UArts students are asking that one of their teachers be fired and replaced by a queer person of color.
The University of Arts in Philadelphia is currently in controversy over one of its most polarizing teachers.
Camille Paglia has had a long career of making talking about gender and sexuality, but it seems her recent statements about sexual assault survivors and transgender people have been especially incendiary.
In the video below, Paglia speaks on feminism, gender issues, victim mentality, and the #MeToo movement. She beleives that young women today have been raised in a “bourgeois culture.” As such, she asserts that young women walk aroudn being aware of the dangers in life.
Once these statements became viral, a 2017 interview between Paglia and the Weekly Standard resurfaced. In the interview, Paglia refuted the scientific standing of surgeries and medications to transition between genders.
In the article she said:
“It is certainly ironic how liberals who posture as defenders of science when it comes to global warming (a sentimental myth unsupported by evidence) flee all reference to biology when it comes to gender. Biology has been programmatically excluded from women’s studies and gender studies programs for almost 50 years now. Thus very few current gender studies professors and theorists, here and abroad, are intellectually or scientifically prepared to teach their subjects. The cold biological truth is that sex changes are impossible. Every single cell of the human body remains coded with one’s birth gender for life. Intersex ambiguities can occur, but they are developmental anomalies that represent a tiny proportion of all human births.”
That said, Paglia made sure to mention that she supports equal rights. She also does not object to people defining their sexual orientations or gender identities however they please.
In response to the video and interview, students at UArts protested one of Paglia’s lectures and book sales. They expressed the desire to have Paglia fired for her polarizing arguments.
David Yager, the president of the university, however, does not agree with his students. To Yager, the idea of silencing a teacher because her beliefs are different than the students is an affront to academic freedom and free speech. Yager then distributed a letter to students to say as much.
“Unfortunately, as a society we are living in a time of sharp divisions — of opinions, perspectives and beliefs — and that has led to decreased civility, increased anger and a ‘new normal’ of offense given and taken,” wrote Yager. “Across our nation it is all too common that opinions expressed that differ from another’s — especially those that are controversial — can spark passion and even outrage, often resulting in calls to suppress that speech. That simply cannot be allowed to happen.”
The letter adds:
“I firmly believe that limiting the range of voices in society erodes our democracy. Universities, moreover, are at the heart of the revolutionary notion of free expression: promoting the free exchange of ideas is part of the core reason for their existence. That open interchange of opinions and beliefs includes all members of the UArts community: faculty, students and staff, in and out of the classroom. We are dedicated to fostering a climate conducive to respectful intellectual debate that empowers and equips our students to meet the challenges they will face in their futures.”
The letter ended with:
“I believe this resolve holds even greater importance at an art school. Artists over the centuries have suffered censorship, and even persecution, for the expression of their beliefs through their work. My answer is simple: not now, not at UArts.”
Now more students, and some faculty/staff, have critiqued Yager on this stance. A petition has arisen asking that transgender students and survivors of sexual assault be supported instead of Paglia.
“The University of the Arts provided space and promotion for Paglia to give a public lecture entitled ‘Ambiguous Images: Sexual Duality and Sexual Multiplicity in Western Art + Androgyny’ on Tuesday, April 9th at 7:00pm. Paglia’s books were being sold in the lobby. Students protested this event, staging peaceful a sit-in in the lobby and chanting ‘we believe survivors, trans lives matter.’”
“Despite a supposed commitment to ‘diversity and inclusion,’ and despite explicit Title IX policies protecting the rights and dignity of transgender students and victims of sexual assault, UArts President David Yager issued a statement in which he dismissed the student protest of Paglia’s event as ‘censorship’ and likened it to ‘persecution’ of artists. This only illustrates President Yager’s concern for Paglia’s first amendment rights, with no value placed on the same rights students hold to express and defend who they are.”
The petition demands the following:
- That Camille Paglia is removed from UArts faculty and replaced by a queer person of color. If she has tenure and thus can’t be removed, they ask that alternative classes be offered by professors who respect students and survivors of sexual assault.
- That UArts stop giving Camilla Paglia platforms like selling her books and speaking at public events.
- That UArts and David Yager apologize for the whole situation and Yager’s letter.
- That UArts sit with transgender students and survivors of sexual assault to discuss how to support such students in the future.
The school has yet to respond to the petition.