Sep 292010
 

Earlier this month, I wrote a blog post about the multiple attacks against sex ed on college campus and the absolutely ridiculous hysteria driven by the so called “concerns” of economics professor Margaret Brooks (please note that she has absolutely no connection to sex ed of any sort). The Chronicle of Higher Education published an op-ed piece earlier, a piece that had no place in an influential academic journal. In this piece, Brooks sullies the concept of a decades-old, nationally celebrated sexuality education event series for university students (please keep in mind these students are almost all over 18, and are considered adults in our culture) called Sex Week. Instead, she rekindles the “think of the children!” outcry, causing unfounded drama and concern for the future of sex education on college and university campuses.

It is clear, she writes, that many people and organizations claim to be experts in the field of sex education and are eager to gain access to the hearts, minds, and yes, perhaps even the bodies of our college students. Strong measures are needed to preserve students’ sexual health and safety, as well as colleges’ integrity and reputations. Um. What? Really? I obviously spent two full years of graduate school, as well as tens of thousands of dollars for education, and hundreds of hours of pro bono work solely for the purpose of getting into the minds of college students. Please note the dripping sarcasm.

With the help of Logan Levkoff, a large group of sexuality educations, university faculty/staff and college/university students on Sex Week planning committeescomposed a Letter to the Editor of The Chronicle of Higher Education, and sent it to the editors on September 16th.

Dear Chronicle Editors,

We were deeply disappointed by your recent publication of economics Professor Margaret Brooks’ op-ed, “‘Sex Week’ Should Arouse Caution Most of All.” It is clear that Margaret Brooks has not only misrepresented herself, but also seeks to discount over 40 years of legal precedent upholding student rights to freedom of speech and freedom of assembly. The policies she calls for attack academic freedom itself, representing a clear return to the pre-1960’s-era doctrine of in loco parentis. Moreover, her suggestion to use far-fetched “sexual harassment liability” as a stick to force implementation of her proposed policies is nothing short of outrageous.

In her article, Brooks displays willful ignorance or calculated deception by omitting important information related to Sex Week events, making the article little more than fear- and shame-based grandstanding. She writes that Sex Week events occur unbeknownst to staff and faculty, while failing to remark on her own correspondence with administrators at Brown University, who informed her of their approval of Sex Week after investigating her concerns. Brooks’ suggestion that the sole purpose of Sex Week events are to sell sex toys and pornography is incorrect and irresponsible. Readers need merely look at the schedules from various Sex Weeks to see that topics covered have included sex & disability, religious perspectives on sexuality, communication, transgender issues, critical evaluation of sexuality as portrayed in pop culture and pornography, healing from sexual assault, safer sex, and yes, even topics such as traditional families and abstinence.

When Brooks complains about a “lack of balance,” what she’s really taking issue with is a necessary attempt to restore balance to sex education for young adults, after the many years of abstinence-only education most of them have received during their younger years. While the purpose of an opinion piece is to present one particular perspective, given the flaws in Brooks’ argument, as well as her lack of credentials in the field of human sexuality, it is imprudent not to present an alternative perspective. Instead of offering a valuable contribution to the much-needed academic discourse on sex education, The Chronicle betrays an anti-sex education bias unbecoming of a publication of record in higher education.

We, the undersigned, believe sexuality is a key component in literature, history, politics, religion, and popular culture—each of which are topics integral to the activities that Sex Week and similar programs bring to college campuses. Perhaps some people don’t think these are appropriate subjects for college students (most of whom are legally adults) to discuss in an intellectual setting, such as a college or university. That’s their prerogative. However, to suggest as Brooks does that these topics are unsuitable in and of themselves, that their mere mention warrants sexual harassment lawsuits, or that students be barred from exploration of such topics in pursuit of their own education, is nothing short of an attack on the fundamental principles of higher education and should have been seen as such by the editors of The Chronicle.

Sincerely,
-The Undersigned

  • Charlie Glickman, PhD
  • Megan Andelloux, AASECT, ACS
  • Logan Levkoff, M.S., Ph.D., AASECT
  • Shanna Katz, M.Ed, AASECT
  • Dr. Katherine Frank, Professor of Anthropology, College of the Atlantic
  • Charles Moser, Ph.D., MD, FACP, Professor and Chair of the Department of Sexual Medicine, Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality, in San Francisco, CA
  • Dr. Staci Newmahr, Assistant Professor of Sociology, Buffalo State College
  • Jennifer Giang, ASUCD Gender and Sexuality Commission, University of California, Davis
  • Caitlin Alday, ASUCD Gender & Sexualities Commission Chair, University of California, Davis
  • Laura Mitchell, Gender and Sexuality Commission, Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Resource Center, University of California, Davis
  • Jason Hans, Ph.D., CFLE, Associate Professor, University of Kentucky
  • Dr. Elisabeth Sheff, Assistant Professor of Sociology, Georgia State University
  • Aida Manduley, Brown University Class of 2011, Sex Week Coordinator and Chairperson for the Sexual Health Education & Empowerment Council
  • Caroline McKenzie, Ph.D. student, Women’s Studies, Purdue University
  • Dr. DJ Williams, Leisure Sciences
  • Elizabeth Anne Wood, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Sociology, Nassau Community College
  • Scott Elman, President of the Student Health Advisory Committee, Washington University in St. Louis

This letter had 16 signatories when it was sent out, which was almost TWO WEEKS ago at this point. In the world of online news and publication, that could be seen as eons. So far, we have heard neither hide nor hair of the Chronicle, and certainly no indication that they have any intentions of publishing this letter, or recanting their publications of Brooks’ inflammatory piece. One might say that rather then facing the facts, the Chronicle has chosen the cowardly route, and has chosen to maintain silence rather than address such an important educational conversation and issue.

Ergo, we have decided to publish the letter. I (Shanna) would like to ask you to do the same. I think it is incredibly important that people realize not only the importance of sexuality education on college and university campuses, but also see how much damage a person with NO sexual education experience can do when allowed to spout forth her antiquated, misogynistic and often time complete inaccurate verbage. I say shame on the Chronicle for allowing such to be published, and it is beyond high time we reclaim and support sexuality education for the amazing and much needed facet of education that it is.

Shanna

Dr. Logan Levkoff is a a writer for the Huffington Post, and has posted this letter, with her own comments, on there as well.