Cover Letter to President Martin in preparation for Sept. 13 meeting
Sent: Aug 26, 2013 9:01 AM
Subject: September 13, 2013 meeting with members of the Class of ’70
August 25, 2013
Dear President Martin,
We look forward to meeting you at noon on September 13, 2013. Attached are documents that have been previously posted to the Class of 70 listserv, in the order in which they were posted, plus an essay by Warren Mersereau. If you have materials you would like us to read, please send them prior to our meeting.
Our goals for this meeting are straightforward:
1. We would like you to issue an explicit dissociation of Amherst College from Professor Hadley Arkes’s defamatory writings about same-gender relationships.
2. We would like to know how we and other alumni might support you and the College in this effort.
We view these as the core agenda items for discussion.
Although we graduated 43 years ago, we continue to believe that Amherst will stand up for what is right. We therefore urge you not to wait for our meeting to issue a statement.
Other topics of interest include:
1. Cessation of events sponsored by Amherst College promoting Arkes;
2. A disclaimer attached to Arkes’s articles whenever his association with the College is mentioned, pointing out that his writings do not represent the College;
3. A critical evaluation of Arkes’s writings on same-gender relationships, rape and pregnancy.
Amherst College cannot credibly maintain its professed commitment to be an inclusive community as long as it chooses to remain silent while Arkes disparages members of that community in the various media platforms he utilizes. Accordingly, and because we believe in the values of inclusivity and truth that Amherst College represents, it is urgent that you dissociate Amherst from Arkes’s defamatory comments. Arkes’s homophobic writings are contradictory to the mission of Amherst College. Arkes is to scholarship and sound scientific methodology what astrology is to astronomy.
While we speak only for ourselves, the attached communications demonstrate that many find Arkes’s views abhorrent and his intellectual integrity wanting. Indeed, several members of our listserv have expressed substantially harsher views than those you see here. Some have also suspended contributions to the Amherst Annual Fund pending action by the College.
We attach documents to elucidate these points.
Document 1 is a statement by Robert Nathan in which he writes about Arkes’s effects on gays and lesbians not just at Amherst but in other states and countries, as well. This email, written shortly after our 40th reunion, launched a passionate discussion on the class listserv, and awakened many members of the class to realize that this issue goes well beyond the narrow confines of one professor and Amherst College.
Document 2 consists of electronic communications to you from Dr. Tito Craige and Warren Mersereau, co-signed by 63 members of the class of 1970, asking that you disassociate Amherst College from Arkes’s defamatory statements. Craige and Mersereau refer to Dr. Paul Rothman, dean of the School of Medicine and CEO of Johns Hopkins Medicine, who dealt directly and decisively with a strikingly similar matter, respecting Dr. Ben Carson’s right of free expression and simultaneously condemning his “hurtful, offensive language.” Dr. Rothman publicly stated that homophobic comments are “inconsistent with the culture of our institution.” Amherst College must do no less. Indeed, it is shameful that it has not done this much already.
Document 3 includes analyses and summative comments by John Greenberg. He writes a detailed and damning indictment of Arkes’s intellectual integrity, concluding that Arkes has either engaged in a conscious design to deceive naïve readers or that he is incompetent. Greenberg’s analysis is confined to just a few sentences of two articles; similar analysis of the whole Arkes oeuvre would produce similar, but far more plentiful examples.
Document 4 is Dr. Eric Patterson’s discussion of the destructive impact of Arkes’s writings on sexual and gender-minority people and explains how heterosexuals can begin to understand the profound distress caused by Arkes’s hate language, followed Dr. Patterson’s brief explanation as to why he no longer contributes to the Alumni Fund.
Document 5 by Warren Mersereau shows that academic freedom does not protect hate speech, defamatory comments and lies by faculty members. Mersereau argues that the concepts of academic freedom and free speech do NOT preclude taking action to institutionally dissociate the College from Arkes’s abhorrent views.
We are confident that many other alumini/ae would be offended and appalled if, to cite just one example, they became aware that Professor Arkes likened homosexuality to “sex with animals, pedophilia, even necrophilia”. http://www.thecatholicthing.org/columns/2013/the-supreme-court-hears-the-cases-on-marriage.html
Statements like this from Arkes, on the one hand, and your indication of openness to discuss distancing Amherst from them, on the other hand, motivate the six of us to travel from all over the United States to meet with you. However, before we spend the money and time for a trip to Amherst, we would like to have a better idea of your current thinking on this issue and what you see as possible outcomes of this meeting. If this is just a pro-forma meeting rather than a time to develop “next steps” to defend Amherst’s values, some of us do not want to make the lengthy trip. We look forward to an update from you in the coming days.
Ronald Battocchi, retired lawyer, Washington, D.C.
Ernest “Tito” Craige, history teacher, Chapel Hill, NC
John Greenberg, Bear Bookshop owner, Marlboro, VT
Warren Mersereau, marketing consultant, Kiawah Island, SC
Robert Nathan, novelist and screenwriter, Hollywood Hills, CA
Eric Patterson, American Studies/English/LGBT Studies, Hobart & William Smith Colleges, Geneva, N.Y./Ithaca, N.Y.