Yenor’s firing won’t solve the larger problems many face

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Check out the counter opinion to this article here.


At a time when political polarization is at an all time high, honest yet civil discussions between disagreeing parties are more crucial than ever. Unfortunately, this has not been the case regarding a recent controversy over an opinion article written by Scott Yenor, a Boise State political science professor.

The controversy started earlier this month when the Boise State School of Public Service shared a link on their Facebook page to an article written by Yenor, entitled, “Transgender Activists Are Seeking to Undermine Parental Rights.”

In the article Yenor argues transgender activists may soon try to use the government to force parents into giving their children gender changing treatment. To back up his claim he points to laws in Norway, Ontario and Minnesota, which allow the state to advance what Yenor contends is a transgender agenda onto children. He also argues that, at the ballot box, parental rights are more likely to be infringed because less people are becoming parents.

As a result of this article many students have argued Yenor should be fired for his article. A petition online has gathered 1,900 signatures to get Yenor fired for his opinion.

Problematic Arguments

This article does not endorse Yenor’s opinion, in fact, there are key aspects of the article, such as Yenor’s assuming the worst personal motives to transgender advocates, that I strongly disagree with.

It’s also important to note when this article refers to “debate” it is not remotely trying to suggest that the identity or worth of transgender individuals is the topic to be debated. Transgender individuals deserve the utmost respect and care in the unique personal and social issues they encounter on an everyday basis.

What is up for debate is what public policies will best support transgender individuals. Local, state and national legislatures are already considering this issue. When considering a debate in terms of something that could be voted on by a legislature or the public, the best arguments need to be presented to convince the most people. In this regard, some of the response to Yenor’s article might not be the best way to convince people on the fence of this issue.

A formal condemnation of Yenor came from Micah Hetherington, president of the Trans Student Alliance. Hetherington wrote an open letter to news outlets and various parts of Boise State. It should also be stated that this analysis of one of Hetherington’s arguments is not a criticism of Hetherington himself or his position on transgender issues.

Yenor wrote a blatantly transphobic, homophobic, and misogynistic article without any research or effort to acknowledge the feelings and experiences of the trans community,” Hetherington wrote.

This is simply not a strong argument. Hurling a bunch of labels at Yenor does nothing to address his points or sources. Especially when Yenor is using these arguments to address public policy, a counter article or evidence of any kind needs to be presented to prove why Yenor is wrong.

Instead, students have demanded that Yenor be fired immediately. One such student was Ryan Orlando, a Boise State student who wrote an opinion article for the Odyssey Online entitled, “It’s Time For Boise State To Part Ways With Scott Yenor,” in which he argues not only for Yenor’s firing, but debate on some issues not be allowed at all.

“The simple fact of the matter is some political questions are not negotiable, and we need to stop pretending that they are,” Orlando wrote. “There are some issues where a ‘politically neutral’ stance is in fact siding with the oppressor. Homophobia and transphobia are two of those issues.”

But this rhetoric isn’t going to stop debates on policies from taking place. It doesn’t build dialogue with potential allies. Again, what’s being debated in this article is not the identity or worth of transgender individuals, but how best to argue for policies that can improve their lives. And when those lives are being put up to a vote, building dialogue with other people is one of the most important things to do.

Censorship doesn’t solve issues

The ultimate problem with calls for censorship such as these is they ultimately leads to a complete shutdown of conversation between different sides, which leads to polarization. It doesn’t eliminate a controversial viewpoint, it only masks it.

When division exists in an issue as heated as how to accommodate transgender individuals, there needs to be dialogue between differing sides. This is something many on the right and left believe in, even those as prominent at Barrack Obama.

“You should have an argument, but you shouldn’t silence them by saying ‘you can’t come (to the university) because I’m too sensitive to hear what you have to say,’” Obama said at an education town hall in 2015.

Certainly articles such as Yenor’s which are written with inflammatory language aren’t helpful, but demanding all people who might disagree with how to best address the issues facing transgender individuals be silenced isn’t helpful either. Firing Yenor will not stop potential legislation from being debated. Even if Yenor is fired, it doesn’t change his ability to vote or try to get others to vote with him on potential laws that can have a much bigger impact than an opinion article.

Got thoughts, opinions or rebuttals? Send a letter to the editor at opinion@stumedia.boisestate.edu.

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17 Comments

  1. Celeste Conrad on

    The author seems to have reduced the humanity of trans folks to a “logical argument” that can be explained in a 500-word article. I’m still trying to wrap my head around the fact that the word “transgenderism” was used twice in this article… and not ironically either. Trans people are people – not an ideology – which the phrase “ism” has reduced it to.

