November 14, 2006

Does the University live up to its own diversity values?

Adam Schmidt, a UW junior who voted to amend the Wisconsin constitution to ban same-sex marriage, has this op-ed in today's Wisconsin State Journal:
In a statement Wednesday specifically crafted for the student body - on university letterhead - Interim Dean of Students Lori Berquam expressed her "extreme disappointment" in the marriage amendment's passage, characterizing the decision of 1.2 million Wisconsin voters a "strike against equality" and a "shameful aberration."

Further, Dean Berquam's remarks were deliberate to thank those who "fought against" the amendment and gave praise to "young people and students (who) overwhelmingly rejected the amendment," seemingly disapproving my convictions and rejecting my value to the university community...

On a university campus obsessed with equality, diversity and freedom of self-expression, I prayed there would be room for my opinion as well.

Most aggravating, Berquam's remarks come mere months after administrators rolled-out the campus "Think" campaign to encourage respect for everyone's views.

Chancellor Wiley has said, "We want a campus that embraces difference and where respect is rampant."
I've been critical of the "Think. Respect" program for various reasons, but not really on this ground. Schmidt raises the question of whether a University that promotes diversity and respectful communication can also express some specific ideas of its own. I think it can. For example, university officials can -- and should -- express a belief that men and women are equal. But an individual student is free to argue that they are not.

My objection to "Think. Respect" is that it pressures students to be respectful when they interact with each other, but I think they have a right to express ideas with harsh brutality. They are entitled to scoff at and belittle someone who says something they find loathsome. It's preferable to frame articulate arguments based on facts and serious contemplation, but the university cannot require an idealized form of expression.

If the university expressed specific opinions in a disrespectful way, that would be hypocritical, but expressing specific opinions is not inconsistent with supporting diversity. As for the same-sex marriage issue, the university had a strong institutional reason for taking a position: The ban hurts our interest in attracting faculty and staff here. The university was not obliged to keep silent on the issue in order to prove our commitment to fostering open debate.

ADDED: Here's Berquam's letter (PDF). Read the whole thing and try to understand her motivations for writing it as well as Schmidt's reaction to it. Here's the final paragraph:
As we reflect upon the impact of this vote, it is important that we also remember the positives: young people and students overwhelmingly rejected the amendment. A diverse and wonderful coalition of people -- Democrats, Republicans, and Independents; numerous faith communities; people of all sexual orientations; lawyers, businessmen and women, clergy members, educators, and students; and people of all ages -- came together to fight this amendment. Though it may be but small consolation right now, it is hard to imagine that history will not one day prove this to be a shameful aberration in our otherwise progressive tradition.
The letter, taken as a whole, characterizes the passage of the amendment as a blow against diversity (because of the way it excludes gay persons from the institution of marriage) and makes an effort to soothe the feelings of students who feel disrespected by the vote. Schmidt's point is that he feels disrespected by the letter, because he voted for the amendment and he's getting the message that his university thinks people like him are bad: Why is there no concern about his feelings? Isn't part of caring about diversity making people who believe different things feel welcome in the university environment?

I do think the letter would have been much better if it had shown respect and understanding for the students who supported the amendment and that it is inconsistent with the values of the "Think. Respect" program. If you want students to be able to debate about controversial issues, like this one, you shouldn't foment the idea that those disagree with you are the kind of people you should shun. If you want to equip your students to operate in the real world, you should encourage them to try to understand why their opponents think they way they do and to develop the kinds of arguments that can persuade them.

98 comments:

Steve said...

"Diversity" on college campuses has always meant Liberals of all races.

They are not interested in your opinions and ideas if they are "wrong."

Simon said...

"If the university expressed specific opinions in a disrespectful way, that would be hypocritical, but expressing specific opinions is not inconsistent with supporting diversity."

Is Schmidt's point - whether it is right or wrong - not that the University did express specific opinions in a disrespectful manner? Even if Berquam did not express hostility towards specific, named individuals, it seems fairly apparent that expressing "'extreme disappointment" in the marriage amendment's passage ... [and] characterizing the decision of 1.2 million Wisconsin voters a 'strike against equality' and a 'shameful aberration'" implies not only a lack of respect for the decision, but necessarily, for those who supported it. The decision was not merely wrong, it was shamefull.

Ann Althouse said...

Simon: I thought about that a lot before posting. I think calling the amendment shameful is different from shaming the people who believe the amendment is good. But it isn't completely different, as you note. For me, however, that simply underlines my problem with the "Think. Respect" program, which is that we should not discourage the expression of strong opinion. This view is not inconsistent with wanting diversity. Supporting polite speech is a different matter entirely from wanting to maintain a diverse mix of opinion.

Rusty said...

It is always good to tell the taxpayers how stupid they are.

chickenlittle said...

The Wisconsin amendment is fodder for further litigation. IMHO, had the marriage and civil unions part been decoupled, the marriage part would have still won, but the civil union part would have failed.
Once the latter part is found unconstitutional, the whole thing will have to get voted again separately.

The Drill SGT said...

