Phi Beta Cons

Kafka in Massachusetts

Sinister, enigmatic authorities? Check.

Intimidating bureaucratic maze? Check.

Incomprehensible crimes, Draconian punishments? Check.

Sounds like Kafka, right?

Wrong. It’s Springfield College in Massachusetts where Dr. Dennis Gouws is receiving the Full Kafka Treatment for the feminist heresy of teaching a class about . . . men in literature. Grab the fainting couches and head for the safe space!

The National Association of Scholars (NAS) broke the story last week when Dr. Gouws appealed for their help (see NAS president Peter Wood’s essays here and here). Literature courses that explore specifically male experience the way women’s lit. courses explore specifically female experience are beyond rare in an academy that has become increasingly hostile to men. Consider the Duke lacrosse rape hoax and the University of Virginia rape hoax, both examples of accusations when, as University of Pennsylvania’s Alan Charles Kors says, “innocence is an insufficient and inappropriate defense.”

I can testify having created a course like Dr. Gouws’s called Literature By and About Men. U.C. Berkeley rejected it for transfer credit because they didn’t have a course like it in their massive catalog (although they accepted over 30 different women’s literature courses). U.C. relented only after public exposure of their hypocrisy.

The University of Wyoming also refused to accept my course for credit (story here) because they required a diversity course on “women, not men.” How diverse. Wyoming, too, eventually caved.

So it is no surprise to me that Dr. Gouws is being persecuted for his unfashionable course. His class was canceled, he has been harassed, and he has been referred to Springfield’s General Counsel. In a lengthy letter to Springfield president Mary-Beth Cooper, Dr. Wood observes that “The mechanisms of institutional intimidation have been activated. He has been told by figures of authority, `Conform.’ He has not been told what happens if he doesn’t. But his application for sabbatical-leave was denied and his complaints about petty harassment (e.g. the repeated vandalism of his office door) have been met with an institutional shrug.”

Dr. Gouws says, “The fact that neither [Dean] Dr. [Anne] Herzog nor [Department Chair] Dr. [Joyce] Szewczynski would answer my questions about the documents informing their assessments of my sabbatical proposal suggests they used their own ideological positions to assess my work.” That ideological position is the one that exploits Title IX to silence and harass everyone, especially men, for fear that their course, speech, or assignments might create a “hostile environment” for sensitive students. In fact, it is Springfield College that is a hostile environment for academic freedom and any notion of college as a “marketplace of ideas.” 

Professor David Clemens teaches composition, literature, and critical thinking at Monterey Peninsula College. In 2000, his victorious struggle against a college loyalty oath to multiculturalism was covered ...

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