    Furthermore, you seem to think that everyone’s “opinion” on trans people are equally valid. They’re not. You can’t disagree on transness because, as stated about, TRANS PEOPLE ARE PEOPLE. How do you disagree with a person’s identity? To say that people are intolerant because they won’t accept disagreement on this issue shows your lack of personal understanding. That line of thinking applies to things like “I like eggs but you don’t. Let’s agree to disagree.” Not for things as ludicrous as Yenor’s article which is an attack on someone’s personness.

    My recommendation to you, Jacob Palmer, is to really reflect on this thought that I’ve said three times now (repetition is key). Trans people are people. We must see the full humanity of trans folks and articles like this and Yenor’s, which seem to have reduced trans people to a “conversation piece,” is harmful for the livelihood of trans people.

    • John Q Public on

      “The author seems to have reduced the humanity of trans folks to a “logical argument” that can be explained in a 500-word article.”

      I don’t see that anywhere in this article. I think you have committed a straw-man fallacy. The point he is trying to make is that “appeals-to-emotion” or “tu quoque” is not an argument. Yenor stated an opinion about the political climate around children making life altering decisions at a young age. If you want to critique his claims, you must provide a logical argument to follow.

      “I’m still trying to wrap my head around the fact that the word “transgenderism” was used twice in this article… and not ironically either. Trans people are people – not an ideology – which the phrase “ism” has reduced it to.”

      Transgenderism is defined in the oxford dictionary as “A state or condition in which a person’s identity does not conform unambiguously to conventional ideas of male or female gender.” So the author of this article used it correctly. Seeing how this debate has only risen to the public square in the last 30 years it seems to fit this article well. A transgender person abides by a set of ideas about who they are, which is in fact an ideology.

      “Furthermore, you seem to think that everyone’s “opinion” on trans people are equally valid. They’re not.”

      Anyone can have an opinion about anything, just like you in this comment. What separates opinions from arguments is laying out a logical flow of facts or ideas. Yenor backed up his claims with sources, why haven’t you?

      “How do you disagree with a person’s identity? To say that people are intolerant because they won’t accept disagreement on this issue shows your lack of personal understanding.”

      Ad hominem fallacy, try again please.

      “My recommendation to you, Jacob Palmer, is to really reflect on this thought that I’ve said three times now (repetition is key). ”

      Ad hominem fallacy, try again please.

      “Trans people are people. We must see the full humanity of trans folks and articles like this and Yenor’s, which seem to have reduced trans people to a “conversation piece,” is harmful for the livelihood of trans people.”

      Again this completely misses the point of Yenor’s piece, and reinforces this article about having a logical argument to present. You have not presented ONE argument that can be logically followed. You claim that Yenor’s opinions are harmful but have not backed up that claim , I would venture to say that Yenor’s article has done nothing to affect the rights granted by God to any american citizen. Just because it hurts your feelings, does not make the argument wrong.

      The university system has existed for over 800 years, and debate has always been its hallmark. The saying goes, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

      • Celeste Conrad on

        My main point is this: Trans people are people with emotions and dignity who just want to live and be left alone. If your take away was how I’m not crafting the perfect argument, cool, ain’t nothing I can do about that.

        Rather than coming across like a pompous know-it-all who can list off logical fallacies and patronizingly tell me what I need to do, I prefer to hear the lived experiences of my trans siblings who say that articles like Yenor’s garbage is harming the community. If that doesn’t neatly fit into the equation of the perfect argument, then it’s a good thing I’m not a philosophy major.

        • John Q Public on

          Hello Celeste Conrad, I am glad that you are willing to respond,
          I would like to let you know that I am not a philosophy major, my degree is in the hard sciences 🙂

          “Rather than coming across like a pompous know-it-all who can list off logical fallacies and patronizingly tell me what I need to do, I prefer to hear the lived experiences of my trans siblings who say that articles like Yenor’s garbage is harming the community.”

          Attacking my character does not change Yenor’s points or my points, the purpose of debate is to find ways to critique ideas. My criticisms of your original comment do not attack your character or what you know, but it does show that you argument does not stand up to debate. Words do matter, its the very reason that western society has survived this long.

          I might also add that in one sentence you say “Trans people are people with emotions and dignity” and then one sentence later you say “Rather than coming across like a pompous know-it-all “ seems to be a contradiction to write I don’t deserve dignity like trans people do.