On a slightly different note, was the University or its administration "campaigning" for defeat of the amendment? I have a problem with that if they were. I see no issue with a Dean writing a letter to the editor or even a commentary explaining why he as a citizen opposes the amendment. I have a problem however, if state funds are used to promote one side of an election.

Mark the Pundit said...

Just a thought:

Would the University stand behind an instructor who injected his personal view that gay marriage was abhorrent the way they are standing behind the instructor who says Bush acused 9/11?

Discuss amongst yourselves...

dick said...

I would have no problem with the dean expressing this on non-university stationery. If she wanted to expess it and send it on her own personal stationery. I do have a problem with using the university stationery since the university is a part of the state.

I used to work for the federal government. This would have been a violation of the Hatch amendment in the old days.

SteveR said...

I think calling the voter's decision a "shameful aberration" is disrespectful. As a privte citizen she can say what she wants and its not as if anyone would be unclear as to what the university administration would support on this issue, so her intentions seem obvious and can only enhance disrespect.

In many cases the best way to show respect is to keep your mouth shut.

Ann Althouse said...

Mark: The classroom setting is different. I'm not talking about that. I think teachers can express opinions, but above all they need to protect and foster debate. Still they must define the scope of the debate, and some things are not within the subject or not worthwhile to spend time on. It should be noted that the university supported Kevin Barrett -- the 9/11 conspiracy theorist -- because he promised to maintain a fair debate and not use the class to promote his political agenda.

You are right to worry that the university might want to protect some political viewpoints more than others, but you should know that we have a strong faculty organization on campus -- called CAFAR, and I'm a member of it -- that is active and vigilant about things like this.

Simon said...

chickenlittle said...
"[H]ad the marriage and civil unions part been decoupled, the marriage part would have still won, but the civil union part would have failed."

I wouldn't be so sure of that, coming as it did hot on the heels of the New Jersey Supreme Court's decision that, for all intents and purposes, mandated the New Jersey legislature to create "a legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage for unmarried individuals," (to borrow the vernacular of the Wisconsin amendment).

However:

Conceding as I do that Ann's theory about Kennedy's likely post-11/7 trajectory is probably correct, I think that you're probably right. It is hard to see how (at least with the present court) the present round of amendments can be distinguished from Romer v. Evans, wherein the court struck down, on equal protection grounds, "an amendment to the Constitution of the State of Colorado, adopted in a 1992 statewide referendum," which forbade Colorado or any political subdivision thereof from "enact[ing], adopt[ing] or enforc[ing] any statute, regulation, ordinance or policy whereby homosexual, lesbian or bisexual orientation, conduct, practices or relationships shall constitute or otherwise be the basis of or entitle any person or class of persons to have or claim any minority status, quota preferences, protected status or claim of discrimination." Writing for himself and six other Justices, four of whom remain on the Court today, Justice Kennedy observed that in a case challenging "a law [which] neither burdens a fundamental right nor targets a suspect class" (emphasis added), the court "will uphold the legislative classification so long as it bears a rational relation to some legitimate end." But the Colorado amendment failed that two-prong test, insofar as the amendment "ha[d] the peculiar property of imposing a broad and undifferentiated disability on a single named group ... [whose] sheer breadth is so discontinuous with the reasons offered for it that the amendment seems inexplicable by anything but animus toward the class that it affects ... [and therefore] lacks a rational relationship to legitimate state interests." It seems to me that since there is no majority to overrule Romer, and since there are clearly not five votes to support a challenge to either prong of the test to distinguish a notional test case from Romer (that is, to argue that a fundamental right is not being burdened or that homosexuals are not a suspect class) these amendments do not seem destined long for this world.

The Drill SGT said...

Would Ann say...

As for the 2008 Defense Appropriations issue, the Army had a strong institutional reason for taking a position: The proposed Budget hurts our interest in safe guarding the country. The Army was not obliged to keep silent on the issue in order to prove our commitment to fostering open debate.

Why is it right for one public institution to take positions on matters of public policy that impact them and not right for other public institutions to do the same? Should they go farther and spend public funds to sway opinion? still farther and lobby Congress?

Where do you draw the line?

PatCA said...

"Diversity" has become such a non-word, or such a loaded, coded word, that it is now meaningless. Why don't universities just say they are for a progressive agenda? The new Education doctorates are all about advocacy and (only) progressive politics, for instance. (I would love to see a libertarian or conservative sign up, though!)

The dean's letter would then be clear. I don't find it really objectionable, if and only if it stops at that. But as Mark says, it never 'stops at that'. No conservative Barrett-type instructor would ever be tolerated.

O/T I'm surprised to hear you say again that it's hard to attract faculty. In CA we blame it on the cost of housing but Madison seems ideal.

Brendan said...

As for the same-sex marriage issue, the university had a strong institutional reason for taking a position: The ban to hurts our interest in attracting faculty and staff here.

Translation: university faculty are so monolithically liberal that no deference or concern need be paid to job applicants who might spurn Wisconsin should the amendment fail. They're expendable. They're not welcome. Obviously, UW is much more concerned about losing quality libs than quality conservatives.

I'm sorry, but the university has no business taking a stand on an issue this controversial. As for the petty a-holes who refuse to live in a state that fails to meet every item on their liberal checklist, I say grow the hell up.

downtownlad said...
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Anonymous said...

