Craige/Mersereau: Say ‘no’ to Hadley Arkes

From: Warren <warren.mersereau@gmail.com>
Date: April 6, 2013 4:25:13 PM EDT
To: bmartin@amherst.edu
Cc: Tito Craige <etacraige@mindspring.com>

Subject: Say “no” to Hadley Arkes

Dear President Martin,

Thank you for your response to the “outrage” you received concerning Hadley Arkes’ remarks on homosexuality.

However, until Amherst’s Board or administration publicly denounces Arkes’ abhorrent statements and refuses to allow Arkes to sign his commentaries using Amherst College’s name, the College tacitly tolerates his gay bashing.

There are times we need to say “no” to injustice and intolerance. In other eras, members of the Amherst College community, including Board members and administrators, took moral positions by speaking against the Vietnam War and against racial, sexual, and religious discrimination. Now it is time for Amherst College to take a stand against gay bashing.

You wrote, “Protecting both commitments— to gay rights AND to academic freedom/free speech–continues to be the most powerful and appropriate way to respond to claims we find untenable, unsound, and worrisome. Professor Arkes does not purport to speak for Amherst College, and his views do not, in fact, reflect the College’s values, but his right to articulate and advance his ideas is crucial to the preservation of the rights all of us enjoy.”

To be clear, we, also, support gay rights and academic freedom. But, in fact, “academic freedom/free speech” is not one single concept. They are two, related but distinct concepts. And, clarifying guidelines, particularly at a private institution, can be applied to prevent abuse.

For instance, would the Board or administration tolerate a faculty member using Amherst College’s name for validation and credibility to denigrate people of color, members of a religious group, or women?

By directly linking himself to Amherst College, Arkes does purport to represent the College.

Arkes’ gay bashing under the guise of intellectual commentary and up until now the cloak of academic freedom may be a sad reminder of transgressions past, but it should not be representative of our present and our future. Again, the time is now to say “no” to him.

Most recently, the Board and the administration as well as current students and alumni expressed considerable concern, engaged in significant soul searching, and committed concerted effort in coming up with policies to stop “sexual misconduct.” Amherst College defines “sexual misconduct” as a “term used to describe a set of behaviors, including sexual assault, sexual harassment, intimate partner violence, sexual exploitation and/or discrimination.”

And, you have stated: “Addressing sexual misconduct and violence has been and is one of my highest priorities. …Amherst, given its values, its commitment to community, and its size, should be a model of education, prevention, and effective response.”

In our opinion, as heterosexual males, Arkes is guilty of sexual misconduct every time he denigrates people based solely on gender orientation.

If Amherst College is a going to be a model of “education, prevention, and effective response,” then it is time to act accordingly. Since, as you state, Arkes does not “reflect the College’s values”, the Board and administration need to make it clear that Arkes is not speaking for Amherst College.

Saying “no” to Arkes supports our collective values as a college community, including not only support of equal rights for members of the GLBT community but, also, support for all members of the college community, who believe in diversity, honest intellectual discourse, and nurturing individuals to achieve their full potential.

Let us unite around and stand up for values we cherish.

Sincerely,
Tito Craige ‘70 and Warren Mersereau ’70

From: Warren Mersereau <warren@soccersolutions.com>
Date: Wed, 17 Apr 2013 23:56:37 -0400
To: “AMHERST-AMHERST-1970@CHAT.AMHERST.EDU” <amherst-amherst-1970@chat.amherst.edu>, President’s Office <president@amherst.edu>, Biddy Martin <bmartin@amherst.edu>
Subject: Second Sending of Letter of Concern

Dear President Martin,

On April 6th, I sent you an email letter that was written by Tito Craige and myself. We are members of the Class of ’70.

The letter asked you/administration and the Board to disassociate Amherst College from the homophobic rhetoric of Hadley Arkes.

Since then many classmates and other alumni have asked to co-sign the original letter. Attached, please find the letter with additional signatories. The letter remains the same with the exception that the paragraph that begins: “In our opinion . . . “ has been modified to reflect the broader range of signatories.

We did not include the signatories’ titles, but the names represent lives and careers that are remarkable in diversity and accomplishment. While as individuals we may be different in many ways, we collectively oppose Professor Arkes’ attacks on homosexuals and his use of Amherst College’s name in so doing.

We continue to look forward to your response.

