Saturday, May 25, 2013

Words Matter

During inaugural week, Lyndon State College’s new President, Dr.  Joe Bertolino, presented a lively sketch he and his partner have performed all over the country entitled “When Gays Move into Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood”.  Dr. Bertolino did a one man version of the presentation at the college on April 15th as a part of the week long celebration of his inauguration. The presentation was billed as a “funny, interactive, and challenging program to get today’s college students thinking about important ‘community issues’ such as diversity appreciation, homophobia, and heterosexism.”

The presentation was spirited and enlightening.  Dr. Bertolino’s theme was that we need be inclusive and tolerant of people who are different from ourselves—to get to know people for who they are so that myths and stereotypes can be dispelled.   That is a superb goal, and Dr. Bertolino should be commended for having the courage to bring the issue of intolerance before the community in such a public way.  By dong this, he is fulfilling the highest calling of an educator.

Tolerance and respect for people of different backgrounds and perspectives are lessons our children ought to be learning all their lives, and particularly when they enter the world of post secondary education.  Academia is where our children should be exposed to different ideas and viewpoints, because that exposure fosters critical thinking skills so important to a meaningful and productive life.

President Bertolino has just hired Dr. Kellie Bean as LSC’s new provost.  A provost is the senior academic administrator of an institution of higher learning.  It is the second most powerful position in the college.
Here are some excerpts from Dr. Bean’s writings which reveal how she feels about diversity appreciation:

On military veterans and military contractors:    “Wives and girlfriends face the implicit (and sometimes very real) violence imported home by their veteran loved ones and our government panders to the rapist, old boys club culture of military contractors.”

On our military heroes who liberated Iraq:  “What to say to women facing the misogynist fallout of the violence of war? ‘Step away from the fight, protect yourself’ may work as a temporary tactic, but cannot suffice in the face of institutional misogyny and systemic indifference.  …And as long as this is the case, the boys of Iraq and Washington will continue to be boys--and the women around them will continue to pay the price.”

On President Bush (and the tens of millions who voted for him)   “Americans live under an illegitimate leader, who was and is demonstrably unfit for office. A man whose most noteworthy accomplishments previous to his appointment [sic.] as President had been avoiding military service, drug addiction, not making a killing in oil on his own, and signing record numbers of death warrants as governor of Texas. Ours is a President with an appetite for torture…”  Dr. Bean’s venom is so poisonous that she defames our President with no regard for the truth.  President Bush was a military veteran, was never a drug addict, and never signed one death warrant. (The Texas constitution does not allow a governor to sign a death warrant.)

On Sarah Palin (and the tens of millions who voted for her):  “She is a walking stereotype, an abomination: all dressed up and hollowed out, a pin-up, or blow-up doll … upon which men and women alike project their ugliest fantasies of women.  Sarah Palin is …confused, mean-spirited, and kinda [sic.] dumb.  Palin endorses a movement proud to call for a return to Jim Crow laws, that places spunk above political experience, and sees truck ownership as a necessary qualification to hold public office.”  The Jim Crow reference in Dr. Bean’s statement is rich in irony:  no modern movement advocates a return to Jim Crow laws, and Jim Crow laws were in place for 100 years because elected Democrats enacted and enforced them.  The Republican Party, of which Sarah Palin is a member, vigorously opposed those laws.

On Fox News (and the millions who watch):  “Consider: pornography is visual entertainment which appeals to the visceral needs or drives of its audience; it offers a pleasure in looking, in watching the domination or degradation of one category of individual by another. see: Fox News”

On the tens of millions who voted for Republicans:  “My impulse is to say they get what they deserve, have gotten the obscene war, the rotting economy, the repressive culture they deserve.”

In her many writings, Dr. Bean frequently uses the word “misogynist”  to describe our country, our voters, our culture and the academic world she has been in for over a quarter century.   Her views are not confined to her writings.  It is surely no coincidence that one of her students who rated her on the “Rate My Professor” website recommended her class to others “unless you are super conservative misogynist”.   The definition of misogynist is a person who hates or mistreats women. 

Dr. Bean’s tweets and Facebook postings about those with whom she disagrees are too vulgar to be printed in a newspaper.

This is what passes for diversity appreciation and tolerance in institutions of higher learning.  The new provost believes that our community is inhabited by people who hate or mistreat women, that those of us who vote Republican, are politically conservative, or who admire Sarah Palin and President Bush are evil, stupid and racist, that those of us who listen to Fox News have a thing for pornography, and that the military veterans of our community are violent and dangerous. 

Dr. Bertolino emphasized in his April 15th presentation that “words matter” and “words hurt”.   Yet Lyndon State College’s new provost has published many words that are defamatory and wounding —and certainly not inclusive or accepting of those who disagree with her.    Dr. Bean’s belief that people who have viewpoints different from hers are dangerous, violent, evil, racist, dumb and even criminal demonstrates a lack of tolerance and a fear of diversity.

In his presentation, Dr. Bertolino said: “Everyone should be treated with dignity and respect,” and he urged the audience to “create an atmosphere of acceptance.” Dr. Bertolino is right.  Yet Dr. Bertolino’s new provost treats with disdain, disrespect and intolerance those with whom she disagrees.

Dr. Bertolino ended his April 15th presentation with a poem about Rosa Parks.  The poem states that Ms. Parks said one word that changed the nation.  That word was “no.” 

It is time to say “No” to academic leaders who disrespect and defame people of divergent views.  Dr. Bean’s narrow minded and illiberal view of millions of Americans and their viewpoints does a profound disservice to the young people who are coming to college to widen their intellectual horizons.