Over the past few years working here at Bilerico, I've become something of a free speech fundamentalist. A few years ago I was all in favor of "safe spaces," etc., but now it all seems quaint and counterproductive. I guess helping several dozen people who disagree with you express themselves every day will do that to you.
And, as a blogger with a day job, I'm particularly sensitive to cases like this one, where a group of Purdue University students (where my brother as well as plenty of people I know went) who got a petition together to try to get rid of a professor who wrote a virulently homophobic (and patently stupid) screed on townhall.com.
"The most concrete way to protect the university's reputation against academic dishonesty and mediocrity is for him to resign," said Purdue senior Kevin Casimer, who is organizing a petition campaign against the professor.
"However, if Purdue administrators and faculty make a unified statement that (Chapman's writings) are unprofessional and detrimental to Purdue's reputation and not reflective of the university, the same effect might be made."
What we're discussing here isn't exactly free speech. It's more about the right to stupid speech in a job where intelligence is prized, because Chapman's blog post is really, really stupid.
But, then again, it's not a sign of him being stupid on the job.
Chapman's offending article starts:
As a Christian, I agree with the biblical condemnation of the homosexual lifestyle. However, we are living in a nation and world that increasingly rejects biblical norms. To defend traditional sexual morality against the encroaching threat of homosexuality and other aberrant forms of sexual expression, we need to be able to do more than cite Bible verses. Fortunately, there are plenty of economic reasons for being against this lifestyle and I think as conservatives we need to be able to articulate why our nation cannot afford the extremely high financial costs of this lifestyle at a time when we are confronting dangerously high budget deficits, national debt, and personal debt.
That's really all you need to read to know where he's coming from. Later in the article he blames "promotion of homosexuality" in the US, which seems to center around domestic partner benefits some private employers offer, for heterosexual promiscuity in Africa, high taxes, and all prison rape. And he also doesn't seem to realize that people would be gay with or without domestic partnership benefits, but then you could fill a lake with this man's ignorance.
And here's his defense of himself:
"As a conservative Christian, I firmly believe the homosexual lifestyle is morally wrong, and my blog posting sought to emphasize there are economic and public policy implications to widespread and open acceptance of this lifestyle," said Chapman, who blogs as the "conservative librarian" at www.townhall.com.
In other words: "Because I'm a Christian, I can make up facts to support my world view because my ideology is a substitute for logic and reason."
"It is sad we live in a time when truly free and open debate on controversial issues is characterized by such virulence," Chapman said. "As a country, we are in serious trouble if we reach a point when only one side on a public policy issue is allowed to be discussed."
Except it's not a "public policy issue," and Chapman's original blog post could very easily be characterized as "virulence." When you set out to attack an entire class of people, be prepared for them to get mad.
Going for his job is a bad tactic. I understand that there are many students who wouldn't want to be taught by this person, especially the queer students, but if he's not discriminating against students in class or harassing them while on the job (which is entirely possible considering how bonkers his townhall.com rant is, so I suggest students who have this professor pay attention and remain vocal), part of going to college is learning how to put up with these sorts of situations and people.
Several students have written to the school paper asking for the him to resign, but several others are taking the more appropriate "give Chapman shit" route:
A statement by a coalition of West Lafayette rights groups, Pride Lafayette and the Purdue Queer Student Union said it supports free speech.
"Supporting free speech does not mean that there are no consequences for such statements," the statement said. "While it's clear that all individuals have the right to print anything they wish regardless of the lack of value or research, it's also true that statements in print (or in this case online) should be rejected and called out when they damage a segment of the community."
Jennifer McCreight, a Purdue senior from Munster, said on her own blog that Chapman's views are morally bankrupt.[...]
Yvonne Pitts, an openly gay Purdue professor and constitutional expert, told The Exponent campus newspaper that Chapman's blog should not be seen as a threat. "I hate to say it, but you need to protect people like Bert Chapman from a constitutional standpoint," Pitts told the paper.
The article doesn't get much into Chapman's actual work, and maybe he has something intelligent to say on topics that are his expertise. Or maybe not. He doesn't seem to have a strong commitment to academic rigor, but, then again, he's blogging on townhall.com. It's pretty much the exact opposite of a peer-reviewed academic journal.
Update: Oops, I implied in this article that Chapman's a professor at Purdue, which, upon reading the linked material more closely, I see he's not. He's a librarian. I changed the title to reduce confusion.
Update 2: Someone in the comments pointed out that he's both a librarian and a professor of library science. So there we go.