Letter to the editor: Response to Yenor discussion

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Editor’s note

The following letter was sent to The Arbiter on Thursday, Nov. 9. While the letter expresses common values shared by the faculty of the School of Public Service in general, it is also in response to the discussion (on-campus and otherwise) surrounding an incident in August when the School shared an article by political science professor Scott Yenor on its Facebook page. The article, titled “Transgender Activists Are Seeking to Undermine Parental Rights,” as well as the School’s posting of it drew the attention of students, faculty and staff, sparking a discussion that included a student petition to terminate Yenor’s position as faculty.

According John Freemuth, a professor in the School of Public Service, the faculty of the School have been constructing this declaration since August as a way to show students that professors are still engaged in this topic. Freemuth said the faculty of the School wishes to express that while they are in full support of “free, critial, rigorous and constructive” discussion around scholarly and related articles such as that involving professor Yenor, these discussions should be held with civility in mind. This letter has also been sent to The Idaho Statesman, as the faculty involved in the crafting of the letter hope this message will be read by students and anyone else who may be involved in our campus conversation now or in the future.

Letter by the faculty of the School of Public Service

We, the undersigned tenured faculty in the School of Public Service at Boise State University, affirm the following as shared principles:

1. Students of all races, ethnicities, genders, sexualities, religions, political perspectives, ages and body types belong in our classrooms and are welcome in our classrooms. Diverse bodies, identities and perspectives enrich the educational experience of all.

2. Individuals have the right to engage in spirited public debate and to access the rights guaranteed by our constitution; in fact, this is one of the primary privileges of participating in higher education. Participating in such debate, presenting unpopular ideas and enabling politically marginalized groups to voice opposition are examples of the exercise of these rights.

3. Our fellow faculty members have the right and responsibility to directly engage in the crucial debates of the day, even when it means we must defend the publication of controversial viewpoints to broader publics. However, we also believe that all academic contributions should be intellectually robust and based on evidence and reason, especially when consequences of this research could be injurious to vulnerable groups or the civic mission of the university. Thus, we affirm the role of academic freedom and respect for the principles embodied in the first Amendment.

4. At the same time, those of us who are researchers, scholars and instructors should adhere to the highest standards of scholarly and public expression. We have a responsibility to be reflexive, transparent and explicit about when our own political ideologies inform our research and writing. We believe in standards of respect, decency and inclusion, and understand that they are difficult to reestablish once breached.

5. We affirm to our students, colleagues and the campus community the belief that excellent teaching and research includes being guided by compassion and understanding toward others, including considering how certain communities have been abused, repressed or oppressed.

6. Universities are intended to be civic spaces, which sometimes means they are sites of enormous contestation and conflict. There must be room for all viewpoints and all types of inquiry, whether conservative, liberal or another. We strongly believe that social and political issues of import are complex, deserve full and robust intellectual examination and should be subject to interrogation. We will continue to teach our classes, do our research and perform service to the university and our communities guided by these principles.

Signed,

Michael Allen, Associate Professor

Amanda Ashley, Associate Professor

Lisa Bostaph, Associate Professor

Ross Burkhart, Professor

Steven Feldstein, Associate Professor

Elizabeth Fredericksen, Professor

John Freemuth, Professor

Lori Hausegger, Associate Professor

Laura King, Associate Professor

Jen Schneider, Associate Professor

Justin Vaughn, Associate Professor

Tony Walsh, Professor

Brian Wampler, Professor

Stephanie Witt, Professor

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