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When Faculty Attack!


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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