Dankprofessor’s Weblog

A weblog examining sexual politics in higher education and beyond.

University of Georgia president and composer withdraws Clarence Thomas invitation

Blog readers, I have surreptitiously obtained a pre-release copy of a letter from the renown composer and President of the University of Georgia, John Adams to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas withdrawing an invitation to Judge Thomas as the UG commencement speaker.  The letter follows, expletives are deleted.

Dear Justice Thomas,

It is with a deep sense of regret that I now write to you withdrawing my invitation to you to be the graduation speaker for the Spring 2008 UGA commencement.  Such is no easy task for me.  But as President of a great university I must be responsive to the concerns and issues raised by the UGA faculty.

As you know, the University of Georgia has been subject to a number of sexual harassment cases this past academic year.  And as it has been pointed out by Psychology Professor Pamela Pick and many others, having a speaker such as yourself as a commencement speaker cannot help but bring to the surface angry feelings concerning these cases.  No matter that you have denied being involved in any form of sexual harassment, no matter that you have never been charged with sexual harassment, no matter that you had been thoroughly vetted by the US Senate on this issue as part of your confirmation process for the U.S. Supreme Court, I must give priority to the sensitivities of the faculty and students of the University of Georgia.  Priority must be given to the facilitation of a campus culture of tranquility and comfort.  Adversarial debate and discussion certainly has its place in the courts of our great land, but an adversarial campus culture can only function to hinder education and lead to a hostile learning environment.

And very importantly I find that the UGA faculty is genuinely bitter about your speaking at UGA.  Unquestionably an ignored faculty will become  a bitter faculty.   And it is in this context that I tell you that terminating your invitation in the name of our faculty, provides our faculty with something to believe and in the present case they can believe in themselves, that they can make a difference.  As you know, Justice Thomas, all people need something, some idea, some ideal to cling to.

As for myself, I must confess to you that this whole process has been very disheartening for me.  The truth is that I initially selected another speaker, a speaker who had been a crusader for financial and moral justice in America.  And so I must tell you that I withdrew the invitation to Governor Spitzer in a state of complete shock.  Now to have to sacrifice a Georgia native son, a wise man of few words, an esteemed Supreme Court Justice who has even been featured on 60 Minutes, is a most burdensome task.

I also must tell you that in selecting a replacement for you as commencement speaker, I consulted with some of most erudite persons in America.  It should bring some satisfaction to you that in choosing your replacement I relied heavily on the advice of your colleague Antonin Scalia and TV newspersons Charlie Gibson and Katie Couric.  I selected a person who has become an icon for many in America and, has respect for the constitutional limits imposed on him which prevents his pursuing the dream of becoming President of the United States.  Finally, the fact is that he has a close working relationship with the Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York City, and has a long and continuing friendship with PBS magnet Charlie Rose, made this decision a bit easier for me. 

So I will be welcoming as the UGA commencement speaker, the Governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Most sincerely,

John Adams, Composer and President
University of Georgia

—–
If you wish, you can write to me directly at dankprofessor@msn.com
Guest commentaries should also be submitted for consideration
to the same email address.

Barry M. Dank aka the dankprofessor™
© Copyright 2008

April 28, 2008 Posted by | ethics, higher education, political correctness, sexual harassment, sexual politics, University of Georgia | Leave a comment

University of Georgia prof defends faculty protest

Janet E. Frick, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Georgia,  has written an op ed piece explaining why some UGA faculty signed a petition in opposition to the selection of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas as the graduation speaker for the UGA 2008 Spring commencement.

Basically Professor Frick argues that the UGA faculty just can’t take it anymore.  This past academic year the university has gone through one sexual harassment scenario after another.  And the good professor feels

The UGA community has been hungry for leadership on this issue. The selection of a commencement speaker who was embroiled in arguably the most public sexual harassment case in history – for this year’s commencement – demonstrates neither leadership nor sensitivity.

The leadership and sensitivity not displayed have been by Michael Adams, president of UGA.  According to Frick, a sensitive UGA president would not have selected “any speaker embroiled in controversy about sexual harassment – yes, that includes former President Bill Clinton – would be seen as an ill-advised choice this year.”

In the dankprofessor’s opinion, Professor Frick’s advice is not good advice for the UGA or for that matter any university.
Such advice reflects a descent into the culture of comfort.  Being committed to comfort and sensitivity will almost always be at odds with a culture of controversy and dissent, a culture which should be a part of any campus.

The rationale for avoidance of controversial speakers or the suspension of academic freedom is almost always justified under the mantel of offense or sensitivity or under the argument that some campus group can’t tolerate the speaker or the controversy. As for the argument that the faculty of UGA just can’t handle controversial speakers on sexual harassment, such is a very poor reflection on the faculty.  Maybe these faculty should resign if controversial speakers are too much for them to handle.

Janet Frick concludes her piece with the following statement- “I would like to see our president acknowledge that this decision was controversial, and defend the right of members of the UGA community to object to it.”

