Petition supporting academic freedom of lgbt studies professors in Georgia

by on February 27, 2009  •  In Uncategorized

"On February 18, 2009, CNN reported on the opposition by two Georgia legislators to the teaching of courses on sexuality, the social significance of oral sex and queer theory at state universities. Their argument is that these courses are a waste of taxpayer money because they are contrary to Christian morals. Furthermore, they want the courses canceled and the instructors fired.
~Cynara M. Medina, Ohio University

"As members of the academic community, we are deeply saddened by the statements made by State Representatives Charlice Byrd and Calvin Hill (R-Georgia). Both, supported by the Christian Coalition, have declared their opposition to the teaching of queer theory, sexuality, and similar subjects on moral grounds, arguing that these courses should be cut because they are a waste of taxpayer money.
Granted, lawmakers are entitled to their opinion; the first amendment guarantees their right to express it freely . However, representatives Byrd, Hill and their supporters demonstrate a complete disregard and lack of understanding of the fundamental mission of a university…."


You can sign here. Continue reading the petition after the jump.  (HT to Lisa Duggan)

The principle of Academic Freedom helps define our roles and responsibilities as members of the university community. Individually and collectively, through our teaching and scholarship, we encourage our students to search and discover knowledge. Academic freedom protects us and our rights to conduct research, to publish and to freely discuss ideas that are relevant to our fields of study. The principle, as defined by the American Association of University Professors, also recognizes our rights, as citizens, to free expression of our opinions, which should not be restricted by the institution. At the same time, we are reminded of our special obligations to our students, and to the community. Hence, we are urged to "exercise proper restraint", to avoid controversies that have no bearing to our subject matter, to respect the opinions of others, and "to make every effort to indicate that they are not speaking for the institution" for which we work (AAUP, 1940).

We believe that classrooms are spaces to discuss ideas. A well-rounded education, furthermore, is not just about learning practical skills; it should help students develop their ability to think critically, and to engage and question their surroundings, their culture, their government, and even their religious beliefs. If they can come out on the other side with deeper convictions, either those they held before or new ones they have embraced, then we can say that it was all worth it. The grading, the uninspired students, the incomprehensible committee jargon… all of it.

Still, It saddens us that lawmakers in Georgia find so much to object about, and that they use their position as a bully pulpit. They obviously don't understand that queer theory, for example, is not meant as an attempt to recruit new queers; it is a useful tool to understand society and culture from the point of view of a group that has always been on the outside looking in. We can only hope that most of the students to come out of such a course would be better equipped to handle themselves in a diverse world than legislators Byrd and Hill are.

We support our colleagues and appreciate the freedom to share knowledge. 


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