Posted on | September 24, 2013 | 36 Comments
Arkansas Tech University Professor Wayne Helmer wrote a letter to Prism, the magazine of the American Society for Engineering Education, criticizing the inclusion of sexual orientation in “diversity” programs, calling homosexuality a “detrimental, negative lifestyle,” and using scripture to invoke the authority of Jesus Christ.
The letter prompted the association’s president (Kenneth F. Galloway of Vanderbilt University), president-elect (Nicholas J. Altiero of Tulane University) and immediate past president (Walter J. Buchanan of Texas A&M University) to take the unusual step of issuing a joint letter denouncing their own publication for publishing Helmer’s piece. “His specious mischaracterization of homosexuality is unsupported by any reputable literature,” the letter said. “Professor Helmer is entitled to his religious beliefs. However, Prism is not an appropriate place for him to air his judgment of others based on those beliefs.” . . .
Amy E. Slaton, a historian of science and technology at Drexel University, wrote on her blog STEM Equity that the Prism letter raised broad issues. “The line between ‘freedom of speech’ on one hand, and the dissemination of hate speech on the other, vexes everyone who thinks about diversity in a democratic society, or at least it should,” she wrote. Normally this concern isn’t big in STEM education, she added.
“Then when we do recognize it, our responses to discrimination don’t often rise to the level of audible anger. We’ve developed the habit of seeking ‘respectful dialog’ as mostly, we try to redirect the thinking of those who traffic in bias and stereotyping; a constructive impulse, perhaps, but not always a way of speaking truth to power. It’s partly a matter of self-preservation, of course: activism, anger, noise? … not the marks of the mature student, or professional educator or engineer,” Slaton wrote. “But a funny thing happened on the way to diversity in engineering this morning … and I am newly worried about the quietness of our STEM diversity efforts, about the sheer timidity of our discussions around difference and inclusion. And mostly: about our reluctance to censure powerfully those who traffic in hateful rhetoric.”
A few questions occur, among them, “Is there a shortage of gay engineers? Do gay people suffer discrimination in the engineering field?” Honestly, I’m not not aware of any such claim. I am aware that engineering is a male-dominated field, and that blacks and Hispanics (but not Asians) are considered “underrepresented minorities” in the field, but I’ve never heard that discrimination against gays is alleged to be commonplace in engineering.
“Diversity” is a vague goal used to justify quotas in education and employment and, as such, is a dishonest scam. So I’m anti-”diversity” and in favor of clear standards of merit. Exactly where Professor Helmer’s controversial remarks fit into such a discussion, I’m not sure, but Slaton’s rhetoric about “hate speech” disturbs me.
One might say Professor Helmer is obviously prejudiced against homosexuals, but unless you can demonstrate that there is actual discrimination against homosexuals, then the expression of such views is not genuinely harmful, except in terms of hurt feelings.
Does anyone have a right not to have their feelings hurt?