Petition to the Amherst College board of trustees

“We request that the Trustees, acting for Amherst College, explicitly dissociate the institution itself from Professor Hadley Arkes’s divisive and destructive views and his intellectual dishonesty.  Further, we request that Professor Arkes be asked either to refrain from citing his association with Amherst College in his extracurricular writings or that any such association be accompanied by a disclaimer stating that his views do not represent Amherst College.”

If you want to add your name to this petition, do so at “Join Us: Oppose Amherst College’s Tacit Support of Hate Speech.”

[As of February 2014, the petition had been signed by more than 100 Amherst College alumni from 17 classes communicating by e-mail. As of Feb. 20, 2014, the petition is now online at The Petition Site.]

Letter to Cullen Murphy, chair of the Amherst College board of trustees, explaining and containing the petition

Dear Mr. Murphy,

In early April, Tito Craige ‘70 and Warren Mersereau ‘70 sent a letter to President Martin (Attachment #1) asking her to dissociate Amherst College from Professor Hadley Arkes’s defamatory comments about homosexuals, and after reading it, John Greenberg ‘70 sent her another (Attachment #2) challenging Professor Arkes’s intellectual honesty. Both of these letters were then circulated to the Class of 1970 listserv and were cosigned by over sixty members and friends of the class.  These letters grew out of an extensive, often passionate conversation on the 1970 listserv, which began with an email from Robert Nathan (Attachment #5) following 2010 reunion events.

Over the subsequent months, a correspondence ensued between President Martin and the letter writers (Attachments #1 and #2), which culminated in an invitation from President Martin to meet her on campus to further discuss the issues raised.

That meeting took place on September 13 at the President’s house.  The President shared the steps she has taken to make the campus a welcoming place for GLTBQ students. We applauded these ON campus changes.  However, we explained to her that our primary concern is about how Professor Arkes’s statements continue to affect lives, including OFF campus. We asked President Martin to explicitly dissociate Amherst College from Professor Arkes’s bigoted statements about rape and same-gender relationships that affect political and social life throughout the United States and other countries.

President Martin told us that she sees “no context” requiring her to act. We respectfully disagree. We think that the disappointment and anger expressed by over 60 alumni in one class IS the context.

Since President Martin declined to act, we respectfully ask the Trustees to do so.  We believe that the reputation of Amherst College, its academic integrity as an institution, and the value it assigns to human dignity are all at stake.

This is not just a gay issue or a philosophical debate between liberals and conservatives. Amherst College cannot credibly maintain its professed commitment to be an inclusive community as long as it chooses to remain silent while a sitting professor disparages members of its community in media of worldwide circulation and accessibility.  We attach comments from Dr. Eric Patterson ‘70 (Attachment #3) discussing the destructive impact of Professor Arkes’s writings on members of the GLBTQ community and explaining how heterosexuals can begin to understand the profound distress caused by Professor Arkes’s hate language.

Dr. Patterson and other members of our class have written to the alumni fund and to the 1970 listserv announcing that they have begun to suspend contributions to the annual fund pending favorable action by the College. We have little doubt that other alumni will do the same as they become aware of the situation.  Dr. Patterson’s  email on this topic is appended as Attachment #4.

We do not pretend to speak for the class of 1970. However, the attached communications and the just mentioned actions clearly demonstrate that many in our class find Professor Arkes’s views abhorrent, his intellectual integrity wanting, and his lack of support for the College’s values troubling.  Indeed, a number have expressed substantially harsher views.

We intend to disseminate this letter and the accompanying documents to Amherst College community listservs immediately.  We believe that many other alumni will want to join the requests we are making to you because they, too, will be offended and appalled when, to cite just one example, they become aware that Professor Arkes has likened homosexuality to “sex with animals, pedophilia, even necrophilia”.  http://www.thecatholicthing.org/columns/2013/the-supreme-court-hears-the-cases-on-marriage.html. Everyone is well aware of repulsive falsehoods that have been propagated against Jewish people and African-American people and used to justify discrimination and worse against them.  We have no doubt that if an Amherst faculty member publicly articulated these falsehoods, the College quickly, publicly, and rightly would reject such views. Why should it be any different when a faculty member reiterates the falsehood that homosexuality is somehow analogous to illegal and abhorrent acts such as pedophilia, bestiality and necrophilia? We will send you the list of additional co-signers within a few weeks.

John Greenberg’s analysis (Attachment #2) is a detailed and damning indictment of Professor Arkes’s lack of intellectual integrity, concluding that Professor Arkes has either engaged in a conscious design to deceive naïve readers or that he is incompetent.  Neither reflects well on Amherst College as an esteemed institution of higher learning.

Suggestions that the usual peer review process should be allowed to deal with these issues are unavailing. Many, if not all, of Professor Arkes’s offending statements are published in non-peer-reviewed outlets, some of which have far wider public circulation (e.g. The Wall Street Journal) than any academic review.  In each instance, Professor Arkes identifies himself with Amherst College.