          The main problem with appealing to emotion is that it’s actually the tool adopted by totalitarian regimes as a way to divide people. Nazism is the most common one thrown around today, but communism has even more blood on its hands. In both cases, their rise in Germany and the Soviet Union started in part by painting the opposition as evil, and casting their opinions as “anti-german” or “against the proletariat”. Emotions get in the way of rational thinking, and can lead people into doing horrible things, the Holocaust and Holodomor stand as testaments. I would really like to now how Yenor’s political views are harmful in any way, do they seek to deprive life or liberty from transgender people? If he does neither of those things, then how can his statements be harmful? Especially when there are dozens of African and middle eastern countries where transgender people are executed. Wouldn’t you consider this to be the actual evil that the LGBT community faces?

          The more subtle part of Yenor’s article is how feminism started the movement to make society post-structural(such as the nuclear family and cultural/national identity), which also undermines the whole purpose of university, to being the best and brightest to debate ideas. As a result of this movement, emotion is being given more power as a debate tool, and when someone has an idea that falls into a wide variety of “-phobic” buzzwords, it starts to look exactly like the totalitarian way of silencing those deemed dangerous. Historically this road only leads to the destruction of western society.

          “If that doesn’t neatly fit into the equation of the perfect argument, then it’s a good thing I’m not a philosophy major.”

          Most arguments don’t fit into an equation, most take thousand of pages to explain. But in this case it seems really easy if you can find a concrete example of where in Yenor’s article he demeans transgender people. I would encourage you to really consider the power of good rhetoric, university is supposed to challenge thinking, not create mob mentalities.

          Also, Benjamin Chafetz says hello

          • “I would really like to now how Yenor’s political views are harmful in any way, do they seek to deprive life or liberty from transgender people?”

            When we look at the Pyramid of Hate, we can see how personal bias (then further into individual acts of prejudice) can lead to emotional and physical violence.

            “Especially when there are dozens of African and middle eastern countries where transgender people are executed. Wouldn’t you consider this to be the actual evil that the LGBT community faces?”

            Absolutely agree that executions should not be happening (period, in my opinion). I don’t believe this is a “one or another” scenario. Rather, I condemn the executions of trans folks all over the world – the United States included – AND condemn the prejudiced article written by Yenor.

            “Historically this road only leads to the destruction of western society.”

            You say this like it’s a bad thing. Western society is usually entrenched in white supremacist, imperialistic, capitalistic, heteropatriarchy built on the backs of enslaved people on land that was stolen so yeah, totally about dismantling that.

  2. There are so many things wrong with this piece factually and otherwise I don’t even know where to begin. Have you kept track of everything that’s happened this weekend? Did you live the same series of events? Did you comprehend or try to hear any other voice but your own in the outcry?

    Transphobia is not up for debate by anyone other than those who experience it. It’s is not an opinion. It is destructive, hurtful, life threatening.

    I’m am ashamed the arbiter would put out such a piece in this time when those who are marginalized need the most support. Get your “opinion piece” garbage out of the university paper.

    • God forbid we have an intellectual discussion. If you don’t put my emotional well being first and foremost, then I don’t want to hear about it, eh Comrade Johnson?

  3. I’ve tried to leave a comment for Jacob Palmer, “opinion editor,” but apparently am not able to do so. Is there a certain procedure other than submitting the comment here, where indicated? His “opinion piece” is an ill-written sham, and others should be able to comment. Thank you.

      • Jacob Palmer. You’re a cis white guy, correct? You are clearly in over your head on this one as evidenced by your embarrassing lack of understanding of either the real institutional issues surrounding the Yenor opinion piece or the hundreds of legitimate complaints and concerns that have come from university students, staff and faculty over the last week. Did you even read those well-reasoned, thoughtful concerns, Jacob? Do you understand that much of the problem lies in what it means for a public institution to publicize a poorly written, nonacademic, discriminatory slam against women, members of the LGBT community and trans men and women in particular? Did you even consider the position of a vulnerable person taking one of Yenor’s classes and what he or she must experience, knowing of his bigotry and dogmatism?

