The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

16 January 2004

Side, meet thorn

These days, it is an article of faith — one might even call it a faith-based article — that academics of a conservative bent are this close to being on the Endangered Species List, and that the leftists in charge would be gleeful at the possibility of their extinction.

As with most stereotypes, there's a kernel of truth somewhere within, and the example I know best comes from right here in Soonerland, where Professor David Deming of the University of Oklahoma, who has run afoul of the Forces of Political Correctness before, claimed on KWTV this week that his academic career has been stymied by higher-ups who object to his manifest conservatism. (There is, at least temporarily, a RealPlayer video clip at NewsOK.com.)

Dr Deming last galvanized the opposition against him in 2000, when a Yale Daily News piece by student Joni Kletter was reprinted locally. Kletter argued that "easy access to a handgun allows everyone in this country...to quickly and easily kill as many random people as they want." Deming sent a letter to the Oklahoma Daily, suggesting that similarly, women in general and Kletter in particular have the capacity, because of "easy access" to sexual equipment, to have sex with random people — and that he hoped Kletter was "as responsible with her equipment as most gun owners are with theirs."

Not the most subtle of analogies, but Deming made his point, and was duly punished for it. A couple of dozen complaints were filed with the University's Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action. The University, seeing it as a First Amendment issue, dismissed the complaints. The complainants appealed the dismissal, and the University scheduled a hearing; under pressure from local media and from the Center for Individual Rights, which was preparing to sue the University on Deming's behalf, the charges were dropped once again. It seems reasonable to believe, though, that there are still people seething over the fact that Deming is still teaching at OU.

Dr John Dean, then dean of the College of Geophysics, had written Deming over the Kletter affair, to this effect:

In the future, when you enter into public discussion on controversial social issues, I ask that you weigh fully the non-trivial costs and consequences to the individuals with whom you work and the institutions which provide you a professional home.

Dr Dean is still Deming's boss.

(Update, 18 January, 8 pm: Deming says he has lost a class and has been banished to a basement office.)

Posted at 7:43 AM to Soonerland


Hmmm. Maybe tenure isn't such a bad thing. Sometimes.

Posted by: McGehee at 8:27 AM on 16 January 2004

Shoe:

Meet other foot.

Posted by: Dan at 10:28 AM on 16 January 2004

I was actually a student at the University of Oklahoma during the time period referenced. You cannot, or more likely probably can, imagine the silliness that ensued once his letter was published.

If I remember correctly, one of the complaintants argued that she was sexually harrased by simply reading the letter in the paper. That was my favorite one.

Posted by: Chris at 12:47 PM on 16 January 2004