In addition, Professor Arkes’s views are disseminated to and through politicians (Rick Santorum, Todd Akin, Richard Mourdock, and Trent Franks), and even a Supreme Court justice (Antonin Scalia).  Professor Arkes’s influence is not small, not confined to academic circulations, and hardly parochial.

Moreover, Professor Arkes’ flawed views are longstanding and have been deservedly ridiculed. In 2012, USA Today specifically cited his Amherst College connection when it referred to Professor Arkes’s 1986 book as a source for the discredited proposition that the incidence of pregnancy following rape is low:

“Mecklenburg’s article, and the statistics cited in it, have been used again and again in the decades since. Hadley Arkes, Amherst College political science professor and senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, cited the Buffalo statistic in his 1986 book, ‘First Things: An Inquiry Into the First Principles of Morals and Justice.’

‘The number of pregnancies resulting from rape in this country is minuscule,’ Arkes concluded, adding, ‘In addition, the fear induced by rape may interrupt the normal operation in hormones in the body of the woman, which in turn may prevent ovulation and conception.’”

http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/religion/story/2012-08-22/akin-rape-remarks/57216350/1

Professor Arkes is to scholarship and sound scientific methodology what astrology is to astronomy.

In the spring of 2013, Professor Arkes’s comparison of homosexual relationships to bestiality was repeated on Fox News by Professor Ben Carson of the Johns Hopkins Medical School.

March 26, 2013 statement by Professor Arkes: “…as long as there are human beings there will be men and women. That is the meaning of sex. And one doesn’t have to read the Bible to come up with that one. But the key abstraction, settling (sic) off ripples of self-deception, is that term ‘sexual orientation.’ The term is broad enough to encompass sex with animals, pedophilia, even necrophilia.” (The Supreme Court Hears the Cases on Marriage in The Catholic Thing, March 26, 2013)

April 10, 2013 statement by Professor Ben Carson:  “[Traditional marriage is] a well-established, fundamental pillar of society and no group — be they gays, be they NAMBLA, be they people who believe in bestiality, it doesn’t matter what they are — they don’t get to change the definition…” (Washington Post, April 10, 2013)

The response to Professor Carson was rapid. Dr. Paul Rothman, Dean of the School of Medicine and CEO of Johns Hopkins Medicine stated that the university respected the professor’s right of free expression and simultaneously condemned Professor Carson’s “hurtful, offensive language.” Dr. Rothman’s statement goes on to find that the comments so remarkably similar to those articulated by Professor Arkes are “inconsistent with the culture of our institution.”

The Craige/Mersereau letters (Attachment #1) and the Mersereau essay (Attachment #6) show that the concepts of academic freedom and free speech do NOT preclude taking action to institutionally dissociate the College from the abhorrent views expressed by Professor Arkes, and that raging homophobia is a form of hate speech, which should not go unanswered.

Professor Arkes elects to publish his views under the rubric of Amherst College, signing his commentaries as a chaired professor, without any disclaimer that his views do not reflect those of the College. By doing so, he explicitly engages the College on an ongoing basis.  In addition, the “Committee for the American Founding”, which Professor Arkes chairs and which supports his work, has its homepage on the Amherst College website: https://www.amherst.edu/academiclife/colloquia/americanfounding

We, therefore, request, at a minimum, that you disseminate this petition to the Trustees, and that the Trustees, acting for Amherst College, explicitly dissociate the institution itself from Professor Arkes’s divisive and destructive views and his intellectual dishonesty.  Further, we request that Professor Arkes be asked either to refrain from citing his association with Amherst College in his extracurricular writings or that any such association be accompanied by a disclaimer stating that his views do not represent Amherst College.

Respectfully,

Ronald Battocchi ‘70 (battocchi@comcast.net)
Ernest Craige ‘70 (etacraige@mindspring.com)
John Greenberg ‘70 (jsg1@copper.net)
Warren Mersereau ‘70 (warren.mersereau@gmail.com)
Robert Nathan ‘70 (wkbenchinc@aol.com)
Eric Patterson ‘70 (epatterson@hws.edu)

Attachments:

1. Craige/Mersereau Communications with Martin

2. Greenberg Communications with Martin

3. Patterson Testimonial

4. Patterson Email Declining Participation in Annual Fund

5. 2010 Nathan email

6. Mersereau Essay: “Amherst College Time to Step Up: September 2013”

7. Cover letter to President Martin in preparation for the September 13 meeting.

cc: President Martin

      Professor Call, Dean of the Faculty

      Professor Arkes

About Colin Stewart

Colin Stewart, a 40-year journalism veteran, is publisher and an editor of the "Erasing 76 Crimes" blog. More profile information on Google+. Colin Stewart, un vétéran du journalisme de 40 ans, est éditeur et rédacteur en chef du blog "Erasing 76 Crimes." Plus d'informations de profil sur Google+.
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3 Responses to Petition to the Amherst College board of trustees

  1. Pingback: Irony: College says its silence defends free speech | Amherst Against Homophobia

  2. Pingback: Amherst president misstates alumni petition about Arkes | Amherst Against Homophobia

  3. Pingback: How Amherst College blocks dissenters | Amherst Against Homophobia

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