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Monday, 12 May 2008



Look out for the Alliance Defense Fund getting involved in this. It's their kind of case. In a sane world, I'd say you're right that her case won't go anywhere, but I have no faith the current system, and the spin on this could easily get ugly if it gets tried in the media.

Dr. Glenn Sheldon

Pardonable if she were "just a faculty member." How insulting! I'm in the minority here, and I believe that hate speech is NOT protected by the first amendment, firstly. Secondly, if I made statements like Ms. Dixon made in my classroom about any marginalized or oppressed group, I would expect consequences too. I know there is a place & a manner to express personal views. And certainly I never speak my personal views as if I am speaking for the public institution that employs me!


Please note that I said "might have been pardonable." The Supreme Court has not yet provided a clear definition for what constitutes hate speech within the meaning of the First Amendment--and while I'm not a lawyer, I have spent quite a bit of time reading up on the relevant caselaw. It's my considered opinion that Ms. Dixon's remarks didn't rise to the level where any of the Court's rulings on fighting words or similar exceptions to the First Amendment would apply. And for classroom faculty, the cloak of academic freedom, while without much legal foundation, is nevertheless usually a pretty good shield against institutional retribution.

It is much harder, however, for anyone in an administrative position (such as Ms. Dixon) to wrap him/herself in that cloak. Hence my comment that she might have been able to keep her job if she were not in such an administrative position when she made those hateful remarks.

Lastly, while I certainly find Ms. Dixon's remarks hateful, and indicative of a woeful lack of understanding of the positions in which LGBT folk routinely find themselves (to say nothing of the current thinking on the genesis of sexual orientation in human beings), I am not convinced they quite rise to the level of hate speech as that term is usually defined.


As a former EEO board member for a college in the state of New York I will say that under the SUNY rules she would have been on unpaid leave the from the day the story appeared and in the removal process.

Everyone in hiring or admissions is held to an absolute standard of total absence of bias because any showing of bias in those two areas endangers money. Everyone in the "ivory tower" knows that protecting funding is the prime directive.

As for making her statements as a faculty member, I would have been toast if I had done it in a Computer Science class, but it might have survived in the social sciences. Your freedom of expression is very much tied to tenure/no tenure, academic rank, and relevance to your field.

I could have published those thoughts anywhere if I did not identify my position or institution, without fear, but opinion outside your area of competence in a classroom would bring down the wrath of the VP of Academic Affairs, as well as the appropriate departments, costing you faculty senate support.

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