Wednesday, April 23, 2008
Counting Down The Days
Since I've started teaching for the Institute of Women's Studies, I've found myself a lot more involved in the politics of the University of Georgia. There is a ton of activism on and around campus which is awesome. What isn't so awesome is the need for activism. UGA is embarrassingly behind on things like family leave, child care and living wage for staff members. We don't have a women's center. And we don't have an Ombuds office to report sexual harassment. Keep in mind we are the state's flagship university and have over 30,000 students. Inexcusable if you ask me.

The sexual harassment issue has been a biggie this semester. It has been a big issue ALWAYS, but the university's inability to deal with the variety of cases is just making news this year. To give you a recap.....

* We've had a professor receive tenure and be promoted all while receiving over 15 years of complaints of sexual harassment
*Upon reports of that case, documents surfaced of four other professors accused and kept on staff. And one professor who UGA help get ANOTHER JOB AT ANOTHER UNIVERSITY (from which he has since been fired)
* Our women's golf coach resigned and admitted to sexual wrong doing with his team (including making them watch Paris Hilton's sex tape and inappropriately touching his team members) but was kept on staff while being paid over 90,000 dollars

Obviously to say we've had a wee problem with sexual harassment is an understatement. And to say that our administration needs to do a better job articulating that they take sexual harassment seriously is a HUGE understatement.

So imagine everyone's surprise when it was announced last week that our administration has selected Clarence Thomas as our May commencement speaker. I know! I was shocked as well. Surely the administration wouldn't deliberately choose someone with a less than stellar record on sexual harassment?! Surely the administration wouldn't want to give a big slap in the face to all the faculty members who have worked hard to raise awareness about sexual harassment?! But, oh yes, they would.

Chaos has ensued. And the thing that bothers me most about this whole decision is the way people who articulate any dissent are being treated. WMST faculty are not saying Thomas can't speak. They do say they prefer he doesn't. But they support his right to free speech. However, they are also calling for an open discussion about Thomas' past. They are looking to the administration to DO MORE TO COMMUNICATE THAT WOMEN MATTER.

If you have a moment, please take a look at the comments. Look at how students and community members communicate with faculty members speaking out against Thomas. It is shameful.

These are my favorites:
I'm very surprised he was invited given the super bed wetting liberals that run this university and town. I'm sure you would all whine if Bill Clinton was coming too???

It would be nice if some college professors would "grow up". Better yet, try to get a job in the private sector instead of playing "school" for your entire life. Some of you need a taste of the real world. For those who object to Judge Thomas, I bet you wouldn't have a problem with Bill Clinton.

I also love how all the commenters call the professors "Mrs." Not DOCTOR. Not Ms. Not by their names. But "Mrs."

Classy. The WMST building is also getting harassing phone calls. But it is starting to make national news. I can't wait to see how the rest of the country feels about the hate and ignorance that runs abound here.

So, yes, I'm counting down the days. Counting down the days until I leave this university. To be sure, I'm getting a good education here. I love my department, my colleagues and Athens. But the decision making on this campus infuriates me. And I think the discussions that take place on this campus reflects the administration. There is a lack of respect for faculty--especially female faculty. The students are learning it from somewhere.



Blogger binerman said...

Oh my... How I miss Georgia ;o) We have the anti-abortionists on campus here today, though. Their billboards aren't quite as large as the ones I saw at UGA (those were at least 20 ft high!), but the ones here are just as crude.

Blogger Dave said...

Word. I am so glad you told me all this stuff yesterday. I am so disconnected from campus events/culture that I had no idea a lot of this stuff was going on. You're 100% right. It's ridiculous that we can't trust this institution to have at least the most minimum of concern, compassion, and respect for its students, faculty, and staff. I mean we're not talking about any crazy, progressive/liberal type of beliefs here. People should not be harassed in any way shape or form, whether verbal, physical, or sexual! Women should not feel that their gender is being used, taken advantage of, or wielded against them by the faculty/staff or other students! Basic human respect is a precursor to education! Amazing. I love Athens and UGA too (and I love GA because I was born here), but sometimes I echo those same sentiments as you. I can't believe the people on this campus.

Also, did you see the story from today about the fraternity accused of raping a woman? If that wasn't already fucked up, check out the comments on that story from students if you want to be even more depressed... Sigh.

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