Amherst College, it’s time to step up

By WARREN MERSEREAU, ’70

Introduction

What does Amherst College stand for?

What does Amherst College stand up for?

The answers to these defining questions have evolved over time. And, they will continue to evolve as Amherst College’s leaders make decisions that shape its community, its values, and its integrity.

Standing for Diversity

An important part of this evolution has occurred during the past forty-five years as the College has demonstrated a commitment to diversity.

Amherst College’s student body used to be all male. Today, it is co-ed. Amherst’s students used to be predominantly white. Today, over 40% of the students are “students of color.” The majority of Amherst’s students used to be from prep schools and not receive financial aid. Today, 60% of the students come from public schools and over 60% receive financial aid. Amherst’s students used to be almost exclusively from the United States. Today, students come from over 30 foreign countries.

The faculty has also become more diverse. Once almost exclusively white and male, Amherst hired its first female on a tenure track in 1962, and today the faculty is over 40% female. While the faculty remains over 70% white, there are indications it will be more diverse going forward.

To address the needs of its more diverse student and faculty community as well as promote the benefits of diversity, Amherst now has an infrastructure that did not exist a generation ago, including:

  • Student groups representing different religions, ethnicities, nationalities, gender orientations, and social/justice causes.

  • Academic majors such as Black Studies, Asian Languages and Civilizations, and Women and Gender Studies.

  • Administrative support functions such as the Associate Dean of Students and International Student Advisor and the Coordinator of LGBTQQIAA.

  • Resource facilities such as the Amherst College Multicultural Center, the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, and the Rainbow Room LGBTQQIA Resource Center.

  • Financial aid packages that allow need blind admissions and promote economic diversity.

The Statement on Diversity issued by the Board of Trustees in 1996 summarizes Amherst College’s commitment to diversity:

The College’s commitments both to distinction and to inclusion have brought to Amherst a long line of extraordinarily talented students and scholars who have enriched our campus, our country and the world . . . We reaffirm our goal of fashioning the Amherst College community from the broadest and deepest possible range of talents that people of many different backgrounds can bring to us . . . We reaffirm our commitment to equality of opportunity, and to affirmative action under the law as a means of achieving that goal. We will continue to give special importance to the inclusion within our student body, our faculty and our staff of talented persons from groups that have experienced prejudice and disadvantage.

Standing Up for Diversity

As the Amherst College community has become more diverse, the College has found it necessary to not only stand for diversity but to stand up for diversity. For while Amherst College works to create a positive environment for diversity, sometimes internal and sometimes external influences infringe on that environment. At these critical moments when diversity is threatened, Amherst College has taken action to protect diversity.

Examples include:

  • 1946 — The Trustees directed fraternities to drop discriminatory provisions regarding pledging (e.g. Making decisions based on race, religion, or nationality).

  • 1968 — Amherst College President Calvin Plimpton appointed The Black and White Action Committee of Amherst College to receive proposals to address economic and cultural disparities at the College.

  • 1979 — Ad Hoc Committee on Affirmative Action reported on hiring and wage discrimination against female staff and faculty members.

  • 1979 — Two students suspended for burning a cross in front a student residence.

  • 1979 — Students occupied Converse Hall for ten-day sit-in to protest elimination of Black Freshman Orientation and other racial issues on campus.

  • 1987 — The Trustees voted to divest of all securities in companies doing business in South Africa.

  • 1992 — The faculty adopted a revised statement on sexual harassment to appear in future editions of both the Faculty and Student Handbooks.

  • 1992 — A group of students occupied Converse Hall to demand a faster pace in the hiring of minorities for faculty and administrative positions.

  • 1993 — The College hired its first full-time Affirmative Action Officer.

  • 1996 — The Trustees issued a Statement on Diversity at Amherst College reaffirming commitment to equal opportunity and affirmative action.

  • 1998 — The faculty approved the revised Code of Conduct.

  • 2003 — Amherst College President Tom Gerety coordinated a joint amicus brief among 28 liberal arts colleges supporting the University of Michigan’s race-sensitive admissions procedures

AC-diversity-page-croppedToday, the Amherst College Profile (www.amherst.edu) is unequivocal: “Diversity, as defined in its broadest sense, is fundamental to Amherst’s mission.” And, the Amherst College Faculty Handbook supports the College’s commitment to diversity with firm guidelines, including:

  • Diversity and Inclusion: “Amherst College does not discriminate in its admission or employment policies and practices on the basis of factors such as race, genetics, gender identity or gender expression, sex, sexual orientation, age, color, religion, national origin, disability, or status as a veteran of the Vietnam War era or as a disabled veteran.”

  • Academic Freedom: “Amherst College subscribes fully to the AAUP statement of principles on academic freedom published in 1940, and assumes that Faculty members know their rights and their responsibilities as members of the academic profession.”

  • Statement on Respect for Persons: “Respect for the rights, dignity and integrity of others is essential for the well-being of a community. Actions by any person which do not reflect such respect for others are damaging to each member of the community and hence damaging to Amherst College.”

A Threat to Diversity

Against this backdrop — a commitment to developing a diverse community, providing services and programs to nurture this diversity, and standing up for diversity with policy, political, and legal actions as necessary — Amherst College is faced with the case of Hadley Arkes, a tenured professor, who repeatedly violates the College’s positions on diversity, particularly as relates to sexual and gender orientation.

The Amherst College Faculty Handbook states: “Respect for people involves each person at Amherst College. Respect needs a commitment from the institution as well as from each of us as individuals.” The Handbook then references the “Platinum Rule”: “Treat others as they would like to be treated.”

To the contrary, Arkes is an advisor to the Family Research Council, an organization that the Southern Poverty Law Center classifies as an active hate group because the Family Research Council is a group with “beliefs or practices that attack or malign an entire class of people, typically for their immutable characteristics.”

For example, in 2012 while lobbying Congress to oppose a bill against the further criminalization of homosexuality in Ghana, the Family Research Council stated that it wanted “to remove sweeping and inaccurate assertions that homosexual conduct is internationally recognized as a fundamental human right.”

Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council claimed in a 2010 interview on National Public Radio: “There’s no correlation between inacceptance of homosexuality and depression and suicide.” This is a falsehood. A U.S. government study, “Report of the Secretary’s Task Force on Youth Suicide,” found that LGBT youth were four times as likely to attempt suicide as their heterosexual peers. As Dr. Judith Kovach, director of the Michigan Project for Informed Public Policy states: “A member of any group that experiences discrimination, stigma and oppression is going to react to that stress with higher degrees of anxiety, depression and hopelessness.”

The Southern Poverty Law Center’s research shows that the Family Research Council is “. . . among the chief purveyors of lies about LGBT people . . . regularly pumped out propaganda asserting that gay men molest children at far higher rates than their heterosexual counterparts — a claim that has been debunked by virtually all the recognized scientific authorities in the field . . . ”

The Amherst College Faculty Handbook states: “Each member of the community should be free from interference, intimidation or disparagement in the work place, the classroom and the social, recreational and residential environment.”

To the contrary, Arkes, in writing for the “The Weekly Standard” as the “Ney Professor of American Institutions at Amherst College and a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center,” disparages homosexuals: “Do liberals want to break through conventions with ‘sex education’? Then education it should be: The life-shortening hazards of homosexual behavior should be conveyed, along with information about the other hazards of incautious sex; the record of conversions from homosexual life should be put in texts along with the inconclusive arguments over the ‘gay gene.’”

Arkes’ assertions unfairly “malign(s) an entire class of people” (e.g. “The life-shortening hazards of homosexual behavior”), and Arkes is intellectually dishonest in so doing (e.g. “the record of conversions from homosexual life”).  As the American Psychiatric Association states: “There is no published scientific evidence supporting the efficacy of ‘reparative therapy’ as a treatment to change one’s sexual orientation . . . “

The Southern Poverty Law Center points out the dangers of promoting “conversions from homosexual life”: “Conversion therapy has been discredited or highly criticized by virtually all major American medical, psychiatric, psychological and professional counseling organizations. People who have undergone conversion therapy have reported increased anxiety, depression, and in some cases, suicidal ideation.”

If anyone doubts actual harm can be caused by platforms of disparagement such as those developed by Arkes, they need only read the letter shared on the 1970 listserv by classmate Eric Patterson. Eric wrote: “. . . and people like Hadley Arkes, his friend Antonin Scalia, his friend Rick Santorum, and many, many others who share their belief that Terry’s love for me (Eric), and mine for him, are comparable to child rape, animal rape or corpse rape, continue to treat millions of same-sex couples as inferior and undeserving of all the rights and benefits that heterosexual couples take for granted. Some may tell me to just forget about it, and some may claim that they can’t understand in what way Arkes’ statements possibly could constitute hate speech; I do not have the luxury of the indifference.”

The Amherst College Faculty Handbook states: “Amherst College does not condone harassment of any kind, against any group or individual, because of race, religion, ethnic identification, age, handicap, gender or sexual orientation.”

To the contrary, Arkes has offered an argument that attempt to mitigate the consequences of rape, an extreme act of harassment: “. . . the number of pregnancies resulting from rape in this country is miniscule . . . (since) . . . the fear induced by rape may interrupt the normal operation of hormones in the body of the woman which in turn may prevent ovulation and conception.” (“First Things: An Inquiry into First Principles of Morals and Justice”, 1986, by Hadley Arkes).

