This article was collaboratively written by Paige Wirta, opinion editor, and Alaina Uhlenhoff, news reporter.
Being a student on Boise State’s campus is not without the few yet shockingly large controversies that arise.
A lot of the time, it’s an external figure like Keith Darrell or Big City Coffee that spurs up monumental headlines. However, this week we’ve seen one of Boise State’s own political science professors, Dr. Scott Yenor, in the spotlight for his unapologetically hurtful misogynistic comments and beliefs.
Among many other claims, Yenor stated that women should be kept out of medicine, engineering and law so that they can focus on “feminine goals,” like “homemaking and having children.”
For those watching this controversy unfold on their social media feeds, there should be a few clear takeaways. When women express discomfort or concern that they are being treated differently in the workplace, listen.
Men who think like Yenor are everywhere in academia and the greater workforce. They may not be common, but they are far from extinct, and they make their ideas known. If not to everyone, undoubtedly to the women they interact with. Most of them simply do not give national speeches about it.
Boise State’s response to Yenor’s blatant misogyny has been to issue statements in support of free speech, academic freedom and also support for women on their campus. Lots of words, but not a single one actually addresses Yenor or the concerns that onlookers may be experiencing. No hint of any action to review Yenor’s behavior, nor any rebuttals of his statements in a consensus from university administrators.
The lackadaisical response from Boise State is, however, unsurprising. The Idaho Legislature has continued to put pressure on Boise State, threatening to defund the university if free speech isn’t protected on campus.
After the arrest of traveling preacher Keith Darrell, Boise State reacted similarly, releasing a statement in support of free speech. So yes, the response is unsurprising and perhaps the safest decision for the university—however, that doesn’t make it less hurtful to the women on campus. The lack of a response is a response on it’s own, a loud one at that.
Boise State has work to do. The university must launch a full investigation into Professor Yenor’s grading, interactions with women students and his choices when evaluating peers for tenure.
In spring of 2021, an undocumented complaint from a single student brought all University Foundations (UF) 200 courses to a halt for an outside law firm to investigate. But less than a year later, a tenured professor says women shouldn’t be in academia or the workforce, and Boise State is suddenly the righteous defender of free speech.
Is this response politicized? Almost undoubtedly. Apparently, Boise State fears the conservative lawmakers who keep taking away their funding more than they fear the backlash of an association with Yenor and his remarks. Only time will tell if their risk assessment was well thought out.
There is no telling how many students or faculty members have felt belittled or condescended by Yenor. Worse, there is no telling how much bias has informed his evaluation of students and peers, because how can it not?
When studying political science at Boise State, students choose between three emphases. If they emphasize in public law and political philosophy, they are required to take Introduction to Political Philosophy. Yenor is the only faculty member who teaches this class.
This means that women studying political science at Boise State may be unable to avoid taking a class from him, even despite his public comments condemning their pursuit of an education and a career.
It is laughable to think a man who does not believe women belong in the workforce could accurately evaluate women in universities as they work towards their goals.
Not only that, but Dr. Julie VanDusky-Allen, an assistant professor of political science, asked “How I am supposed to go back to work knowing that someone who is directly responsible for evaluating my tenure profile thinks women shouldn’t be working and thinks working women are meddlesome and quarrelsome?”
Dr. VanDusky-Allen poses a fantastic question. How can women students, faculty and staff at Boise State feel safe when a tenured professor has publicly expressed that he doesn’t value any of them, and faced no consequence for it? Students cannot trust him to provide unbiased feedback and grades; colleagues cannot trust him to listen to their ideas or, as Dr. VanDusky-Allen states, evaluate and judge their tenure.
Even if he somehow manages to keep his incredibly misogynistic bias out of the workplace (which, frankly, seems impossible), his comments are a clear violation of Boise State’s Standard of Conduct in regards to workplace conduct. “Each employee is expected to do [their] utmost to promote a respectful workplace culture that is free from harassment, intimidation, bias or discrimination of any kind,” the standard reads.
How can Yenor abide by this conduct when he has openly expressed his extreme bias against women in the workplace? Even if it doesn’t arise in workplace conversations, and though his comments weren’t expressed in the workplace, there is no way that this bias is just set to the side.
Yenor’s comments are also a clear violation of Title IX, which protects women and minority groups from discrimination in education, including harassment and bullying. Yenor called women “medicated, meddlesome and quarrelsome”; is that not something only a bully would say? A bully who has a clear discriminatory belief against women in education?
These kinds of ignorant beliefs are not ones that can be overlooked whenever Yenor feels like it. Yenor believes women have no place in academia; as a professor in academia, he is actively rooting against a large number of his colleagues and students.
If Boise State is not going to stand up for women and make a show of support, then they need to prepare for the consequences. We are already seeing the negative effects of the legislature’s threats, and being forced to remain silent on this matter has the potential to create a dangerous environment on campus for women.
Yenor knew what he was doing when he made these claims openly. He knows Boise State can’t directly speak out against him. But there is still one problem.
When a man steps forward and claims women have no place in this world, that is not free speech—that is hate speech. That is discriminatory speech against women. Boise State, investigate Yenor. Support women.