Of course, at this point in time it is obvious that the President’s decision was controversial; acknowledging it would be superfluous.  And as for defending the right of members of the UGA to object to it, is it not taken for granted at UGA that the right of objection by faculty and others is axiomatic?  If persons are attempting to suspend such a right then Professor Frick should publicly identify these persons.

—–
If you wish, you can write to me directly at dankprofessor@msn.com
Guest commentaries should also be submitted for consideration
to the same email address.

Barry M. Dank aka the dankprofessor™
© Copyright 2008

 

 

April 26, 2008 Posted by | academic freedom, ethics, higher education, political correctness, sex, sexual harassment, sexual politics, speech, University of Georgia | Leave a comment

Dankprofessor is staggered by widening Georgia sexual scandals

Georgia’s State Department of Transportation has been shocked by two major sexual scandals that involve the ruling powers that be at the DOT.

Gena L. Abraham, Georgia’s state transportation commissioner, who is the first woman to run what is one of the most powerful government agencies in the state, is likely to step down as the commissioner.

Such is likely to be the case since the NY Times reported that on

“last Thursday evening, the transportation board chairman, Mike Evans, shocked members in an executive session with the news that he was involved in a romantic relationship with Ms. Abraham. Department policy forbids intimate relationships between subordinates and their superiors.”

Both Ms. Abraham and Mr. Evans, 47, are single.

Mr. Evans, a developer from Cumming, Ga., who had recently won a bitter re-election battle for the board, resigned his post and his seat on the board. The board announced that he would be replaced by the vice chairman, Garland Pinholster, until a new chairman could be elected in May.

By Monday, however, Mr. Pinholster had also stepped down as chairman as news spread of a sexual harassment complaint filed against him by two department employees.

Ms. Abraham had said on Friday that she would resign. But she backed away from that position after Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle raced to the department’s offices and called her into a meeting in a stairwell there, with a guard posted outside the door.

On Monday, the board voted 8 to 3 to reprimand Ms. Abraham for failing to report the romantic relationship in a timely manner, but not to dismiss her.

The revelations about Ms. Abraham and Mr. Evans surfaced just three weeks after she sent a memorandum to all department employees saying she would not tolerate misconduct or violations of department policy.

“The sheer number of offenses that we are discovering is staggering and embarrassing to the department,” she wrote in the memorandum, which was dated March 31, and she added that she would not hesitate to fire employees for unethical or unlawful behavior.

Ms. Abraham later admitted that when she sent the memorandum she was already romantically involved with Mr. Evans.

“I was very hopeful for Gena Abraham, and I still am,” Mr. Lewis said. “It won’t be easy for her to come out of this, but before everyone found out she was falling in love with the chairman of the board, it wasn’t going to be easy either.”

But others believe that Ms. Abraham’s days at the department may be numbered.

Still, other longtime employees were philosophical about the drama surrounding the department.

“It’s a little surreal, obviously,” said David Spear, a department spokesman. “But I’ve been around for a long time, and affairs of the heart have their own agenda.”

The dankprofessor puts Gena Abraham in the same category as Eliot Spitzer- utter hypocrites.

Ms. Abraham may find the behavior of her subordinates at the DOT as embarrassing and staggering, but such does not compare to the staggering and embarrassing behavior engaged in by Ms. Abraham.  In fact, the dankprofessor is staggered.  I am in a Lloyd Price state of staggerlee.  Threatening to fire employees for the same behavior that she was engaging in is just not acceptable.  She should do the same thing that Spitzer did, resign.

Of course, the dankprofessor does not hold that her having a consensual relationship with the Board Chairman of the DOT is wrong or unethical.  It’s simply no ones business when adults are engaged in a consensual sexual relationship.  Policies banning sexual relationships in the workplace or the university place simply do not work.  What they work to do is to facilitate lying, dishonesty and fraudulent administrators.

University administrators, corporate administrators, administrators in the public sector are not competent to supervise the sexual lives of their employees, and some like Ms. Abrahams are not competent to supervise themselves ethically or sexually. 

Both the University of Georgia and the State of Georgia are not competent when it comes to dealing with the sexual lives of others.  The only policy that would appear to be a viable policy for both the state and university is a laissez faire policy except for those behaviors which function to directly sexually constrain others.  And even in this area, we must have administrators who are constrained by due process of law.

I agree with David Spear, a DOT spokesman who said ” …I’ve been around for a long time, and affairs of the heart have their own agenda.”  Amen, and lets stop others from imposing and preaching and hypocrising their own sexual agendas on others.

 —–
If you wish, you can write to me directly at dankprofessor@msn.com
Guest commentaries should also be submitted for consideration
to the same email address.

Barry M. Dank aka the dankprofessor™
© Copyright 2008

 

 

 

 

 

April 24, 2008 Posted by | consensual relationships, ethics, higher education, office romance, sex, sexual harassment, sexual politics, University of Georgia, workplace | Leave a comment

   

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