There is no scientific evidence to support this claim promoted by Arkes. Rather, research published in the “Journal of American Obstetrics and Gynecology” indicates over 32,000 pregnancies result annually from rape, which means about 5% of rape victims become pregnant.

However, Arkes has offered no retraction and Amherst College has unwittingly promoted Arkes’ “First Things” as recently as this (2013) spring:

Amherst College website (https://www.amherst.edu/alumni/events/calendar/rsvp/professor_hadley_arkes_event_in_ny_5.8.13)

Thank you for your interest in participating.  
As this event has already occurred, we hope you will join us for a future event.

AN EVENING WITH PROFESSOR HADLEY ARKES: REFLECTIONS ON FIRST THINGS

Wednesday, May 8, 2013
5:30 – 8:00 p.m.

Penn Club30 W. 44th StreetNew York, NY

Cocktails and hors d’oeuvres

This event was organized by Peter Ezersky ’82 and Kevin Conway ’80

———————————————

First Things website

(http://www.firstthings.com/blogs/firstthoughts/2013/05/01/professor-hadley-arkes-reflections-on-first-things/)

Hadley Arkes: Reflections on First Things

Wednesday, May 1, 2013, 4:18 PM

Katherine Infantine | @KatieInfantine

The Amherst College alumni program will host:

An Evening with Professor Hadley Arkes:

Reflections on his book First Things

Wednesday, May 8, 2013
5:30-8:00 p.m.

Penn Club
30. 44th Street W
New York, NY

Hadley Arkes, a member of First Things’ advisory council, is the Ney Professor in American Institutions at Amherst College.

The 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure, to which Amherst College subscribes, states:  “As scholars and educational officers, they should remember that the public may judge their profession and their institution by their utterances. Hence they should at all times be accurate, should exercise appropriate restraint, should show respect for the opinions of others, and should make every effort to indicate that they are not speaking for the institution.”

To the contrary, Arkes is not “at all times” “accurate”, exercising “appropriate restraint”, showing “respect for the opinion of others”, or making “every effort to indicate that they are (he is) not speaking for the institution.”

With regard to Arkes’ being inaccurate, classmate John Greenberg offers the following:

“. . . Arkes’ recent contribution concerning the oral arguments in the Proposition 8 case: “Marriage in the Court” by Hadley Arkes (http://www.nationalreview.com/bench-memos/344001/marriage-court-hadley-arkes)  Again, let’s examine 2 sentences (written by Arkes): “The main point of concern for traditional-marriage advocates was Kennedy’s musing about 37,000 children living in households headed by gay or lesbian couples: Were their parents to be denied the standing of marriage, and they in turn branded as offspring of some sub-legal ménage? But of course the question is no different here from the plight of children in polygamous unions.”

Here, Mr. Arkes, a tenured professor of political science equates polygamy, which is illegal, to marriage, which isn’t, without mentioning the difference, in the context of the 37,000 children about whom Justice Kennedy expressed concern.  These are the children who HAVE been adopted — perfectly legally under CA law — by gay parents in civil unions, whose fate WILL be affected by the Court’s decision, however narrowly tailored.  Arkes’ dismissive phrase: “But of course the question is no different here from the plight of children in polygamous unions” not only conflates all these things and is completely false from a legal standpoint, but totally ignores the gaping differences between the legal issues of same sex vs. polygamous marriage.  The give-away here is that slipped-in little phrase: “of course.”

Note too that the REASON Justice Kennedy raised the issue is that it was prominently discussed in the lower court, where, after listening to voluminous testimony, Judge Walker concluded: “The sexual orientation of an individual does not determine whether that individual can be a good parent. Children raised by gay or lesbian parents are as likely as children raised by heterosexual parents to be healthy, successful and well-adjusted. The research supporting this conclusion is accepted beyond serious debate in the field of developmental psychology.”

With regard to Arkes not showing restraint, his inference that homosexuality is similar to heinous, illegal acts is anything but restrained:

“…[T]he 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 …

[T]he notion of ‘sexual orientation’ is quite unstable: Many people shift back and forth across a spectrum that may now include the bisexual, fetishistic, transvestic, zoophiliac (sex with animals.) …

How is anyone’s marriage affected if two men or women are allowed to marry?

 A while back, a 42-year old woman was barred from living in Stafford, Virginia with her 19-year old son as man and wife.  And Philip Buble in Maine was denied a marriage license for himself and his 37 pound dog Lady.

 Now how would anyone’s marriage be impaired if these people were allowed to marry as they wished?”

(From “The Supreme Court Hears the Cases on Marriage”, www.thecatholicthing.org , March 26, 2013, by Hadley Arkes, the Ney Professor of Jurisprudence at Amherst College)

With regard to Arkes showing disrespect for the opinion of others, he is again willing to dismiss rights for members of the LGBT community by inappropriately comparing them to illegal extremes:

“We will leave to another time the account of why marriage simply could not preserve its coherence and durability if the notion of marriage were stretched out of shape to encompass same-sex marriage. We have already seen the claims emerging for polyamorous groups, whose loves are not confined to couples, and indeed, once we admit gay marriage, we would not stand on any principled ground for confining marriage to two people or fending off the claims for all of the exotic ensembles of people who insist that their love, too, ought to be recognized in a marriage.”

(From “Gay Rights and Federalism”, National Review Online, August 6, 2001, by Hadley Arkes, a professor of American Institutions at Amherst College & an adviser to the Alliance for Marriage.”)

With regard to Arkes not making every effort to make it clear that he does not speak for Amherst, the citations throughout this paper demonstrate that Arkes regularly uses his affiliation with Amherst College as his primary credential when presenting his homophobic views and he does not provide any qualifying language (e.g. “The views expressed by the author are his alone and do not represent those of Amherst College”) to indicate that he does not speak for Amherst College.

When is Enough Enough?

In April (2013), Dr. Ben Carson, a tenured faculty member at Johns Hopkins University mimicked Arkes while being interviewed on national television. In response to a question about gay marriage, Carson said: “Well, my thoughts are that marriage is between a man and a woman. It’s 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. So, it’s not something that is against gays, it’s against anybody who wants to come along and change the fundamental definitions of pillars of society. It has significant ramifications.”

What followed was a swift, public reprimand from Dr. Paul Rothman, CEO of Johns Hopkins Medicine and Dean of the Medical Faculty, which said it part: “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. 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 . . .

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 . . . 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 . . . 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.”

Dr. Carson then apologized and withdrew as Johns Hopkins’ commencement speaker, offering: “As you know, I have been in the national news quite a bit recently and my 36 year association with Johns Hopkins has unfortunately dragged our institution into the spotlight as well. I am sorry for any embarrassment this has caused. But what really saddens me is that my poorly chosen words caused pain for some members of our community and for that I offer a most sincere and heartfelt apology. . . “

Whereas Johns Hopkins quickly admonished its faculty member for “hurtful, offensive language” that was “inconsistent with the culture of our institution”, Amherst College has done nothing to denounce Arkes or distance itself from Arkes as he has engaged for years in developing a broad, public platform, including organizations and communications vehicles such as “First Things”, “The Catholic Thing”, the “Family Research Council”, the “Ethics and Public Policy Center”, and the “Alliance for Marriage”, to disseminate his homophobic and defamatory commentaries using his affiliation with Amherst College as his primary credential.

In addition, Arkes, unlike Carson, has issued no apology for causing pain to members of the Amherst College community. Rather, Arkes has been comfortable throughout:

“Yes, I’ve been quite at odds politically with the currents at Amherst.  But if it’s suffering, it has been stylish suffering:  I’ve been sustained by the affection of friends who are not exactly with me on the issues of the day, and I’ve been supported generously by this College, even though its President has had to fend off, even now, the complaints of alumni who think that a self-respecting liberal college should not have to suffer my presence.” (From “Scenes from an Academical Life,” The Catholic Thing, June 4, 2013, by Hadley Arkes the Ney Professor of Jurisprudence at Amherst College)

Consciously Causing Pain and Conflicting with Amherst College’s Values

There is little reason to doubt that Arkes recognizes that his homophobic commentaries both conflict with Amherst’s community values, including diversity, and purposely hurt members of the LGBT community. In “Swastikas, Burning Crosses, and ‘God Hates Fags’” (Published by Public Discourse: Ethics, Law and the Common Good, October 13, 2010), Arkes explores legal interpretations of classes of speech that have and have not been given protection under the Constitution.

In this article, Arkes quotes Supreme Court Justice Frank Murphy (1890 – 1949) on speech that is not protected: “These (classes of speech) include the lewd and obscene, the profane, the libelous, and the insulting or ‘fighting’ words — those which their very utterance inflict injury or tend to incite an immediate breach of peace.” Arkes then writes: “’Chaplinsky’ (the case Justice Murphy was writing about) was simply based on that common sense about language, and with that sense of things we were able to give juries of ordinary working men and women these instructions: Convict only when people used gestures and words clearly understood as terms of assault. In case of doubt—if the words are less clear or at the borderline of derision, just hold back from convicting. I’ve found in my own experience that people never suffer doubt in applying that rule to a list containing words of this kind: Kike, bastard, nigger, faggot, meter maid, urologist, hero. People in Washington may stop for a while at ‘meter maid,’ but they have no trouble in recognizing the terms clearly established as terms of insult.”