Well, I'd be fasncinated to know how Dean Berquam knows "students {...} overwhelmingly rejected the amendment." They do have secret ballots in Wisconsin, don't they Prof. Althouse?

I don't really give the proverbial twopenny toss Ms. Berquam wishes to express her person views, on her own time, and at her own expense. I also expect the university has some kind of policy about university resources (such as university letterhead, printers/photocopiers and the internal mail) not being for personal use.

But how about respecting the political diversity of the student body, and leave them out of her vapourings?

Sloanasaurus said...

The ban to hurts our interest in attracting faculty and staff here

Althouse, this is classic leftism - expressing a policy goal that seems good but is not supported by any evidence. There is no evidence that having a ban on same sex marriage hurts in attracting faculty. As far as I know, same sex marriage is not yet legal in Wisconsin. Is there evidence that shows that faculty has not come to Wisconsin because same sex marriage is not legal? I don't think so. The ban only makes it so a Court or the legislature can't make it legal in the future.

Internet Ronin said...

Does the University live up to its own diversity values?

Probably not, as the letter demonstrates.

I think calling the amendment shameful is different from shaming the people who believe the amendment is good. But it isn't completely different, as you note.

This is a distinction of little consequence, IMO. The point of the letter was to say that people of Wisconsin have voted and that the people of Wisconsin are not only wrong but shamefully aberrant. Pretty strong language when you think about it.

For me, however, that simply underlines my problem with the "Think. Respect" program, which is that we should not discourage the expression of strong opinion. This view is not inconsistent with wanting diversity. Supporting polite speech is a different matter entirely from wanting to maintain a diverse mix of opinion.

I agree!

The classroom setting is different. I'm not talking about that. I think teachers can express opinions, but above all they need to protect and foster debate.

Again, I agree! But, the question was would the University tolerate a untenured faculty member or lecturer who loudly espoused a personal conservative viewpoint on such issues as gay marriage or abortion, to name two, even though promising to be "fair" in class? Not a chance.

In the tradition of Donald Rumsefeld, here are some of my own questions:

Should a taxpayer-supported institution actively engage in politics?

Not unless 100% of the taxpayers agree.

Can the administrators of such an organization actively engage in politics?

Sure, as private individuals. And their occupations can be listed for informational purposes. But when they draw pen to paper or speak in their official capacity and commit their entire organiztion to a political cause, then they are violating their public trust to advance their personal agendas.

(For the record, I donated to Fair Wisconsin, and I believe that abortion is a private matter.)

downtownlad said...

Well, I'd be fasncinated to know how Dean Berquam knows "students {...} overwhelmingly rejected the amendment." They do have secret ballots in Wisconsin, don't they Prof. Althouse?

The only county in Wisconsin to reject the amendment was Dane County, home to the University of Wisconsin Madison. A logical conclusion is that it was the student vote.

Simon said...
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Zach said...

I find it odd that a university official is commenting on a political issue as a university official, in a university-student communication. In Colorado, state employees are not supposed to advocate political beliefs on University time, use University resources for advocacy, or give people the impression that we're speaking for the University. Under the Colorado policy, this would fail on all three counts.

I can certainly see the argument that the outcome of the election affects the University, but it's also a ballot issue, and University employees are public servants. Would you feel comfortable if the offending official was a police captain, speaking against the ballot issue in an official communication?

Internet Ronin said...

Downtownlad: There are tens of thousands of gay people still living in California almost a decade after the voters here told them to "go fuck off" (in your words). Are we all self-hating?

Brendan said...

A taxpayer-supported institution taking sides on an issue this volatile is just mindblowingly inappropriate. Wisconsin residents should not have to pay for the University's political speech. If ever there was a time to recuse itself, this was it. When was the last time UW publicly supported a measure that was sure to piss off leftists? Or derided liberals as "shameful." I'm drawing a blank.

And they wonder why I haven't sent them a dime since grad school.

downtownlad said...

There is no evidence that having a ban on same sex marriage hurts in attracting faculty. As far as I know, same sex marriage is not yet legal in Wisconsin. Is there evidence that shows that faculty has not come to Wisconsin because same sex marriage is not legal? I don't think so.

Actually Sloanasaurus - why don't you just admit that you're talking out of your ass. You have absolutely no clue what you are talking about. I can provide lots of evidence about people quitting jobs as professors because of the bigoted state laws. Here's one:

http://www.insidehighered.com/views/2005/03/25/adler

That instantly proves your first statement WRONG that "There is no evidence that having a ban on same sex marriage hurts in attracting faculty."

I'm sure there will be ample evidence of people leaving the University of Wisconsin soon enough. I guarantee you that the resumes are now in circulation amongst gay professors.

And there you go LYING again about how this amendment is just codifying state law.

WRONG!

This amendment has now banned partner rights for gay couples. There will be lawsuits soon enough to stop the University of Wisconsin from offering them (by the same people who LIED before the election and said that they would not do that). So this amendment is about the REMOVAL of not only rights but benefits as well.

No wonder Massachusetts has the best universities in the country.

Zeb Quinn said...