        Did you know, Jacob, that Yenor himself publicized his nonacademic opinion piece? Oh, and I’m not “calling names,” as you accused another person who argued coherently for an institutional look at this state employee’s flagrant airing of his bigotry in the apparent name of academics. If you read Yenor’s article, you’ll find no original research; it’s merely an opinion of one white cis guy who has represented the alt-right on several occasions in his work with the Heritage Foundation. Did you know that the Daily Signal, printed by the ultra-right wing Heritage Foundation, isn’t an academic forum? Its contributions are certainly not peer-reviewed. I’d hate for you to think I’m just calling names, gosh! This is simply the truth, as were the words of the Trans Alliance president. Did you even know that in order to be considered an academic article, it must be published in a peer-reviewed publication? The school, instead of admitting its mistake in calling this unresearched opinion piece “scholarly,” instead had its dean gunning for the right of a guy just like you–white, cis, not a very good writer–to publicize his hatred for all to see. And the dean continues to dig in, refusing to consider that he just might be wrong. That is one of the issues, Jacob, and you really missed it since you didn’t do your research.

        As private citizens who don’t speak for the university, we have a great deal of latitude in our behavior. Yet Yenor went so far as to identify himself in The Daily Signal as a prof at Boise State. He was acting as a representative of this public university by posting his opinions. Do you get that, Jacob? This is a state-funded, public institution. Think about that.

        Jacob, do you get that, as a cis white guy, you have never had to worry if someone was going to kidnap, rape and murder you, then mutilate your body in the manner committed against one of our own students less than one year ago? Are you aware of the disproportionate number of trans individuals who die at their own hand every year? Do you have any idea of the daily violence trans men and women face just because of who they are? Why do you think you’ve never had to worry about any of that, Jacob? This is a highly vulnerable population that right-wingers like you and Yenor just don’t give a hoot about. I strongly recommend that you take the new Trans 101 class offered by the Gender Equity Center. You have a lot to learn.

        Lucky for you, Jacob, you don’t have to worry about your own safety on a daily basis. You don’t have tenured profs proclaiming your rights as invalid (trans individuals are second-class citizens, you know, as are women and non-hetero folks). Ah, to be you! A white guy with a teeny bit of power! You went to your privileged safe space, as “opinion editor,” and threw red herrings (i.e., insisting that the letter from the Trans Alliance president was a simple matter of “calling names”—you really didn’t read his letter, did you?) and then you blithely and without much believability said that this is a “complex and important” topic. Bullshit. You don’t believe that, and have unsuccessfully failed in trying to mask the real problems identified time and again by those protesting Yenor’s dogmatic voice. Did you think about researching your “opinion piece” before writing it, Jacob? Or, like Yenor, did you just sit down and spew forth what was on your white guy mind? You say that this discussion “. . . deserves much better than mere name calling, social media outrage and silencing of opposition.” Hmm. Have you ever been silenced, Jacob? As a white cis guy, I suspect not. Try talking to a trans man or woman. You’ll get a real education in being silenced, being called names, and facing social media (as well as everyday) outrage.

        One thing is clear: You don’t know what you’re talking about. And you certainly need to study the issues before posting something as arrogant as your “opinion piece.” Clearly, you have an agenda that precedes the campus concern over Yenor’s smugness in advertising his “opinion piece” (not “article”) in the university news update. (Yes, faculty and staff must get their own information to news services, and Yenor did just that.) You, Jacob, have personally gone public with alt-right positions such as speaking in favor of Idaho legislation allowing a loosening of gun restrictions on campus. Some of your previous Arbiter opinion pieces carry a definite alt-right tone. And you’re the opinion editor? Poor Boise State students. They deserve much better.

        I’m very concerned that an “opinion editor” took it upon himself to resort to his own political beliefs and gender ideology in printing what amounts to yet another attack on those different from yourself. You come across as quite uneducated as evidenced by your use of the made-up word “transgenderism” and your misspelling of the student organization president’s name. Tsk, tsk, aren’t those journalism 101 lessons?

        Next time you choose to attack without research, without thought, and without sensitivity, Jacob, how about considering who you speak for? Yourself? Not good enough. We really don’t care to hear what yet another alt-right cis white guy has on his little brain today. Do your editing, and leave the reasoned, thoughtful opinions to those who have them.

        • While I respect your right to post your opinions on here and engage in a thoughtful discussion, and I do agree with your contention that people on this issue should know what they’re talking about and do their research. Which is why I take issue with your repeated false accusations against me and this paper.

          You claim I am censoring your comments, that is false. You have posted five times on this article, more than any other person. Our head editor has already explained that we are currently adjusting to the new website layout and our system isn’t perfect, hence the delay in some of your comments.