Certainly, therefore, Arkes knows that he is assaulting Amherst College’s values by inflicting injury on members of the LGBT community when he states: “…[T]he 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 …[T]he notion of ‘sexual orientation’ is quite unstable: Many people shift back and forth across a spectrum that may now include the bisexual, fetishistic, transvestic, zoophiliac (sex with animals).”

The Need to Stand Up for Diversity Today

So, what is Amherst College to do about Arkes?

Take action.

Stand up for diversity today.

Amherst College has developed a set of values for its community. These values include diversity and the guidelines necessary to support diversity. These guidelines include demonstrating respect for all members of the Amherst community.

Arkes violates Amherst College’s values by being disrespectful to members of the College community. He does this willfully and knowingly, including linking Amherst College directly to his disparaging and injurious commentaries.

In repeatedly and publicly linking Amherst College to his assaults on the LGBT community, Arkes further violates his responsibilities as defined under the auspices of academic freedom.

As Amherst College has evolved over the past almost two hundred years, it has increasingly made a commitment to diversity. And, at times, Amherst College has been called to take firm, public stands to protect the diversity it embraces.

Today, Amherst College is called to take another such stand; this time involving one of its own. It is time for Amherst College to:

  1. Publicly denounce Hadley Arkes’ assaults on Amherst College’s values.

  2. Demand that Hadley Arkes no longer reference affiliation with Amherst College when he writes commentaries on social issues that disparage members of the Amherst College community.

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Cover letter to President Martin

Cover Letter to President Martin in preparation for  Sept. 13 meeting

From: etacraige@mindspring.com
Sent: Aug 26, 2013 9:01 AM
To: bmartin@amherst.edu
Cc: sgenglehardt@amherst.edu
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.

Respectfully,

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.

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Amherst won’t disavow hate speech? I won’t contribute

From: Patterson, Eric
Sent: Wednesday, June 19, 2013 11:10 AM
To: annualfund@amherst.edu
Subject: Why Amherst’s failure to disavow hate speech prevents me from making a financial contribution.

Dear Amherst Annual Fund,

Although I value my education at Amherst very highly, as well as some of the friendships that I made there, I am unable, in good conscience, to contribute to the College as long as it fails to publicly disavow the hateful, defamatory public statements about sexual and gender minority people which repeatedly have been made by a senior member of the faculty, Hadley Arkes.

I recognize and respect the fact that the principle of academic freedom permits Arkes to say what he believes, but Amherst, as an institution which claims to include and respect all people, including sexual and gender minority people, has a responsibility to make it clear to the general public that it does not share the views that he has expressed and publicly disseminated, particularly his contentions that same-sex relationships are akin to polygamy, incest, pederasty, zoophilia or bestiality, and necrophilia.  In publishing these statements, Arkes repeatedly associates himself with Amherst College.  These defamatory statements directly contradict the College’s claim to welcome and respect sexual and gender minority people, and the College must make it clear to the general public, especially to people who identify as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, or Transgender, and most particularly to vulnerable young people who may be considering applying to Amherst, that the College does not share the views expressed by Arkes in these repugnant and hateful insults.

Until that is done I am unable to contribute to the College, or to recommend that anyone attend it, and I have a responsibility to point out to others its failure to address this deeply troubling problem.

Sincerely,

Eric H. Patterson,

B.A. Amherst, summa cum laude, 1970;

M.A., M.Phil., Ph.D. Yale.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Arkes’s defamatory statements are deeply offensive

Edited version of message sent by Eric Patterson, ’70, to Class of 1970 Listserv on Saturday, June 8, 2013, 1:54 p.m., regarding Hadley Arkes’s published statements about sexual minority and gender minority people.

A note on the context of my message: In the recent 1970 class listserv discussion of Hadley Arkes’s repeated public statements defaming sexual minority and gender minority people, two members of the class dismissed the concerns that others had expressed, advising them to “just forget about it.”  Another member of the class who shared the concern about Arkes’s defamatory statements pointed out that to make sweeping negative generalizations about groups of people based on sexual orientation, as Arkes has done, was as inappropriate as to make them about groups of people based on their shared participation in a religion, such as Roman Catholicism.  In my message, I agreed with this point, but also observed and explained in detail that a different analogy, making negative generalizations about heterosexuality, might be more accurate and useful to consider, in order to understand how deeply offensive Arkes’s defamatory statements are to many sexual minority and gender minority people.

The particular statements made by Arkes to which I referred were published on March 26, 2013, in his article “The Supreme Court Hears the Cases on Marriage,” in “The Catholic Thing”  The article reiterates yet again the defamatory statements about sexual minority and gender minority people that Arkes has published numerous times in the past.  Regarding the term “sexual orientation,” Arkes states:

“…[T]he 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.”  Later in the same article, Arkes returns to the implication that same-sex attraction and relationships are comparable to such depraved, brutal, and criminal forms of abuse, asserting that “…

[T]he notion of ‘sexual orientation’ is quite unstable: Many people shift back and forth across a spectrum that may now include the bisexual, fetishistic, transvestic, zoophiliac (sex with animals.)”

He concludes the article with a rhetorical question, which he “answers” by citing what apparently are implied to be instances of the supposedly possible consequences of adjusting marriage laws to legalize same-sex marriage:

“How is anyone’s marriage affected if two men or women are allowed to marry?  A while back, a 42-year old woman was barred from living in Stafford, Virginia with her 19-year old son as man and wife.  And Philip Buble in Maine was denied a marriage license for himself and his 37 pound dog Lady.  Now how would anyone’s marriage be impaired if these people were allowed to marry as they wished?”

 At its close, the article states that “Hadley Arkes is the Ney Professor of Jurisprudence at Amherst College.”

My message below was a direct response to Arkes’s profoundly disturbing and offensive insults.  I have edited it slightly to clarify some points and to make it accessible to a general audience which was not part of the original Class of 1970 listserv discussion.

Eric Patterson, B.A. Amherst, summa cum laude; M.A., M.Phil., Ph.D. Yale.

Dear Classmates,

During our recent discussion of the public statements defaming sexual minority and gender minority people repeatedly made by Hadley Arkes, one member of the class who is critical of Arkes drew an analogy comparing Arkes’s broad negative generalizations about homosexuals to the hypothetical case of a faculty member making broad negative generalizations about members of a religion, using the example of the religion to which Arkes presently subscribes, Roman Catholicism.  Certainly if a prominent academic at an institution like Amherst made degrading generalizations about Roman Catholics, it would be deeply offensive to anyone who participates in that religion, and to anyone who cares about freedom of religion.  Yet the generalizations that Arkes makes about same-sex relationships in his publications are about an element of human identity– sexual orientation– that is even more profoundly a part of who human beings are than their religion.

Heterosexuality is a more apt analogy than religion.  Those who casually dismiss Arkes as irrelevant might find it useful to consider what effect it would have on them if someone with Arkes’s position and influence attacked heterosexuality in the ways that he has attacked homosexuality  An almost unimaginable thought for those who treat Arkes as trivial, I suppose, but perhaps a way to begin to think about what it’s like to be one of the targets of what he says.

Arkes implies that feeling sexual and emotional attraction to others of one’s own sex, and building mutual relationships on those feelings, is comparable to imposing oneself sexually on children, to forcing oneself sexually on animals, and to sexually desecrating dead bodies.  All of these constructions attack what many believe to be one of the deepest and most important parts of a person’s being– his or her ability to love others emotionally and physically– by comparing it to conduct that is filthy, disgusting, violent, and destructive.  In all of the situations to which he compares same-sex attraction and relationships, the object of attraction is helpless and vulnerable and is subjected to the selfish and depraved will of another, with the aim of horrific acts of domination and exploitation.  Child molestation coerces children and does infinite emotional and physical damage to them, which then can continue throughout their lives.  Animals deserve to be cared for in responsible and humane ways, and so imposing oneself sexually on them would be brutal and destructive in much the way that forcing oneself sexually on a child would be.  Sexually violating the dead is so profoundly repugnant and offensive that there are almost no words for it– that someone could compare it to a mutual physical and emotional attraction between two people is shocking, and says nothing valid about the attraction between people, but tells much– disturbingly much– about the extreme feelings of contempt and hatred in the mind of the person making the comparison.

All three disgusting situations to which Arkes compares same-sex relationships are fundamentally violent, and are predicated on a complete lack of respect or consideration for the object of violence.  The perpetrator of violence considers only selfish, disturbed desires and subjects vulnerable others to the domination of personal will.  Arkes’s construction of same-sex relationships thus negates all aspects of mutual attraction and compassion between men who love men and women who love women.