Sincerely,

Tito Craige ’70 and Warren Mersereau ‘70

Mitchell G. Ash

Jay Ashman

Ron Battocchi

Bob Bernstein

Eric Bohman

Jerrold Carl

Bob Carlone

David H. Cahan

David R. Cichon

Douglass B. Clark

Ernest (Tito) Craige

James Curry

Harold Dash

Barry DeLapp

Ron Dewdney

David Dorwart

Sherm Edwards

Jon Einhorn

Paul Farrell

Thomas P. Gilliss

Joseph W. Gordon

Marvin M. Gross

Mark Harris

Bill Hayes

Anthony J. Hom

C. David Hunt

Drew Kalter

Barry Keating

Richard Kellogg

Stephen Kent

Rob Knowlton

Doug Lane

James Manwell

Ron Marinucci

P. Scott McGee

Tom McKitterick

Warren Mersereau

Dave Miner

Robert Nathan

Mike Naughton

Eric Patterson

Brock Putnam II

Daniel R. Quinn

Tom Reicher

Bob Reichert

Whit Rutter

David Sanger

Steve Seward

David L. Silverman

Wylie Smith

Jeff Southworth

Bob Spielman

Colin Stewart

George Triano

Tom Viall

Phil Ward

David Wase

Eric Weber

Rick Weinhaus

Russell E. Wise, Jr.

Burt Woolf

Robert J. Yamins

George P. Zoulalian

Lanny M. Zuckerman

From: Biddy Martin <bmartin@amherst.edu>
Date: Wednesday, May 1, 2013 11:45 AM
To: Warren <warren@soccersolutions.com>, “AMHERST-AMHERST-1970@CHAT.AMHERST.EDU” <AMHERST-AMHERST-1970@CHAT.AMHERST.EDU>, President’s Office <president@amherst.edu> Subject: Re: Second Sending of Letter of Concern

Dear Warren, if I may,

Thank you for your letters and for sending the list of signatories to the the request you articulated. I am sorry it has taken so long to write you directly. I have been dealing with an illness from which the recovery was slow. I believe my response to David Hunt made it onto the listserv, and I hope you were able to gain access to it. I will append it below. As I continue to say, I understand the outrage over Professor Arkes’ views and I am genuinely sorry that we do not agree about how to handle his recent writings. As I said in my response to David Hunt, if a student comes forward with a complaint about unfair or disrespectful treatment by a faculty member, we look into it immediately. The Dean of the Faculty has dealt with more than one such complaint this semester. There are many ways of putting distance between the College and its values and the views of any one faculty member. I believe we are approaching this case in the most effective way, taking a broad and complicated context into account.

Thank you again for taking the time to register objections to language and ideas that are offensive to so many of us.

Biddy Martin

Dear Mr. Hunt,

If any student comes forward with accusations of the sort that are made in the anonymous note you append below, we look into the charges. This is a longstanding policy. We cannot launch an investigation on the basis of an anonymous email and we do not use RateMyProfessor to get an accurate view of what occurs in Amherst classrooms. We get accusations of an identical sort against faculty who are deemed to be intolerant of conservative views. We handle all such complaints the same way.

You are under no obligation to look at things in a larger context, one that balances the core values of academic freedom and peer review with the commitment to non-discrimination and openness. However, I am. As an out lesbian who grew up in the rural south and has lived with the most hateful forms of bigotry for decades, as an academic with many years of academic and political advocacy on behalf of feminist and gay rights, and as a college president with responsibility for the long-term well-being of the institution, I am taking the larger context into account. There is more than one way to show one’s support for lesbian and gay rights, and I know of no one on this campus who would say I haven’t found those ways.

It is easy to lob bombs from the outside, and to attribute corrupt motivations to those who do not agree with you. It is also easy to slip into rhetoric that is nearly as hateful as the rhetoric to which one objects. I will stick to the difficult task of trying to ensure the good of the whole.

Biddy Martin

From: “Ernest Craige” <etacraige@mindspring.com>
To: AMHERST-AMHERST-1970@CHAT.AMHERST.EDU
Sent: Friday, May 24, 2013 12:25:50 PM
Subject: [AMHERST-AMHERST-1970] Reply to President Martin

May 24, 2013

Dear President Martin,

Thank you for your response of May 1. Our letter, which opened this dialogue, was supportive of your assertion: “There are many ways of putting distance between the College and its values and the views of any one faculty member,” in this case HadleyArkes.