Those twin titans of modern liberalism, tolerance and diversity, are in truth a canard. What gets glided over is the fact that to be truly tolerant or truly diverse, or truly tolerant of diversity, by necessity --indeed by its very definition -- it means that your tolerance and love of diversity has to extend beyond applying to just those that you like, your friends and to those you chum with, and those who you otherwise philosophically agree with. In fact, it's supposed to specifically include applying to your foes, enemies, ideological opposites, and philosophical adversaries. If it doesn't it's not only a hollow gesture in the extreme, it's an out and out lie.

Mellow-Drama said...

Downtownlad - "No wonder Massachusetts has the best universities in the country." Because the only decent professors are gay rights advocates who would refuse to live/work in a state that didn't have full-on gay marriage? Get real. You're not doing your position any good to say silly things like that. Why not respond to internet ronin's point about California?

Mellow-Drama said...

Ms. Althouse, I have to respectfully disagree with you on this one. The University's officials can speak out all they want on their own time, in their private capacity, but the captive student body audience is not the place to take a position on this issue. Think of the flip side: If instead the University's position was "Thank goodness Wisconsin banned gay marriage, because homosexual marriage is shameful!" Everyone would be screaming bloody murder about ostracizing gay students and making them feel unwelcome in the University community. People genuinely support these kinds of amendments for all sorts of reasons, and their opinion is just as valuable as yours, in the marketplace of ideas. In a world where people are regularly murdered by the state for being gay, gay marriage is not such a foregone conclusion that it is beyond debate. Don't you see that the administration taking this position, and using its position as a bully pulpit to its students, is improper on the taxpayer dime? (Particularly since it was those very taxpayers who enacted this "shameful" legislation?)

chickenlittle said...

DTL said:

"No wonder Massachusetts has the best universities in the country"

Yep, all because the best professors are all gay right?

SteveS said...

Not all opinions are worthy of respect, and those that are not should be called shameful.

Pretty much everyone agrees with this. (Unless you are prepared to deem all sorts of pernicious social perspectives like racism and anti-Semitism respectable.)

It's appropriate to have respect for opposing viewpoints on all sorts of issues that are open to debate (the legalization of abortion, the death penalty, the efficacy of supply side economics, etc.), but that stance doesn't mandate that you must express respect for all views on every issue. That's nonsensical.

It seems that the dean believes equality for gay citizens is one of those issues on which reasonable people may not differ. And then acts accordingly. Whether or not the majority of the people agree with her is irrelevant: you can establish a strong argument for the equality of gay people regardless of whether or not the majority favors it. (Of course, you can't implement the consequences of that stance in a political environment under such conditions.)

This really is just a case where one side is right, and the other side is wrong. No one on the wrong side likes to hear that, and so this student wants to be respected for being wrong. Sorry, but he doesn't deserve respect.

Note that I don't think this in any way reduces the right of the student to express his belief.

downtownlad said...

internet ronin - Please show me where California banned health benefits for gay people? Wisconsin's law was particularly obnoxious, because it not only banned gay marriage, but it banned any domestic partner benefits whatsoever. Any gay person who actually chooses to still live in Wisconsin is pretty stupid if you ask me. Granted, they might be stuck their due to personal reasons, but they're pretty stupid if they actually want to stay. They should do what any right-minded gay person from the midwest would do - move to Chicago.

Wisconsin is a state of bigots. Why subsidze hate by living there?

And yes chicken little - the best professors ARE gay, because we all know that the average IQ for gay people is substantially higher than it is for straights. After all, the gene for intelligence is the same one that determines sexual orientation. But of course, you're too stupid to know this, because you're straight.

But seriously, any university that is turning away candidates simply because they are gay, is bound to lose some mighty good professors.

10% of the country's top professors are gay. And I guarantee you that Massachusetts is getting more than it's fair share of those 10%.

downtownlad said...

By the way - if New York passed an anti-gay marriage law, I would live the state in a nono-second.

I'm already tempted to move to New Jersey to show my support for their upcoming civil union law.

But New York now has a governor who supports full blown marriage rights for gays. So I'll wait and see how that works out first.

Does this make me a better person than the dumbass gay person who's going to sit it out in Wisconsin while the rest of the state pisses on his rights?

You betcha.

Internet Ronin said...

DTL, the people of Wisonsin voted against "gay marriage." All the rest of it didn't matter to them as much as saying "No" to gay marriage. I realize that you don't understand that (and that is not meant as a put-down). If all those other things were separate initiatives on the ballot, I'm reasonably confident they would have been rejected by the voters of Wisconsin.

Do I think California voters would have done the same if the initative was so-worded back then? Probably. Who knows? They still might.

I can't help thinking of the phrase, "Who died and left you in charge?" when you start talking about "right-minded gay people." You are extremely intolerant of other viewpoints/outlooks on life, even within the gay comunity. Come to think of it, weren't you one of the people who mentioned living in the closet a long time before finally coming out, or am I confusing you with someone else?

chickenlittle said...

DTL said:
"10% of the country's top professors are gay"

How many of those are in the closet?

chickenlittle said...