The three brutal, criminal situations to which Arkes compares same-sex relationships also fundamentally imply that he is largely, perhaps only, considering male homosexuality, since all apparently presume an aggressive sexual actor engaged in penetration of the object, whether child, animal, or corpse.  The fact that female-female attraction and relationships appear to be relatively invisible to Arkes indicates on his part a notable lack of awareness of female sexual agency as well as suggesting that the sources of his anxiety have much to do with a personal perception of penetrative male sexual activity as threatening.  In relation to this indication of lack of consideration of women, it must be noted that Arkes also has been instrumental in propagating the bizarre allegation, refuted by professional organizations of obstetricians and gynecologists, that rape seldom results in pregnancy; according the Arkes, “the number of pregnancies resulting from rape in this country is miniscule” because “…the fear induced by rape may interrupt the normal operation of hormones in the body of the woman which in turn may prevent ovulation and conception.” (Hadley Arkes, First Things: An Inquiry into First Principles of Morals and Justice, Princeton, 1986, pp. 403, 404.)  Politicians influenced by Arkes, such as Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO) and Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ), recently have been widely condemned for repeating these pseudo-scientific fantasies (Tim Townsend, “The Roots of Todd Akin’s ‘Legitimate Rape’ Remarks,” USA Today, August 8, 2012; Catalina Camia, “Remark Made During Discussion of Abortion Bill Remind[s] Some of Controversial Comment Made During 2012 Senate Race,” USA Today, June 13, 2013.)  Arkes’s allegations about sexual matters not only falsify lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender experience, but also female experience.  The false ideas that he disseminates thus impose a double burden of damaging misrepresentation and prejudice upon women who identify as lesbian or bisexual, slandering female-female relationships and also trivializing the possible consequences of rape.

As I see it, the most accurate parallel, if a public intellectual were to attack heterosexuality through implied comparisons of the sort that Arkes has constructed for understanding homosexuality, would be to equate heterosexuality with the male rape of women.  Certainly we all know that there is a shockingly high incidence of rape in this country; all decent men are disgusted by this, and support efforts to prosecute rapists and to provide support for rape victims.  How would decent heterosexual men, who are disgusted by men who rape women, feel if their relationships with their wives or female partners were compared to rape?  How would they feel if the mutually loving and caring relationships which many of them have with women were publicly degraded in writing as being equivalent to rape, by an intellectual who held a prestigious position at the college that they had attended?  How would they feel if the relationships with women that they, their fathers, brothers, and sons had with women were described as rape by prominent politicians directly referring to that public intellectual?  How would they feel if that intellectual publicly complained that he had “suffered” from unjust criticism for having publicly described their loving relationships with women as rape?  And how would they feel if that public intellectual had played a central role in formulating federal laws which defined their relationships with women as being inferior and undeserving of the legal status and benefits of marriage, using rhetoric which presented those relationships as being like rape?

In considering the analogy that I propose, and trying to imagine the impact that statements similar to those made by Arkes would have on the heterosexual majority if they were made about heterosexuality rather than about homosexuality, it is important to recognize the very wide public visibility of Arkes’s statements.  They have been made repeatedly in major journals of political conservatives, have been widely circulated in the media, and have influenced many with great political influence and visibility.  A highly publicized presidential candidate, former Pennsylvania Senator “Rick” Santorum, speaking in a 2003 interview which was widely quoted in newspapers, on television, and on the internet, explicitly referred to Arkes’s repeated argument that same-sex marriage would promote pedophilia and bestiality (or zoophilia.)  According to Santorum: “in every society, the definition of marriage has not ever to my knowledge included homosexuality.  That’s not to pick on homosexuality.  It’s not, you know, man on child, man on dog, or whatever the case may be.”  (Hendrik Hertzberg, “Dog Bites Man,” The New Yorker, May 5, 2003;  Max Blumenthal, “Rick Santorum’s Beastly Politics,” The Nation, Nov. 13, 2006.)  Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia has echoed some of Arkes’s hate rhetoric in legal rulings in which he suggests that same-sex relationships are comparable to polygamy, incest, bestiality, and murder.  When Scalia spoke at Princeton on December 10, 2012, he was challenged by a courageous first-year Princeton student, Duncan Hosie, who cited Scalia’s comparison of “gays to people who commit murder or engage in bestiality” and who then came out as gay before the eight hundred people present, rebuking the judge: “Justice Scalia, I’m gay, and as somebody who is gay, I find these comparisons extraordinarily offensive.”  (Amy Davidson, “The Animus of Antonin Scalia,” The New Yorker, December 12, 2012.)

The courage of Duncan Hosie points to one of the most troubling effects of the hate rhetoric propagated against sexual minority and gender minority people by Arkes, Santorum, Scalia, and others who share their hatred.  Such rhetoric fails entirely to recognize the loving and committed relationships between partners of the same sex, and functions instead to negate the humanity of those who experience same-sex attraction and thereby to legitimate hostility, discrimination, harassment, and violence against them.  All sexual minority and gender minority people are affected by this climate of hatred, but it is those who are most vulnerable, young people in the process of understanding their sexual orientation, who are most at risk.  Many adolescents who may identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender must endure continuous hostility from peers, teachers, coaches, and from their own families.  Some are so tormented by this hostility that they are driven to suicide.  Reliable estimates are that, in the United States today, approximately 30-40% of adolescents who identify as sexual minority or gender minority have attempted suicide.  (Suicide Prevention Resource Centre, Newton, Massachusetts, 2008; www.sprc.org.  Research in coordination with U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.)  For specific instances of the cost in human lives exacted by  this hate rhetoric, one need only consider the recent series of tragic, heartbreaking suicides of young sexual minority or gender minority people that have been widely reported over the past several years.  Just as racist rhetoric legitimated lynching, just as anti-Semitic propaganda legitimated the Holocaust, so rhetoric suggesting that same-sex orientation is similar to the crimes of raping and murdering, and particularly to targeting helpless children and animals and to desecrating the dead, functions to legitimate homophobic hatred– and to cause the destruction of the lives of young people such as Lance Lundsten, 18; Samantha Johnson, 13; Justin Aaberg, 15; Jeanine Blanchette, 21; Chantal Dube, 17; Raymond Chase, 19; Haylee Fentress, 14; Paige Moravetz, 14; Asher Brown, 13; Seth Walsh, 13; Jack Reese, 18; Jeffrey Fehr, 18; and Tyler Clementi, 18.  The names of these young people, and of the many, many others who have killed themselves because of unendurable homophobic hatred, may mean nothing to Hadley Arkes, but they mean a great deal to me, and to anyone else who opposes the climate of hatred that Arkes and those that he influences perpetuate.  The fact that someone engaged in the teaching of vulnerable young people contributes actively and directly to the climate of hatred that damages and destroys many young lives is shocking and deeply disturbing.

Thus, an accurate analogy through which to understand the significance of Arkes’s attacks on same-sex relationships is one that, rather than comparing his statements with attacks on a particular religion, compares them directly with what it would be like if he had attacked the sexual feelings and relationships of the heterosexual majority.  How would the straight men in our class feel if he said about them and their loved ones and families what he says about me and mine?  Or my gay classmate, Robert Nathan?  Or any of the other gay men in the class?  Or the many gay men who have graduated from Amherst before and since our class?  Or the many lesbians who have graduated from Amherst since our class?  Or the millions of gay men and lesbians in America and around the world?  Or, indeed, the members of their own families– sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts, nephews, nieces, cousins, in-laws– who are gay or lesbian?

My partner, Terence Forbes, and I met twenty-five years ago this Memorial Day; we’ve rarely spent a day apart since, except when he has gone to visit his sisters and brother in California.  He has been chronically ill for nearly two decades.  He never has made a trip to the doctor for treatment of his illness alone, and when he has been hospitalized at Upstate Medical Centre in Syracuse, I have visited him every day, even during the teaching semester, although our home and Hobart and William Smith Colleges, where I teach, both are fifty miles from Syracuse, in opposite directions.  I love him, and he loves me.  But we had to go to great lengths with lawyers and hospital administrators to assure that I had the same access to him, and ability to make decisions to help him, that married couples had automatically.  That’s finally changing, but there is intensely hostile resistance from those who slander same-sex couples by equating them with depraved, brutal criminals.  The Defense of Marriage Act, which Hadley Arkes played an important role in formulating, and public figures who repeat his defamatory rhetoric against same-sex couples, such as his friend Antonin Scalia, his friend “Rick” Santorum, and many, many others who share the belief that Terry’s love for me, and mine for him, are comparable to child rape, animal rape, or corpse rape, have treated millions of same-sex couples as inferior and undeserving of all the rights and benefits that heterosexual couples take for granted.

Some may tell me to just forget about it, and others may claim that they can’t understand in what way Arkes’s statements possibly could constitute hate speech; I do not have the luxury of their indifference.  Neither do the thousands of others driven by such hatred to take their own lives.

The necessary requirement of empathy is to be able to put one’s self in another’s place, to think about what it must be like to be him or her, even if he or she is much different from one’s self.  Empathy is one of the most fundamental elements of literature, and one of its greatest powers — whereas minor writers are limited to the confines of their own personalities, great writers have the ability to imagine what it is like to be someone other than themselves, even someone with a different sexual orientation– and to show others what it might be like.  It’s fundamental to any religion worthy of the name.  It’s fundamental to being someone’s friend.  And I think it’s fundamental to trying to have a relatively civilized society.