However, unless you provide clarification, we do not know what the College is actually doing to separate itself from Arkes’ homophobic commentaries.

In contrast and as example, we were impressed by the clarity with which Dr. Paul Rothman, the Dean of the Johns Hopkins Medical School, wrote the following to distance his school from one of its faculty members:

April 5, 2013

Controversial social issues are debated in the media on a regular basis, and yet it is rare that leaders of an academic medical center will join that type of public debate.

However, we recognize that tension now exists in our community because hurtful, offensive language was used by our colleague, Dr. Ben Carson, when conveying a personal opinion, used hurtful, offensive language. Dr. Carson’s comments are inconsistent with the culture of our institution. Johns Hopkins Medicine embraces diversity and believes that the same civil rights should be available to all regardless of race, religion, gender or sexual orientation. For example, the Johns Hopkins University has provided benefits for same-sex domestic partners since 1999 and has long maintained a policy against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

Dr. Carson is well known for his accomplishments as a neurosurgeon and for his contributions to the Baltimore community. While his recent comments are inconsistent with our core values, Dr. Carson has the right to participate in public debates and media interviews and express his personal opinions on political, social and religious issues. We strongly value freedom of expression and affirm Dr. Carson’s right, as a private citizen, to state his personal views.

We have been carefully listening to the varied opinions expressed by members of our community in response to Dr. Carson’s comments. It is clear that the fundamental principle of freedom of expression has been placed in conflict with our core values of diversity, inclusion and respect. We are trying to thoughtfully work through these issues, and as part of that process, we will be meeting with graduating students on Monday.

Those who work and study here, and the patients we serve, create a rich tapestry of people from all races, religions and backgrounds. Commitment to diversity, inclusion, and freedom of expression is at the heart of our standing as a world leader in medical care, research and education.

Sincerely,

Paul B. Rothman, M.D.
Dean of the Medical Faculty
CEO, Johns Hopkins Medicine

Carson’s comments on Fox News, which initiated the controversy faced by the Johns Hopkins’ community, are much the same as words by Arkes that were published two weeks before:

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…” (April 10, 2013, Washington Post)

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)

Our class (1970) is no stranger to the complexities facing academic institutions, their leaders, and their communities in dealing with social issues. We lived through the challenges of the civil rights movement and the Vietnam War. In 1972, Amherst President John William Ward, who had previously been one of our professors, was arrested along with other administrators, faculty, and students while protesting the Vietnam War at nearby Westover Air Base. In explaining his unprecedented action, Ward said: “Night before last . . . a student called my home and left word with my wife that he and other students hoped I would write a letter (in support of their planned protest). Write a letter? To whom? One feels like a child throwing paper planes against a brick wall. I might write such a letter and you might cheer and, if the world goes on, you might think me a pleasant and sympathetic fellow. But, the mines are laid (outside North Vietnam’s harbors) . . .(and) instead I will, for myself, join in the act of passive civil disobedience at Westover Air Force base.”

As Amherst Professor Kim Townsend wrote in a retrospective: “He (Ward) had said many times that Amherst should not inspire students with ideals and then just leave them thinking that there was nothing that they could do to bring them into being or to defend them when they were threatened.”

Four decades later, our ideals once again need to be defended. Today, Hadley Arkes associates Amherst College with the intellectual dishonesty of his homophobic commentaries. Since his words enhance the clout of those who deny gays and lesbians their rights, we again urge the College administration and Board of Trustees to take action. It is time to follow examples like those offered by the Johns Hopkins Medical School and John William Ward.

We might be “old” alumni but our hearts are young and we are still committed to the values for which Amherst stands. We look forward with our classmates and other alumni to staying actively involved.

Thank you,
Tito Craige and Warren Mersereau

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About Colin Stewart

Colin Stewart, a 40-year journalism veteran, is publisher and an editor of the "Erasing 76 Crimes" and "76 Crimes en français" blogs. More profile information on Google+. Colin Stewart, un vétéran du journalisme de 40 ans, est éditeur et rédacteur en chef des blogs "Erasing 76 Crimes" et "76Crimes en français." Plus d'informations de profil sur Google+.
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4 Responses to Craige/Mersereau: Say ‘no’ to Hadley Arkes

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

  2. Pingback: Petition to the Amherst College board of trustees | Amherst Against Homophobia

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

  4. Pingback: Protest: Martin misstates alumni request, blocks access | Amherst Against Homophobia

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