An appeals court in New York recently ruled that a state law defining marriage as between a man and a woman is constitutional. The legislature may push something through California style against the wishes of the people. Governor Spitzer will have far more important things on his plate for the time being. Rather than wait and see, I suggest you change your nom-de-plume to Campbell Soup Lad and move into that Camden luxury loft.

Internet Ronin said...
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Internet Ronin said...

SteveS: I agree that the Dean is entitled to her opinion. Is the Dean entitled to use her tax-exempt and taxpayer-funded organization to engage in political campaigns on behalf of causes she personally "believes reasonable people may not differ" about?

Where would you draw the line, Steve? What if she decides tomorrow that war is immoral and uses the resources of the university to wage a campaign to get the US out of Iraq? And the day after that, she decides that reasonable people may not differ about the efficacy of embryonic stem cell research and engages in a public campaign on its behalf?

And if that is ok with you, then how about when her successor (because there will be one very shortly after that, I assure you) decides that we need to get the US out of the United Nations because it is corrupt, incompetent, coddles dictators and routinely violates the basic tenets of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights? And then his successor, with an eye on declining enrollments due to demographic changes, decides that abortion is not something that reasonable people can disagree on but murder, plain and simple, and directs the university to provide support for pro-life protesters at abortion clinics, etc.

Steve, whoever does the defining gets to decide what is or "beyond the pale." Pretty convenient, that. Better to avoid the slippery slope, I think. Unintended consequences have a way of ALWAYS happening, and rarely to the good.

YMMV, of course.

Internet Ronin said...

Someone mentioned the Hatch Act earlier. My guess is that Wisconsin, being a progressive state (in the historical sense, like California), has a law against public employees engaging in politics in their public capacity. The university probably avoids this by pretending that their participation is purely "informational" or "educational."

As it is, the Dean's letter appears to demonstrate an intent that went beyond what is probably allowed. As 70% of the taxpayers disagreed with the Dean, I wonder if any one of them will file suit to recover the costs incurred by the university as it engaged in this political fight. That would be interesting to watch.

In California, we have a Board of Regents responsible for governing the university. It sounds like Wisconsin does not.

Joe Baby said...

The amendment does not ban benefits to "gay people" as dtl argues -- it bans benefits flowing from a status substantially similar to marriage.

Nothing preventing the university or similar agency from creating a benefit scheme where an employee can name one adult as beneficiary.

The Family Resource Institute of Wisconsin has even speculated that the legislature could still create some limited benefit schemes and still stay within the law.

It does prevent the university et al from redefining marriage. Which is the true battleground, after all.

Mortimer Brezny said...

Supporting polite speech is a different matter entirely from wanting to maintain a diverse mix of opinion.

I agree with Ann. But to the extent that dispostion overlaps with viewpoint, some viewpoints may be chilled beyond a certain threshold of nastiness.

Revenant said...

It seems to me that a state employee has no business commenting, in an official capacity, on the morality of laws the public chooses to pass. They are servants of the people; it is not their place to question the people's will.

Revenant said...

10% of the country's top professors are gay.

Why are homosexuals overrepresented in academia? 10% is two to four times the incidence of homosexuality in the general population.

Derve said...

It seems to me that a state employee has no business commenting, in an official capacity, on the morality of laws the public chooses to pass. They are servants of the people; it is not their place to question the people's will.

Wrong.
As "servants of the people" -- it is their job to use their brains (that plus experience is what they're paid for) and advocate on behalf of the school. Despite what the majority says. Imagine that:

University of Wisconsin Board of Regents committee voted Thursday to oppose the controversial same-sex marriage ban that will be on the state ballot this November. Meeting in Platteville, the Business, Finance, and Audit Committee determined the amendment could jeopardize UW’s ability to retain faculty members. The proposal will go before the full board today and is expected to pass.

Regent Charles Pruitt, who chairs the committee, said a gay marriage amendment would hurt the UW System’s ability to offer benefits to same-sex partners.

“To the committee, it came down to competitiveness,” Pruitt said in a phone interview after Thursday’s meeting. “I’m concerned this amendment might restrict that and make it more difficult to provide domestic-partner benefits.”

UW-Madison is currently the only university in the Big Ten that does not provide domestic-partner benefits to faculty members, as current state law prohibits it from doing so.

Pruitt, who offered the resolution, said the amendment would hurt any future chance of enacting such benefits.

“There’s potential that there may be efforts to restrict the university from providing domestic partner benefits,” he added."

---------------------

The amendment does not ban benefits to "gay people" as dtl argues -- it bans benefits flowing from a status substantially similar to marriage.

Nothing preventing the university or similar agency from creating a benefit scheme where an employee can name one adult as beneficiary.


Wrong again. See above.
-----------

The people of Wisonsin voted against "gay marriage." All the rest of it didn't matter to them as much as saying "No" to gay marriage. I realize that you don't understand that (and that is not meant as a put-down). If all those other things were separate initiatives on the ballot, I'm reasonably confident they would have been rejected by the voters of Wisconsin.