I remain deeply grateful to Tito Craige, Warren Mersereau, John Greenberg, Ron Battocchi, and the many other straight men in our class who have done that, who have made the effort to put themselves in the place of their gay classmates, and who haven’t just forgotten about what it’s like for them.

I also remain very grateful to Robert Nathan, for helping to educate me and many others about the significance of Arkes’s destructive influence.

I invite other members of the majority to try to imagine what it is like for sexual minority and gender minority people to witness their love and relationships being repeatedly traduced and defamed in print by someone who continually invokes the prestige of Amherst’s name.  As one who has been engaged in college teaching for the past thirty-nine years, I am well aware of the importance of the principle of academic freedom, and I accept that this principle assures that any faculty member, including Arkes, may publish what he or she believes.  But I also am well aware that Arkes’s defamatory statements about sexual minorities and gender minorities are in stark contradiction to the equally important principles of inclusion, respect, and equality publicly affirmed by enlightened academic institutions, such as Amherst claims to be.  Thus far the College shamefully has failed to make any comment about the glaring contradiction between the progressive values that it claims to uphold regarding lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people and the dehumanizing, demonizing rhetoric being directed against them by Arkes in the College’s name.  I believe that it would not fail to do so if a faculty member were publishing analogous defamatory falsehoods against African-Americans or Jews, or any other group that has been attacked with hate speech.  Why does the College not do so when one of its faculty publishes such falsehoods against sexual minority and gender minority people, explicitly associating these falsehoods with the College’s name?  Amherst has a profound and urgent responsibility to inform the public that the hateful falsehoods propagated by Arkes in published statements identifying himself with the College are in explicit contradiction to its values.

Best,

Eric Patterson, ’70

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Greenberg: Reject intellectual dishonesty

From: John Greenberg/The Bear Bookshop
Sent: Sunday, April 07, 2013 9:35 PM
To: bmartin@amherst.edu
Subject: Hadley Arkes

Dear President Martin:

As a participant in the Class of 1970 listserv, I’ve read with interest your letter about Professor Hadley Arkes and the response of my classmates Tito Craige and Warren Mersereau.

First, I agree with my classmates that academic freedom extends only as far as a given academic institution wants it to, and that in any case, academic freedom is entirely distinct from the right of free speech which all Americans, obviously including Mr. Arkes, share. But even were Amherst to decide that principles of academic freedom SHOULD be extended to cover Mr. Arkes’ abhorrent views – a decision with which my choice of adjective should make it transparently clear I strongly disagree – there is another question that cannot be dismissed so easily.

I refer to the basic principles that your letter characterized as “the values of openness, advocacy, and honest debate,” and I agree with you that any institution purporting to represent the best intellectual traditions MUST begin from these core principles.

Unfortunately, it takes little more than a cursory reading of Mr. Arkes’ diatribes to recognize that he does not share these values; indeed, he goes out of his way to subvert them. I will exemplify this by analyzing just two of his articles which have been the subject of debate on our listserv.

The first was written several years ago: “The Judges Do Iowa,” The Catholic Thing, Tuesday, 14 April 2009) (http://www.thecatholicthing.org/2009/04/14/the-judges-do-iowa/)

Here are his first two sentences: “Why should it have been a surprise? It was well understood, even before November, that the election of Barak Obama would be taken as the green light for judges throughout the country to plunge ahead to install same-sex marriage.”

When this article was written, President Obama did not support same-sex marriage. But that’s not the only error here. Indeed, it’s the least of them. It would be more accurate to substitute “Bush” (GW) for “Obama” in Arkes’ sentence, because all of the courts of ALL of the other states that ruled against restricting gay marriage did so during the BUSH administration. (e.g., MA = 2003; NJ = 2006; NH = 2007; CA = 2008, CT = 2008) or BEFORE it (VT = 1999). And it is worth noting that the Iowa case, DECIDED after Obama was president, was actually ARGUED during the Bush administration as well. (The district court decision was 2007).

My point is simple. Arkes’s statement is totally and glibly at variance with ALL of the facts of the matter. It is wrong not on one count, but on every count. It is, in short, intellectually indefensible.

But the real problem lies not in these factual incidentals, but in the conclusion to which these small fibs are meant to lead readers. Presidents of the United States have little to do with the federal Supreme Court (once they appoint the judges), and nothing whatsoever to do with State Supreme Courts. The notion therefore that the election of ANY president has ANYTHING to do with a state supreme court is a scurrilous allegation, impugning the motives and judgment of those who serve on those courts.

Mr. Arkes knows this; he’s a political scientist. He also has reason to suspect that his readers may not; he chose to make this allegation in a religious magazine, rather than a political science journal. Additionally, he knows that the judges will not — probably cannot — respond to his allegation without seriously undermining their position as judges or violating their canons of ethics.

In sum, he has chosen to mislead his readers, using a serious of small misstatements to make a larger, totally indefensible point, in a context in which he can hope to escape the notice of knowledgeable readers, and without fear of response from those whose integrity he has impugned.

If Arkes were a junior high student, one might simply note all this, and perhaps charitably suggest that the errors were caused by ignorance. But Arkes is not a junior high school student. He’s a professor of political science (that is, he’s a scholar writing in his own field) at an institution which takes great pride in its prestige. Moreover, the sentences I’ve just quoted are not an isolated example, even in this single article. The article is replete with falsehoods, half-truths, misleading statements, logical fallacies, etc. It exudes a contempt for the values for which, Amherst says it stands: namely, respect for facts, for sound logic, for scientific research, rather than reliance on or appeal to prejudice, rhetoric, sophistry, and the like. It is important to underscore that all I have said concerns only intellectual methods and honesty; it is completely independent of the loathsome content of his basic message.

The second example concerns Professor Arkes’ recent contribution concerning the oral arguments in the Proposition 8 case: “Marriage in the Court” by Hadley Arkes (http://www.nationalreview.com/bench-memos/344001/marriage-court-hadley-arkes) Again, let’s examine 2 sentences: “The main point of concern for traditional-marriage advocates was Kennedy’s musing about 37,000 children living in households headed by gay or lesbian couples: Were their parents to be denied the standing of marriage, and they in turn branded as offspring of some sub-legal ménage? But of course the question is no different here from the plight of children in polygamous unions.”

Here, Mr. Arkes, a tenured professor of political science equates polygamy, which is illegal, to marriage, which isn’t, without mentioning the difference, in the context of the 37,000 children about whom Justice Kennedy expressed concern. These are the children who HAVE been adopted — perfectly legally under CA law — by gay parents in civil unions, whose fate WILL be affected by the Court’s decision, however narrowly tailored. Arkes dismissive phrase: “But of course the question is no different here from the plight of children in polygamous unions” not only conflates all these things and is completely false from a legal standpoint, but totally ignores the gaping differences between the legal issues of same sex vs. polygamous marriage. The give-away here is that slipped-in little phrase: “of course.”

Note too that the REASON Justice Kennedy raised the issue is that it was prominently discussed in the lower court, where, after listening to voluminous testimony, Judge Walker concluded: “70. The sexual orientation of an individual does not determine whether that individual can be a good parent. Children raised by gay or lesbian parents are as likely as children raised by heterosexual parents to be healthy, successful and well-adjusted. The research supporting this conclusion is accepted beyond serious debate in the field of developmental psychology. (emphasis added)” … b. PX2565 American Psychological Association, Answers to Your Questions: For a Better Understanding of Sexual Orientation and Homosexuality at 5 (2008): “[S]ocial science has shown that the concerns often raised about children of lesbian and gay parents —— concerns that are generally grounded in prejudice against and stereotypes about gay people —— are unfounded.”” (p. 95)

Using these points as a basis, Judge Walker found: “56. The children of same-sex couples benefit when their parents can marry.

a. Tr 1332:19-1337:25 (Badgett: Same-sex couples and their children are denied all of the economic benefits of marriage that are available to married couples.);

b. PX0787 Position Statement, American Psychiatric Association, Support of Legal Recognition of Same-Sex Civil Marriage at 1 (July 2005): “The children of unmarried gay and lesbian parents do not have the same protection that civil marriage affords the children of heterosexual couples.”;

c. Tr 1964:17-1965:2 (Tam: It is important to children of same-sex couples that their parents be able to marry.);

d. Tr 599:12-19 (Peplau: A survey of same-sex couples who married in Massachusetts shows that 95 percent of same-sex couples raising children reported that their children had benefitted from the fact that their parents were able to marry.).” (Page 84)

In an article as short as his, I would not expect Mr. Arkes to marshall all of the available evidence, but brevity is no excuse for IGNORING it all either, nor for considering it “regrettable and surprising as to how much weight seemed to be placed on the findings of social science.” Regrettable and surprising to whom? And why?

Honest intellectual discussion acknowledges ALL of the facts and then attempts to construct the best argument. Mr. Arkes is almost always at pains to HIDE basic information from (or worse, simply lie to) the reader. He then mounts his arguments on the basis of the resulting obfuscation.

In sum, I recognize that questions of academic freedom can be difficult to parse, because institutions naturally want to avoid stifling legitimate debate. Indeed, such discussion is one of the core values of any academic institution. Still, like Messrs. Craige and Mersereau, I do not find that particularly difficult in this case.

