Professor Is Accused of Creating a ‘Hostile Learning Environment’ for Assigning Too Many Male Authors

The campus of the University of Utah (Wikimedia)
Instead of fixating on the gender of the authors on a syllabus, shouldn’t we focus on the quality of the work?

NRPLUS MEMBER ARTICLE A University of Utah student reported her business professor to administrators last year for transgressions, including assigning too many male-written works, which she said created a “hostile learning environment.”

Although the student also accused the professor of using sexist language, most of the December 2018 complaint consisted of her taking issue with the gender of the authors of the work he assigned, according to a report by The College Fix, which obtained a copy of the complaint. The student wrote that the professor’s actions were “derogatory,” “degrading,” and “intimidating.”

“I believe it to no longer be necessary when teaching the foundations of our country’s economic system and those who helped build [its] ideals to be presented in conjunction with their sexist beliefs that have already planted their roots within our global and local communities,” the complaint stated.

Although the student did acknowledge that the professor had “never applauded these philosophers on their sexist beliefs,” she also took issue with the fact that he “never outright said they were wrong” and allegedly “continued to place them upon a pedestal.”

Per The Fix, the complaint continued:

Many of these figures are of great importance. But at what cost do we continue to plant the seed of sexism in the minds of individuals? But especially in a course and college that is already deemed to be a“boys club”, continuing those teachings, and those teachings being delivered by a professor of [his] character is dangerous.

As a top university in the nation, I believe we have a duty to lead by example. Pave a new path and right the wrongs of those before us. Some may argue enduring this type of behavior is what needs to be done to play in the “big leagues” of male-dominated fields, such as business. And I can agree to play the game to some degree, but if an opportunity to help change the game presents itself, you take it. [My] professor’s behavior and certain choice of text have greatly affected me both emotionally and academically.

The report did not cite which specific scholars the student had an issue with, but did state that she came to “fear” doing the readings and “could not even finish one assigned reading due to its clear sexist message.”

As for “sexist” comments, one example listed in the report occurred during a discussion about how robots will replace people’s jobs in the future: The professor allegedly said that he will be “retired living in Tahiti surrounded by 40–45 beautiful women” when this happens. When a student asked why he’d picked Tahiti, he reportedly responded that “that’s where most of the available women are, at least from what I’ve heard. I also don’t like the competition on the other islands.”

“Not only did Professor willingly and openly objectify women, but he also objectified women of color,” the complaint stated. “Women of another culture.”

Now, I can admit that a professor telling his class about his fantasy of being fed grapes by a swarm of women when he’s an old man is a bit creepy and certainly quite unnecessary. At the same time, though, I think that it’s something that’s more worthy of a reaction such as a groan or an eyeroll than a formal report — and certainly not something that would make me afraid to go to a class.

As for the student’s concerns about too many of the authors she’s assigned being male? Well, that one I do not understand at all. Hard as I try to envision myself actually filing a report about this, my imagination won’t even let me go there. Things are changing, but the truth is, most of the people who have written fundamental economic texts are male. That isn’t just my opinion, that’s a fact. So if that’s the area that you’re studying, you’re going to have to read a lot of work that was written by male authors. It isn’t an affront or insult to you as a female; it’s just the reality of the world.

What’s more, as a woman, I feel it’s important to point out that assigning the texts that you feel will best educate your students — regardless of the gender of their authors — is not sexist. “Sexist” would be including a text that would be a perfect fit, simply because the author is a woman, or, for that matter, including more female authors just because of their gender. After all, the latter case would be akin to saying that women require some kind of special help to be able to do the exact same things that men do. The only way to keep things completely fair and equal is to select the best work for students to read — and leave gender out of it completely.

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