Woulda, shoulda, coulda.
They voted against recognizing same-sex civil unions, which are "substantially similar" to marriage. Spin it any way you like, but this is what the voters did. Personally, I think people like the student letter writer here display animosity. It's more than "go slow, proceed with caution." It's an anger, stoked by the well-meaning, that conservative young voices are stifled in the classroom. Not true in most places ever since the Alex P. Keaton, conservative young Republicans push of the Reagan era.

Places like Madison or Berkely might skew things -- if you grew up there, have the common sense to recognize you had it unique -- but then you have the "conservative helpers" -- those who came of age in the VietNam era and think all such young conservatives are similarly oppressed today-- providing "balance."

When folks like the letter writer realize they can play to those "balancers", then suddenly any opinions like this one expressed by the university are oppressing him. Much like our boys are "oppressed" in public schools. It's become quite fashionable -- and financially lucrative, see Dr. Helen-- to appeal on behalf of these new oppressed. If we want our sons as victims, we play along.

If we don't, we take a cue from the working-class whites who wanted and have attained college educations and arguably, are the true ones being penalized under affirmative action. Not your well-educated sons from affluent areas. They could afford the test prep classes and extra teacher help, if education was truly valued. The former group had to compete not whine, work harder to get what they wanted.

Somehow, we've sent "men" like Mr. Schmidt the message that when we give others equal rights, it takes away from him. He whines, instead of competing harder. That's the real anger, the real fear in his letter. He wants his special treatment -- to know that he is still assured a reserved place in society, not just in his family or faith community. One man, one woman -- no substitutes accepted.
--------------
It seems that the dean believes equality for gay citizens is one of those issues on which reasonable people may not differ. And then acts accordingly. Whether or not the majority of the people agree with her is irrelevant: you can establish a strong argument for the equality of gay people regardless of whether or not the majority favors it. (Of course, you can't implement the consequences of that stance in a political environment under such conditions.)

Wrong on the last sentence in parentheses. I dislike this "argument" most of all because it's so often advocated by otherwise reasonable people. They don't care to act neutrally in making the decision, because it wouldn't "sell" in the current climate -- according to what they see. Toughen up. Otherwise, you're cutting all the independence out of the decision-making.

Would they hold back in Brown.v.Board because people had religious objections? Because angry people threatened to close schools, and otherwise not go along? Because "you can't implement the consequences of that stance in a political environment under such conditions?"

The older angrier types will have their hearts gum up; the younger ones will drink heavily to numb their "hurts", hardening their insides. (Is it disrespectful to say this if it turns out to be true?) Then enough of the less courageous will believe "the time is right" to award gays equal civil rights in society, like other countries are doing. Guess what? They'll still find those opposing, like Mr. Schmidt and some religious factions. Hopefully with the opposition lessened though, they'll be confident enough to fight and follow through. Even if they have to stand up to polite, respectable people who can't understand that their own private choices cannot be imposed on all in a pluralistic society, no matter how convinced they are of their religious reasoning.

SteveS said...

Steve, whoever does the defining gets to decide what is or "beyond the pale." Pretty convenient, that. Better to avoid the slippery slope, I think. Unintended consequences have a way of ALWAYS happening, and rarely to the good.

I hear you, Ronin, and I'm certainly not advocating that one should be quick to claim an issue as beyond debate. In fact, there are very few issues that fall into this category. Don't you agree that there are some issues on which it's not reasonable to maintain the opposing view (state-enforced racial segregation springs to mind)?

There's no magic formula for deciding what issues are beyond the pale. But surely some are. And the case for those needs to be made methodically with an iron-clad argument. But, in those cases, I can't agree that it's best to avoid this kind of moral clarity for fear of the "slippery slope." It's best to take the firm stand in favor of what's right, regardless of the possibility that someone else may apply this principle too hastily. Otherwise, you risk two outcomes I would argue are worse: timidity in the face of moral incorrectness, and the acceptance of moral relativism where it cannot be brooked.

Derve, re. this sentence:
Of course, you can't implement the consequences of that stance in a political environment under such conditions.

I wasn't saying that this fact reduces the moral obligation of the person to stand fast in opposition to equality. I was pointing out that even if the majority currently holds the wrong view, and is therefore able to manifest inequality into law, that doesn't in and of itself make it the right view. In fact, the obligation of those on the right side remains just as strong to hold fast (or gets stronger).

Derve said...

"... and to develop the kinds of arguments that can persuade them."

And do praytell, explain this one. It's a matter of not working hard enough then -- the answer is out there, you're just withholding?

You can talk the talk, but winning over those Catholic voters? You haven't a clue. And then you criticize those who do and act accordingly. God help you.

Patrick said...

All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.

Derve said...

Why is there no concern about his feelings? Isn't part of caring about diversity making people who believe different things feel welcome in the university environment?

Keep up this attitude and next thing you know, UW will not only admit and employ but will be putting out a welcome mat and hosting a tea for Holocaust deniers, Confederate flag wavers, and 9-11 conspiracy freaks. Oh, wait a minute ...

Derve said...

All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.

The religionists would have us believe on the Sixth day, God gave man dominion over the fish in the sea, the birds in flight, the domestic and wild beasts, even land reptiles.

Just sayin...

Mellow-Drama said...