But be that as it may, lying, misrepresentation, and obfuscation – in a word core intellectual dishonesty – should surely have no more safe harbor in ANY institution which wants to consider itself a place of learning than plagiarism and other forms of cheating. I would think that any institution concerned about its reputation would therefore have no difficulty whatever in drawing a clear line which says that intellectual dishonesty can have no home here.

John Greenberg

From: battocchi@comcast.net
To: “Biddy Martin”
Sent: Wednesday, April 17, 2013 10:35:53 PM
Subject: John Greenberg’s Letter

Dear President Martin, the more than 50 individuals listed below endorse and join the letter John Greenberg submitted to you on April 7 (copy attached with typos corrected). All are members of the class of 1970 unless otherwise noted. Thank you.

Respectfully,

Ron Battocchi

Bud Alpert

Ron Battocchi

Bob Bernstein

Bill Carter

David Cichon

Doug Clark

Tito Craige

Barry DeLapp

Ron Dewdney

Rob Duboff

Jon Einhorn

Tom Gillis

Joseph Gordon

Marvin Gross

Mark Harris

Bill Hayes

Miles Herkenham

C. David Hunt

Richard Kellogg

Steve Kent

Doug Lane

Ron Marinucci ’71

P. Scott McGee

Tom McKitterick

Richard Meeker

Warren Mersereau

Paul Mintzer

Robert Nathan

Mike Naughton

Jim Parakilas

Eric Patterson

Daniel Quinn

Tom Reicher

Bob Reichert

Whit Rutter

Steve Seward

David Silverman

Wylie Smith

Jeff Southworth

Bob Spielman

Colin Stewart

Doug Swift

George Triano

Tom Viall

David Wase

Eric Weber

Russell Wise

Ron Wold

Burt Woolf

Robert J. Yamins ’72

George Zoulalian

Lanny M. Zuckerman

From: “Biddy Martin”
To: battocchi@comcast.net
Cc: “Melanie Sage”
Sent: Wednesday, June 5, 2013 8:45:23 PM
Subject: your letter

Dear Mr. Battochhi,

Thank you for forwarding John Greenberg’s April 7 letter and the list of signatories. Today I received a set of messages, forwarded by Dvaid Hunt, making it clear that no one (i.e., you, Mr. Greenberg or the signers of the letter) has received a response. I would appreciate it if you would forward this note to Mr. Greenberg or post it to the listserv.

As I think you know, I sent two messages earlier this Spring that were posted to the listserv. I thought the second one was posted after I received the letter from Mr. Greenberg. If I am wrong, I apologize for the oversight.

I appreciate the passion and persistence with which so many of you are fighting homophobic views and the damage they do. As I said in earlier messages, we do not intend to do more in response to Professor Arkes’ articles than affirm and continue acting on our commitments to a diverse and inclusive community, one that supports the rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender students, staff, faculty, alumni and friends everywhere.

Biddy Martin

From: John Greenberg/The Bear Bookshop

Sent: Thursday, June 06, 2013 3:38 PM

To: bmartin@amherst.edu

Cc: AMHERST-AMHERST-1970@CHAT.AMHERST.EDU

Subject: Your letter to Ron Battocchi

Dear Biddy Martin:

I am frankly astonished that two months after I wrote you a letter raising substantive issues that go to the core of Amherst’s mission, you cannot be bothered even to offer me the courtesy of a direct acknowledgement, let alone a reply. Given that more than 40 other alumni (in plain English, potential donors) co-signed my letter and re-sent it, however, I am left almost speechless. But words must be found.

As you note in your email to Ron Battocchi, you have indeed responded to the letters from my friends Tito Craige and Warren Mersereau (unconvincingly, in my estimation), and in some cases, these replies were written after you received my letter. But as far as I can see, you have yet to acknowledge even receipt of my letter, let alone respond to ANY of its content.

When I wrote you back in April, I was at some pains to distinguish my message from that of Warren and Tito. While they focused on the CONTENT of Mr. Arkes’s message – which you characterize in your letter to Ron as “homophobic views and the damage they do,” I pointed to an entirely different issue: namely, his intellectual dishonesty.

Put bluntly, your decision to respond to Tito and Warren’s concerns about Arkes’s articles with vapid generalities (“affirm and continue acting on our commitments to a diverse and inclusive community”) is wholly inadequate, but I’m confident that others, including but not limited to Warren and Tito, will respond fully and amply to that, so for now at least, I’ll leave that chore to them. Suffice it for me to say here that it’s hard to fathom what kind of affirmation or commitment allows hate speech to pass in silence, especially when, as here, that silence speaks volumes.

But nothing you’ve said in your note to Mr. Battocchi even begins to address the issue I raised. Respect for human rights does nothing to counter intellectual deception. Tolerance of diversity is not an answer to humbug and flimflammery.

Amherst purports to be among this nation’s premier institutions of learning. Accordingly, it simply cannot responsibly fail to address a member of its faculty who time and again produces articles which fail to respect the core rules of intellectual discourse, which you yourself enumerated in a previous letter as “the values of openness, advocacy, and honest debate.” This is even more the case when, as here, he does so while repeatedly identifying himself with the College with painstaking specificity: “Hadley Arkes is the Ney Professor of American Institutions at Amherst College.”

Failure to call out mendacity and manipulation is consent to the use of those tactics, and Amherst College cannot expect anyone to find its commitment to learning credible if it fails to respect even minimum standards of intellectual discourse. Without these standards, it is impossible for learning of any kind to flourish, let alone, aspire to excellence.

I understand that this issue I’m putting before you is one you’d prefer not to address. You’ve made that more than plain. But address it you must, or relinquish any claim to be president of a college of high intellectual values.

John Greenberg

From: Biddy Martin
Sent: Thursday, June 06, 2013 4:10 PM
To: John Greenberg/The Bear Bookshop
Subject: Re: Your letter to Ron Battocchi

Dear Mr. Greenberg,

I am sorry you are offended. I chose to send an email to one of your classmates whose email address was available to me at home, rather than waiting until today to ask my staff about your letter and email address.

I understand that you made a different argument than Warren and Tito (and others) made. Your approach involves making attributions of motive. I do not wish to engage at that level. I am genuinely sorry to disappoint you, but it is evident that we disagree about the best way to proceed.

I wish you well.

Biddy Martin

From: “John Greenberg/The Bear Bookshop”
To: AMHERST-AMHERST-1970@CHAT.AMHERST.EDU
Sent: Friday, June 7, 2013 5:59:37 PM
Subject: Re: [AMHERST-AMHERST-1970] Your letter to Ron Battocchi

Dear Biddy Martin:

Thank you for your quick reply to my letter, and for recognizing that I “made a different argument than Warren and Tito (and others) made.” Unfortunately, your email goes on to suggest that my “approach involves making attributions of motive,” and your use of that phrase tells me that we still are not communicating clearly.

In my original letter to you, I tried to direct your attention to a sentence in which everything Mr. Arkes wrote “is totally and glibly at variance with ALL of the facts of the matter.” No attribution of motive of any kind is necessary to support my statement: the dates of the court cases I enumerated are all a matter of public record.

Next, I pointed to the inference Mr. Arkes intends his readers to draw. Again, motive plays no role. Mr. Arkes DOES imply that the Iowa court’s decision was somehow influenced by Obama’s election, and that assertion would, if correct, suggest a violation of both law and ethics of scandal-making proportions (for both parties).

Similar reasoning applies to my claim that “The article is replete with falsehoods, half-truths, misleading statements, logical fallacies, etc.” Motive is irrelevant to any of these arguments.

Now it is true that the explanation I offer – that Mr. Arkes is an intelligent fellow who knows what he doing and therefore does so consciously – DOES attribute motive to him. Accordingly, you can, as you put it, opt not “to engage at that level.”

But let’s be clear on two points. The decision to put my explanation to the side does not make the phenomena I described go away. The facts are still wrong; the logic is still misleading; the half-truths remain. Additionally, I would suggest that rejecting my explanation leaves only one other one that I can see: namely, that Mr. Arkes is ignorant, incapable of doing simple factual research, incompetent, or some combination of the above.

This is not the place to defend more precisely these or other claims made in my letter, or to offer further examples of similar failings throughout Mr. Arkes’s work, though they are available in ample supply.

With or without more examples, we come inevitably and directly back to the point you appear so determined to sidestep. Intellectual discourse cannot flourish in the presence of uncorrected falsehoods, half-truths, misleading statements, or logical fallacies. All of these are incompatible with “the values of openness, advocacy, and honest debate.”

Similarly, whether conscious intent to deceive or incompetence is responsible for these failings, neither explanation is supportive of high standards of learning or discourse and neither reflects well on the institution with which Mr. Arkes chooses to associate himself.

Please understand that I am as determined that you at least register and acknowledge the points I am making about Mr. Arkes’s discourse as you appear to be to evade and ignore them. Your 2 month silence, your first reply which speaks to entirely different points and now your dismissive summary of my “approach” all make it clear to me that you are not inclined to act in this matter. I find that disappointing. Still, it’s important to me (at least) that we both understand and acknowledge exactly what is at stake.

