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Posts Tagged ‘sensitivity’

A professor at UC Irvine refuses to take sexual harassment sensitivity classes. Here’s why:

First of all, I believe the training is a disgraceful sham. As far as I can tell from my colleagues, it is worthless, a childish piece of theater, an insult to anyone with a respectable IQ, primarily designed to relieve the university of liability in the case of lawsuits. I have not been shown any evidence that this training will discourage a harasser or aid in alerting the faculty to the presence of harassment.

What’s more, the state, acting through the university, is trying to coerce and bully me into doing something I find repugnant and offensive. I find it offensive not only because of the insinuations it carries and the potential stigma it implies, but also because I am being required to do it for political reasons. The fact is that there is a vocal political/cultural interest group promoting this silliness as part of a politically correct agenda that I don’t particularly agree with.

The imposition of training that has a political cast violates my academic freedom and my rights as a tenured professor. The university has already nullified my right to supervise my laboratory and the students I teach. It has threatened my livelihood and, ultimately, my position at the university. This for failing to submit to mock training in sexual harassment, a requirement that was never a condition of my employment at the University of California 30 years ago, nor when I came to UCI 11 years ago.

I also found this bit interesting:

I am not normally confrontational, so I sought to find a means to resolve the conflict. I proposed the following: I would take the training if the university would provide me with a brief, written statement absolving me of any suspicion, guilt or complicity regarding sexual harassment. I wanted any possible stigma removed. “Fulfilling this requirement,” said the statement I asked them to approve, “in no way implies, suggests or indicates that the university currently has any reason to believe that Professor McPherson has ever sexually harassed any student or any person under his supervision during his 30-year career with the University of California.”

The university, however, declined to provide me with any such statement.

(Hat Tip: Instapundit)

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Ed Winkleman writes:

My personal take on political correctness is that it’s an artificial construct that has benefits in the short run, but will outlast its usefulness and eventually become harmful. What I mean by that is shaming people into considering others’ feelings (or at least keep their hurtful opinions silent) long enough for those others to gain some power socially is a good thing, but for everyone to truly be on an equal playing field, that pseudo-politeness eventually has to end. It’s foolish to think you’ll ever get everyone to like/accept each other. The only practical thing you can hope for is that people have equal opportunity and equal protection under the law and that with those protections they can fairly fend for themselves.

I am no big fan of political correctness. I articulated my thoughts recently in a comment at Quirky Indian’s blog:

Personally, I dislike political correctness and think it does more harm than good.

It is of course a laudable trait to keep in mind other people’s feelings. And I have nothing against those who choose not to use phrases that might demean certain groups of people. However, there are pitfalls to taking these kinds of things too seriously. Today, we are in an era where political correctness often takes precedence over accuracy or truth, or where it is deemed right to suppress free expression simply to avoid hurting certain people. Or, it leads to situations like you mention, where certain groups get worse treatment than others. It leads to other absurdities too, with alarming regularity.

The better alternative to political correctness is a culture where people are — well — less sensitive. I am not saying this lightly. I am fully aware of the historical suppression of certain peoples and also of the power that words can carry. But everything is ultimately about striking balance and it seems to me that if people display a little less offence and a little more humor in dealing with perceived slights or offences, and able to, for instance, laugh off a politically incorrect joke rather than get worked up over it, we will all be better off. And the kind of culture I am proposing would also be one in which freedom of expression is accorded more respect than it is today in much of the world.

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