But SteveS, I think what you're missing is that plenty of people think the abortion debate is beyond discussion too - on both sides. You surely disagree with one side or the other; do you think it would be acceptable for the University to be suggesting that one side is shameful? It's not that members of the University shouldn't be able to question or criticize the voters, it's that the University (with a capital "U") itself shouldn't be partisan - that means no "official" communiques with political advocacy. What the dean says and does on her own time and out in the community is one thing; what she send to her captive audience is entirely different.

Mellow-Drama said...

One more thing: Justifying the school's involvement by relating it to keeping away professors is a very thin excuse which the school can use to advocate on just about any issue. Think I'm kidding? I know people in the St. Louis area who would like to live in the Illinois suburbs but refuse to move because of the unfriendly gun laws here. I know others who went to the Missouri side to benefit from the lower property taxes. Every single issue will have someone who passionately cares about it, and will therefore have the potential of alienating job candidates.

Michael said...

I love these people who get so high and mighty about gay marriage as an essential human right. As if they've been all over it for years, instead of just discovering it five minutes ago. Show me the pictures from the gay marriage marches you were in in the 60s, or the tickets from the gay marriage benefit concert you attended in '83 with CSN&Y and Ladysmith Black Mambazo.

Pogo said...

Adam Schmidt, the UW junior in discussion, is exactly right. Having the Interim Dean of Students officially pronounce on university letterhead that his vote is a "shameful aberration" (no less) is without argument disrespectful and biased.

I don't think there could be a serious position otherwise.

But nothing will come of it, save for a non-apology "sorry feelings were hurt" sort of missive. Such is the pervasive nature of liberal ideology on university campuses that they cannot be found in error. The Party is always right.

1) Isn't it strange that campuses aren't all that concerned about recruiting or retaining conservative professors?
2) Why does the university cater only to the purported 10% that are gay?
3) Will all gay teachers really move to Massachusetts because they don't get their way?
4) Does the Dean use University funds and letterheads to hector the students about guns, taxes, abortion, and Iraq?
5) Maybe UW Madison should simply give students an already-completed ballot when they arrive at school, just so they vote the "right way".

Derve said...

Michael-- It's not a newfound "right to gay marriage". There is case precedent for a right to marriage. There are equal protection guarantees based on sex/gender in the U.S. Constitution and others in state constitutions.

It is coming...
For society, no one will force it on you and yours, or your churches.

Derve said...

So all you got Pogo is whining?

Waah. Waaaaah. WAAAAAAH !!!!

I sometimes worry for our man stock.

Pogo said...

Re: "It is coming... For society, no one will force it on you and yours, or your churches."

You will be assimilated.

Re "whining?"
I'd say the Dean is whining; I'm bitching.

paul a'barge said...

If you want students to be able to debate...

Clearly, UW does not want students to be able to debate. They want them to all think alike, as Liberals.

Certainly, losing is hard. Ask the football team.

Doesn't anyone find it interesting that athletic teams have learned good sportsmanship and have learned to deal with losing honorably, but Liberals who lose in the marketplace of ideas lash out, trying to paint those who disagree with them as evil.

MadisonMan said...

I'd like to add some facts to this discussion. Dane County was not the only county to reject the amendment. La Crosse county did as well, but by a narrow margin. Dane County rejected it 2-1. My own opinion is that there are many people in Dane County who know and socialize with gay couples, and this personalized the vote.

The UW-Madison has lost gay professors because of Benefits issues, most notably an Engineering Prof who left and took his $3.5 M in annual grants with him. That was the stated reason for leaving -- of course, there may have been others and the benefits thing was just the proverbial straw. One of the thing professors I know value is stability. If there's a chance that cohorts will leave because of benefits problems, well that's something to consider when you're deciding among places to go. Who wants to work at a University where turnover is high? Endless search committees, then the inevitable searching for a meshing of interests with the new hires.

It's wrong, however (IMO) for the University to state an opinion, and I hope the Deanlet who wrote the letter to all students has been reminded of that. (Not that any action will come of the reminder, I'm guessing.) My opinion of the Dean of Students, however, is that it's just a glorified paper-pushing job into which the UW puts a women (usually non-white) to boost their percentages of women deans.

Anonymous said...

The University has a history of intolerance towards students expressing an opinion contrary to the campus group think.

As a Freshman in 1990 attending new student orientation, I stood up to express my opinion about homosexuality after their 20 minute pro-homosexual lecture featuring homosexual professors and students. I was laughed at by the organizer and told that my argument wouldn't be discussed.

I was so disgusted by this and further disillusioned by the left-wing nutroots that were protesting the build up for the upcoming Persian Gulf War that I transfered to a university at the other end of the political spectrum, BYU.

AJ Lynch said...

I don't get why the Dean even had to make a statement. Just frigging do the job you are being paid to do and that ain't making political commentary no matter how heated the issue.

Derve said...

"Certainly, losing is hard. Ask the football team."

Huh> Wisconsin's football team has not been losing. And we're not known for our sportmanship; quite the opposite. I think fans here invented the "FU, eat sh**" chant. Respectfulness falls in value to competitiveness, they tell me.

You will be assimilated. Re "whining?" I'd say the Dean is whining; I'm bitching.