John Greenberg

From: “Biddy Martin”
Sent: Monday, June 10, 2013 12:50 PM
To: “John Greenberg/The Bear Bookshop”
Subject: Your analysis

> Dear John,
>
> I do not reject your analysis. I appreciate and share your anger. I have
> simply not believed it is in the best interests of the College at this
> moment for me publicly to censure Professor Arkes. I am thinking of
> opportunities for making the College’s values and expectations clear to a
> larger audience. I hope at some point we will have an opportunity to meet
> and talk.
>
> Biddy

From: “John Greenberg/The Bear Bookshop”
To: AMHERST-AMHERST-1970@CHAT.AMHERST.EDU
Sent: Monday, June 10, 2013 6:54:56 PM
Subject: Re: [AMHERST-AMHERST-1970] Your analysis

Dear Biddy,

Thank you for your prompt reply. We disagree fundamentally, but at least now we do so explicitly and clearly.

Thank you for the cordiality of your closing thought.

Best,

John Greenberg

Posted in Petition to trustees | 3 Comments

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

Posted in Petition to trustees | 4 Comments

A man walks into a bar…

“If you think I have a right to live, you may find that what Mr. Arkes has said will turn your stomach.”

From: Robert Nathan
Sent: Saturday, June 05, 2010 4:38 PM
To: AMHERST-AMHERST-1970@CHAT.AMHERST.EDU
Subject: [AMHERST-AMHERST-1970] A man walks into a bar…

Dear classmates,

We’ve all been there.  Someone, usually very drunk, corners you in a bar and harangues you on the conspiracy to hide the cancer risks of cell phones or how 9/11 was actually the work of the Mossad.  I don’t want to sound like one of those people, and as of this morning I was planning to write to you to find out if anyone would object to having “Lives of Consequence: The E-Mails” published.  We could raise a nice piece of change and send the College a check.  But let’s save that for another time and go to two subjects of less importance but more immediacy — specifically, whether I’ve treated another human being unfairly and my right to stay alive.  Yes, my right to life.  (As Jack says in the movie: “I like my nose.  I like breathing out of it.”)

I want to thank Drew and Paul for their comments on our dinner guests, but honestly, believe me, it’s a subject I hoped to put aside.  It’s also a subject that, as far I can tell, many of my classmates have begun to find entirely over the top.  By the time of this reunion, I figured that most of you had heard about as much as you wanted to hear from me on the subject of Mr. Arkes.  And I’d said all I wanted to say.  Now I’ve been hearing that I treated the man unfairly, that Mr. Arkes, like many reasonable people, may not approve of gay marriage but has no general animosity toward gay people and wouldn’t do anything to actually harm them.  What can I say?  It just ain’t so.  If you think I have a right to live, you may find that what Mr. Arkes has said will turn your stomach.  Read what he says, read what he’s done, and then decide if he’s putting my life at risk.  And anyone who knows a teenage boy who might be gay should be seriously worried about what Mr. Arkes and his friends have in store for him.  We have enough dead kids already.

By reunion weekend, on Friday afternoon at about 3 o’clock, I had put the topic of Mr. Arkes away.  While the comparison to Leslie Gore is heartwarming (thank you, Drew), the fact is that our class’s reunion isn’t my party.  It was the class’s party, and it was a great party and then some, and I’m so very grateful to have been there.  So what about this question of who gets invited to dinner?  If some of those organizing the reunion, which is a lot of work, think it’s okay to have a dinner guest with views that I consider extremist, then at a certain point it’s not worth talking about.  I may think those views are dangerous, and they may in particular be dangerous to my own physical safety and well-being, but some people obviously don’t see Mr. Arkes as extremist at all.  For example, the editors of the Wall Street Journal think highly of him.  As do the editors of National Review.  As does the Family Research Council, an organization that Mr. Arkes has written for and been affiliated with and an organization that has the protection of fundamental human rights at the top of its agenda.  Its motto is “Defending Faith, Family, and Freedom.”

I might digress for a second to note that among the rights that the Family Research Council supports, alas, are not the rights of gay people.  But it apparently does support the very specific right to hire gay people to carry your luggage.  If you’re a co-founder of the Family Research Council and want the right to take a European vacation with a male prostitute, and then return to say that you hired him as your luggage-handler while having the right to deny that you’re a homosexual (and thus declare yourself a hypocrite) — all of those rights the FRC supports vigorously.  If you missed this particular piece of the news cycle, you missed one of the great American sideshows of the past few years.  Prior to this, the senator and the men’s room toe-tapping incident held the recent top prize for gall and hypocrisy.  It took a man of great stature, the co-founder of the Family Research Council, to snatch it away with such ease.

I think we can all agree that subscribing to or writing for the Wall Street Journal or the National Review doesn’t make you a bad person, any more than it makes me a bad person because I’ve written for The Nation.  We can’t quite say the same for people who are shills for the Family Research Council.  That puts you in the company of folks you might not want to be associated with.  They say and do some fairly dreadful things.  Among those things, I’ve noticed, is that they make pretty obvious the fact that they think it’s okay to kill me.  Trust me, I’m not exaggerating.  This isn’t about marriage or adoption.  This is about whether I get to breathe.  Yes, I’m concerned about my marriage rights, but far more concerned about my breathing rights.

One further digression.  A member of our class, a man for whom I really do have great respect, suggested prior to the reunion that gay people at least ought to be grateful for how far things have come.  He has a point.  They can’t arrest us for living together.  If we get beat up by a couple of thugs, a hate-crimes law might apply.  If we book a hotel room at the Holiday Inn, the Supreme Court said the cops can’t bust the door down and haul us off to jail.  (Although, given the current Court, who knows how long that right will last?)  I’m grateful that after 28 years of what seems to me to be marriage, my spouse is allowed by some (but not all) hospitals to sit in an Emergency Room cubicle while a doctor finds out if my chest pains equal a heart attack.  (They haven’t so far.)  I guess I should be miserable that my marriage doesn’t compare very well to Larry Craig’s or the marriages of the guy traveling with the male prostitute or Ted Haggard or all three of New Gingrich’s.  Now those guys, they’re living proof that my marriage is meaningless and theirs are sanctified because theirs are, in Mr. Arkes’s view, “natural.”  (I guess in The World According to Arkes, fidelity’s not terribly important.  News reports said that Mr. Gingrich’s first two experiences in wedlock ended after “affairs with younger women” while “his wives were seriously ill.”  Now there’s an ad for family values.)  I should mention that there were moments long ago in my own life when, like our classmate, I suggested that minorities be grateful for the crumbs they’d been tossed.  I look back and can’t imagine how such stupidity overtook me.   I’ll go to my grave knowing — and I’m serious — that St. Peter’s going to call me out on that stupidity and send me straight to Hell.

Back to the point, I had planned to leave the subject of Mr. Arkes alone, but it seems that Mr. Arkes himself may have wanted the subject brought up.  He managed to appear at the panel Duboff, Webber, and I did; he managed to sit in the top row; he managed to sit dead center.  He could hardly have called more attention to himself had he come dressed in the American flag.  He also apparently sent an emissary out to the back yard of Psi U to inform me that Mr. Arkes was a fine man, which I would discover if only I would come inside and just get to know him.

The questions that I’d wanted to leave aside were thus raised at the class’s party.  Mr. Arkes had put them back on the table.  Should he have been invited to dinner?  Depends on whom you like to break bread with.  Before the reunion, I was called to task for applying the word “fascist” to Mr. Arkes’s friends and their tactics.  The word was not chosen carelessly, as you may be able to see below.  Call me picky; I prefer not to dine with fascists, particularly the ones who are actively working to get me killed.  I’m sure plenty of people choose not to dine with gay people, and that’s their right.  It’s a free country, for the moment anyway.

What are our standards?  With whom would we dine?  Would we invite to dinner a political activist who announced that all soldiers who served in the United States Army in Iraq should be jailed as baby-killers?  Would we invite to our dinner someone who didn’t actually say we should jail soldiers as baby-killers but who celebrated an organization that promoted this as its policy?  If a man says, “I’m an Imperial Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan but I have no animosity toward black people,” would we invite him to dinner?   He only belongs to the Klan, but he doesn’t actively kill people.  What if a man belonged to a country club that didn’t admit blacks or Catholics or Jews or Mormons or women to play golf?  What if he said he belonged to the club but abhorred its position about access to the golf course?  Would that be a problem?

The point is this: Mr. Arkes’s positions on marriage and adoption are beside the point.  This is about fomenting hatred of people.  Hatred begets hatred begets violence.  That’s where my breathing rights enter the picture.