          You claim I didn’t do any research on this issue by misspelling Hetherington’s name and his student organization. I did not. I copied word for word his own words from his open letter to the Arbiter. I have also made further edits to the article to ensure the upmost accuracy.

          You have misrepresented my position on issues as being “alt-right,” multiple times I have explained I am not alt-right and have in fact condemned the movement strongly.

          I take most issue with your mischaracterizing my race as “white,” and then attacking me for that perceived race. I am hispanic. Race isn’t something that should be used for personal attacks of any kind.

          Again, I agree with your statement that people should do research before they write. I stand by my statement.Transgender identities are not for debate, but people will still vote on what they think is the best legislative action to take regarding how the government will adapt society to better accommodate transgender individuals. I would suggest not using tactics such as smearing people as alt-right, defaming the staff of a newspaper, and mischaracterizing someones race and then attacking them for it.

          I do want to engage with the transgender community and anyone who feels like they have been underrepresented or discriminated against. I want to build dialogue, but the key to dialogue is civility. You are free to continue posting on this page because I do stand up for the first-amendment rights of everyone, and you are more than free to write in via e-mail if you want to post a letter to the editor. But I would suggest you refrain from going to tactics so low as trying to use race as a personal attack.

    • Agreed. Despite this student winning awards previously for his news stories, he has taken a nose dive into the abyss by spewing forth ill-informed, thoughtless opinions (everyone has one. . . ) because, hey, he’s the opinion editor now! This “opinion” wasn’t even proofread, and Palmer misspelled the name of the Trans Alliance President. He also used a made-up word, “transgenderism.” Does no one at the arbiter edit anyone else’s work? Where is the faculty adviser? Ridiculous.

      I think a better title for Jacob Palmer would be “former opinion editor.” The Arbiter can do a lot better than this. Jacob Palmer is a known alt-right supporter who testified in favor of students having greater freedom to pack heat when the Idaho state legislature considered legislation in 2014. Does he speak for you? Most likely not.

      • Thank you for your feedback. I am sorry if my article gave the impression that I do not value our transgender students or their identities. I should have done more to make this clear and I am taking all of the student feedback very seriously. When I wrote this article I spelled Hetherington’s name and student organization as it appeared in the letter he sent to our paper, but I do appreciate some students pointing out mistakes I made in my article regarding appropriate words to use and the correct spelling of student organizations. I am working to address these mistakes in revising this article

        I do respectfully take issue of your characterization of me as “alt-right.” As a student of color I have never claimed to be alt-right nor do I support any of the vile ideology that white supremacist alt-right organization has. The following is a post from social media I made in the wake of the Charlottesville attack. I’m sorry if you got the impression I was aligned with that ideology.

        “Like the vast majority of people on the left and right, I’m shocked and disgusted at the actions that took place in Charlottesville. I hope justice is served and the hateful white supremacist attacker is prosecuted and sentenced to the fullest extent of the law.

        At the same time I will not legitimize the alt-right white supremacists by making them seem like a legitimate and sizable political movement. I won’t be reading dozens of online hot-takes or sharing every Facebook post I see claiming “Nazis are taking over the USA.” Like other small despicable movements such as the Westboro Church, I condemn them and move on. They don’t deserve my or anyone else’s recognition.”

  4. Wondering why the Arbiter editors aren’t posting comments that take issue with Jacob Palmer’s “opinion piece?” I’ve written two that haven’t been published. Friends have written comments that haven’t been published. Is the Arbiter now engaging in censorship as well as promoting alt-right opinions? Thought this was a STUDENT newspaper.

  5. To those trying to leave a comment here: Despite Jacob Palmer positioning himself as eager to hear opposing arguments, he is in fact censoring comments. None of my 3 comments were posted. Palmer said “Censorship of opinions goes against the heart of a free and educated society.” Well, Jacob Palmer, I’m not sure where your censorship of opposing comments leaves the Arbiter other than still stuck in the low end of a pack of lesser-quality state schools.

    So if your comment ends up not getting posted, it’s probably because the “opinion editor” has thin skin despite his admonitions otherwise.

    • Brandon Rasmussen on

      Hi there,

      I’m Brandon, the editor-in-chief of The Arbiter. I want to apologize for the delay between your writing and the posting of your comments. While this is Jacob’s article, he is not the one approving the comments. We recently went through a re-launch for our website, and we’re still working out the kinks. Please rest assured that your comments are not being censored—any delays are simply a hiccup in our new WordPress system. We’re working hard to resolve the issue.

      Thank you for your patience.

      Brandon Rasmussen

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