out–a professor who has no power over them in this instant.

          Are we next going to be hearing from College Republicans telling us that they are the niggers of the campus, and are you going to be chastising those who call them out for such claims?

          • DrDick

            More to the point, this email came from an organization and not an individual, so that there is no way that she can retaliate against them even employing her tiny bit of power. At least at my university organizations cannot enroll for classes.

        • Ragout

          I think if I was a College Republican, or just a Republican, I’d be deterred from taking her class. Can anyone deny this?

          • DocAmazing

            I think that College Republicans are more likely to enroll in her class (or at least audit it) so that they can play Front Page / David Horowitz games with her.

            You give College Republicans far too much credit for academic integrity and honor.

          • hv

            Didja ever wonder why Phil Jackson criticizes the refs for the Lakers?

            You’d think he’d be deterred, amirite?

  • Marek

    “Fuck you, Republicans” is an entirely appropriate response in any situation. The only caveat I would make is that it should be reserved for situations involving actual Republicans. Otherwise, one sounds like Boston fans shouting “Yankees suck!” at a Patriots victory parade.

    • Murc

      From what I recall of my time in Boston, ‘Yankees suck!’ is never inappropriate. You can, in fact, use the phrase like a comma if you want to.

      Also, the Patriots have actual victory parades? Really? I must have missed those. Man, when the Bills or Sabres win Buffalo just sets a few fires and calls it a night. Upstate New York DOES suck.

      • Scott Lemieux

        when the Bills or Sabres win

        Uh, I think these questions remain open…

  • All I Owe Ioway

    Iowa Republicans need this because the state that inflicts Steve King and Chuck Grassley on the country is so inhospitible to republican points of view.

  • Matt

    I’d think it would have been far more appropriate to respond, “Congratulations on finally telling the truth about your sexuality!” and watch them *completely* flip out…

  • Woodrowfan

    Republicans often seem to not “get” the 1st Amendment. a couple years ago some woman I didn’t know sent me one of those offensive rightwing chain emails. I sent back a note saying basically 1) who the heck are you and 2) please don’t send me any more of these offensive emails. In response she sent me a little lecture about how she had 1st Amendment rights too! Huh? I wasn’t trying to silence her, I just didn’t want her sending that garbage to me!

    • Manju

      Its worse than that. Even if you were trying to silence her, it would have nothing to do with her first ammendment rights…unless you tried to do so using the machinary of the state.

      Arianna Huffington conflated these tow issues when she complained that:

      “TV executives and advertisers are rushing to censor the talk show host for exercising his right to free speech”

      …apparently unaware that those TV executives were excerising their right to free speech too.

      http://www.salon.com/news/col/huff/2001/09/24/maher

      So the liberalz do the stoopid too.

  • Woodrowfan

    From what I see at school now, and from what I remember from when I was a student, young Republicans need to “come out” about as much as Ru Paul.

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