Mr. Arkes would have you believe that he doesn’t actively hate gay people or foment hatred against them; he’s merely interested in the sanctity of marriage.  But that’s not quite true.  Suppose an organization actively lobbied Congress not to pass a resolution condemning Uganda’s law saying that gay people should virtually be shot on sight.  Before Mr. Arkes cries “guilt by association,” let’s remember that we choose our friends and allies.  Mr. Arkes writes for publications of the Family Research Council.  (To be fair, he hasn’t said a word about the co-founder who toured Europe with the male prostitute.)  You can’t be actively associated with an organization and somehow selectively separate yourself from its public positions, particularly when you have espoused similar opinions elsewhere.  Even Justice Sotomayor knew these rules.  When she found herself to be a member of an organization that was comprised only of women and did not admit men, she resigned.  Mr. Arkes chooses to march in the Family Research Council’s parade, and the FRC had two choices about Congress and the laws of Uganda.  Option One: It could shut up and take no stand on the Ugandan law.  Option Two: It could actively lobby Congress not to condemn the law.  The FRC chose Option Two.

You don’t have to endorse gay rights in order to take a stand against a country that legislates the killing of gay people for the crime of being gay.  If you actively try to stop the condemnation of that killing, are you fomenting hatred against gay people?  I would argue, yes, you are.  If you make it easier for a government to kill gay people, are you making the lives of homosexuals everywhere more dangerous?  I would say, you are.

Even more to the point, if you suggest that teenagers should be taught in school that gay people are disease-carriers, as Mr. Arkes has suggested (see below), and that homosexuality can be cured, are you indirectly causing harm to gay teenagers?  Every respectable public health expert will tell you that the rise in the suicide rate among teenagers in this country can in significant measure be explained by the rise in the number of gay kids killing themselves.  At the risk of being intemperate, I would suggest that those who foment hatred against gay people, those who suggest that it’s perfectly okay to kill gay people, those who tell teenage boys that they are nothing but disease-carriers, those who implicitly tell parents to hate their own children — I would suggest that people who do these things have blood on their hands, the blood of children who killed themselves because of intolerance and hatred.

About that lobbying of Congress, it’s been reported many places, among them here:

http://voices.washingtonpost.com/right-now/2010/06/family_research_council_lobbie.html

As for Mr. Arkes’s affiliation with the Family Research Council, you can look here:

http://www.frc.org/get.cfm?i=WT00G3

To return to our reunion,  I think I can say with some assurance that my classmate was dead wrong about one thing.  I would not discover what a fine man Mr. Arkes is if only I got to know him.  The reason is, I do know him.  I know him by what he says and by the company he keeps and by what he and they say.  They say not only that states should never allow gay people to adopt children, they’ve suggested that gay people are so unfit to raise children that they should have their biological kids taken away from them by the state.  (I hear echoes here of something like Nazism, but then again, my hearing has worsened with age.)  The idea that gay people cannot be decent parents will come as a horrible shock to my two friends who’ve raised their two daughters to be the most wonderful, bright, and charming kids in the world.  Mr. Arkes appears in a video with his friend Charles Colson in which Colson announces “that failure to stop the ‘gay-marriage juggernaut … is Armageddon’ and the end to freedom of religion.”  The distinction between “freedom from” and “freedom of” got lost there, but these people aren’t big on intellectual honesty.  And the only sign I’ve noticed lately suggesting that Armageddon is near is that doctors who perform legal medical procedures are getting shot in their own homes.  Shooting a doctor who’s the father of four young children — I wonder, does Mr. Arkes think that’s a bad sign for society?  Two adults engaging in consensual sexual relations somehow, in my book, doesn’t seem quite as bad.  But I’m biased.  Killing people seems much worse to me than people having sex.

You’ll find description of the video and the prediction of Armageddon here:

http://www.rightwingwatch.org/content/afa%E2%80%99s-prop8ganda

About those teenagers, and as for fomenting dangerous hatred, here’s what Mr. Arkes suggests be taught in our schools:

“Then education it should be: The life-shortening hazards of homosexual behavior should be conveyed, along with information about the other hazards of incautious sex; the record of conversions from the homosexual life should be put in texts along with the inconclusive arguments over the ‘gay gene.'”

http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/005/614waegd.asp?page=2

If this isn’t fomenting hatred, I don’t know what is.  Imagine your son being gay and hearing this in a classroom.  Would you be surprised to find him hanging in the garage?  Talk about life-shortening hazards.  And about those, how did I manage to stay alive all these years?  How is it that of all the gay men I’ve known in 30 years, only two have died young of HIV?  As for all the gay women I’ve known, they’re all alive.  About those conversions “from the homosexual life,” there’s not a respectable or reputable psychiatrist anywhere who says such things are possible.  The American Psychiatric Association says that attempts to “cure” gay people are useless, cruel, and stupid.  Mr. Arkes may be right that arguments about the “gay gene” are inconclusive, but the argument itself is preternaturally dumb; justifying bigotry based on “causes” is simply ignorant.  Anyway, who in G-d’s name would choose to be gay and ask for a lifetime of abuse?  But if we accept the argument that “born gay” is somehow better than “choosing” to be gay, genetics strongly suggests that gay people are born, not made.  From the New York Times, December 17,  1991.  “We found 52 percent of identical twin brothers of gay men also were gay, compared with 22 percent of fraternal twins, compared with 11 percent of genetically unrelated brothers,” said J. Michael Bailey, an assistant professor of psychology at Northwestern University in Evanston, “which is exactly the kind of pattern you would want to see if something genetic were going on.” By “unrelated,” Dr. Bailey was referring to brothers by adoption. “The genetically most similar brothers were also the ones most likely to be gay, by a large margin,” he added.

Why did the Iowa Supreme Court overturn the state’s Defense of Marriage Act?  Did you guess right?  Here’s Mr. Arkes explaining that it’s Barack Obama’s fault.  Also the fault of the heathens.

“Why should it have been a surprise?  It was well understood, even before November, that the election of Barack Obama would be taken as the green light for judges throughout the country to plunge ahead to install same-sex marriage….  The judges insist that they detect a moral understanding grounded in religions conviction.  Hence, the law was imposing religious beliefs on those who don’t share them.”

http://www.thecatholicthing.org/content/view/1446/2/

First of all, Barack Obama has stated frequently his opposition to gay marriage.  Second, the underlying sophistry here is astounding.  Mr. Arkes argues that marriage is a religious institution, not a civil one.  Under that standard, the entire society is in trouble.  Marriage in this society is and always has been a civil contract governed by civil law, whether Mr. Arkes likes it or not.   Moreover, he argues that religious morality should be the only morality with legal weight.  This suggests that atheists are by definition immoral.  Shall we deny them the rights of citizenship?  Shall atheists be forbidden a marriage certificate?  And what a nifty bag of tricks Mr. Arkes employs!  First, it’s that passive voice trick.  “It was well understood before November…”   Really?  Understood by whom?  Was there a secret handshake Obama shared with judges all over the country?  Second, it’s the displacement trick.  Attack marriage rights, and when a court disagrees with you, announce that it’s Barack Obama’s fault.  If he worked a little harder, Mr. Arkes could probably blame Obama for the weather.

Here’s one so remarkable that you can hardly believe it.  This one will leave you wide-eyed and gaping.  Here is Mr. Arkes — while making his argument against gay marriage — on the broader subject of the federal courts:

“The law in Virginia once barred marriages across racial lines, and when the Supreme Court struck down that law in 1967, was that not a move to trump the local law on marriage with the law of the federal Constitution? And did we not find the same federal overriding of family law when the Court struck down a scheme of assigning children on the basis of color in dealing with divorce, and settling custody, in mixed racial marriages?”

 http://old.nationalreview.com/comment/comment-arkes080601.shtml

Mr. Arkes seems to suggest that Loving v. Virginia — staggeringly enough, decided when we were freshmen in college — was wrongly decided.  You’d have thought the Supreme Court knew what it was doing when it said states couldn’t forbid black people and white people from marrying each other.  For Mr. Arkes, this is strange but relatively safe territory.  He knows that miscegenation laws aren’t coming back, and he knows that few courts will say that children of one race cannot be adopted by parents of another.  But he must attack the Supreme Court on two counts as a preemptive attack on any federal judge who might apply the Equal Protection clause to gay people, their right to get married, or their right to adopt children.  It’s stunning when you think about it.  His venomous hatred for gay people is so strong that he’s casually willing to sound like the worst kind of unreconstructed racist.

Here’s Mr. Arkes on the subject of gay people pursuing their civil rights:

“Surely it is 1984 once more with the inversion of words: Under the banner of love there is loosed a barrage of hatred, and in the name of freedom, repression.”

http://www.thecatholicthing.org/content/view/2445/2/

Who’s repressing whom?  Who’s unleashing hatred?  When I was growing up, we called that “calling the kettle black.”  Which gay people have enough power to “repress” anyone else’s rights?  Apparently Mr. Arkes thinks if I get married, I have “repressed” his right to be a bigot.  Or I suppose if I have children, I’ve “repressed” his right to control my fertility.  That wouldn’t be a surprise since he’s already made clear that he thinks women have no right to control theirs.

There you are.  If I’m still around, I’ll look forward to our next reunion whether or not Mr. Arkes, if he’s still around, is invited to dinner.  Although if we’re going to invite him, let’s make it interesting.  Let’s invite Reverend Farrakhan and Gore Vidal (if he’s still alive he’ll be 90), and put them on a stage with Mr. Arkes to debate the future of our society.  Wouldn’t that be a whole lot more entertaining than anything Rob, Alan, and I could come up with?

For those who got this far, thank you for listening.

My best to all of you,

Robert

 

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