You won't be assimilated if you can hold strong in your faith and values. You just can't expect society will assimilate to your religious views, no matter what the polite go-slow crowd is currently promising. Bitching, whining, demasculinizing yourself and your sons isn't going to help much either. Be independent and free, and stay that way by controlling/persuading yourself and your own, and leaving the same freedoms to others. It's coming to society, because it's stronger than you. What happens in your circles is up to you.

SGT Ted said...

This probably violates the Hatch Act. I hope FIRE sues them. Using university assets, thus using tax dollars, to advocate for political issues goes beyond free speech; it is corruption and should not be tolerated for ANY advocacy. I doubt the University is so concerned about attracting conservatives that they would oppose gun control measures, higher taxes or support limiting abortion.

Anyone claiming that gay, liberal professors are "better" or "smarter" than conservative straight ones is a bigot, pure and simple.

Derve said...

Oh no, even AJ has joined the bitch crew.* I thought he'd just have a brew or two and let it pass. Schmidts anyone?
---------

*And we wonder if we'll have enough manpower and determination to fight -- and win -- against external threats. Maybe if it's a whining/bitchin' victim contest, hosted by lawyers.

Sue their asses!, "sgt. ted" says. *sigh*

Pogo said...

Derve, your "masculinity" comments are asinine.

By that I mean: business as usual.

John(classic) said...

As for the same-sex marriage issue, the university had a strong institutional reason for taking a position: The ban hurts our interest in attracting faculty and staff here.

That would be because the university sees no worthy potential staff or faculty in the majority of the population that supports the ban?

SGT Ted said...

Hey if I did political advocacy in uniform or using government assets, I could be prosecuted and fired under the Hatch Act. Why should public university officials be exempt?

Derve said...

Pogo,
You claimed the bitch word for yourself. I merely characterized your comment as whining.

See, nobody really likes to be a victim, right? Get back up guys, for the good of the country, is all I'm sayin... Don't wallow in perceived offense and victimhood.

Derve said...

That would be because the university sees no worthy potential staff or faculty in the majority of the population that supports the ban?

Oh, those types are here. Don't believe the hype. They manage to keep religion and social policy separate.

I suspect any potential faculty who would condition Wisconsin employment on whether or not recognition of civil unions is constitutionally banned would not work out too well here. A yes vote was not for tradition; it was for intolerance. The "good cop" or "honey" approach is too sophisticated to come out and tell you this.

Michael said...

Michael-- It's not a newfound "right to gay marriage". There is case precedent for a right to marriage. There are equal protection guarantees based on sex/gender in the U.S. Constitution and others in state constitutions.

Which were never in 200+ years construed as guaranteeing gay marriage until five minutes ago; and politically, trying to force the "right" through judicially instead of changing minds and legislation has been a disastrous tactic that will probably lead to a federal amendment banning it before we're done. If the civil rights movement had taken this tack we'd have a segregation amendment to the Constitution, passed in 1952 (and credited with helping elect President Thurmond).

In any case, my point was about the sanctimony of people who claim that there's only one decent and humane side to this issue when they themselves weren't on any side until quite recently.

tjl said...

"If the civil rights movement had taken this tack we'd have a segregation amendment to the Constitution."

Actually, that is the tack the civil rights movement did take. Remember Brown v. Board of Education?

That said, the rest of Michael's point is only too valid. Pursuing gay marriage through the courts has to be the stupidest and most self-defeating political strategy of all time.

anonymous said...

downtownlad sez:

"And yes chicken little - the best professors ARE gay, because we all know that the average IQ for gay people is substantially higher than it is for straights. After all, the gene for intelligence is the same one that determines sexual orientation. But of course, you're too stupid to know this, because you're straight."

To which the only retort is, what an a-hole you are, madam, sir, frozen vegetable, whatever.

chickenlittle said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
chickenlittle said...

Revenant said:

"Why are homosexuals overrepresented in academia? 10% is two to four times the incidence of homosexuality in the general population."

Academe has evolved to favor the childless, especially women. In many ways it's becoming a modern day priesthood.

chickenlittle said...

Madisonman:

About that Engineering Prof who left and took his $3.5 M in annual grants with him.

Any idea about whether any of that grant amount was Fed in origin?

Any idea about how said Prof felt, spoke and acted in public about the Solomon amendment?

Just asking

MadisonMan said...

chickenlittle: To clarify, it's $3.5M since '00, or about $500K per year (That's what I get for posting without factchecking).

Here is a link

Most of his funded research is Federal as it's nanotech stuff. A couple quotes I find on the web (unattributed) say NSF, Military, and Private. As far as I know, his remarks on leaving were his first remarks about the situation here at UW. A researching professor really has better things to do with their time than advocate social change. That's the bailiwick of Deanlets.

A web search on Carpick and Solomon Amendment yield nothing useful. So I'd say that he said very little about the Solomon Amendment in public. In private, who knows? I'm not the Federal Govt, I don't listen in on what goes on in private homes. :)

The Jerk said...

That said, the rest of Michael's point is only too valid. Pursuing gay marriage through the courts has to be the stupidest and most self-defeating political strategy of all time.

Yep, what a backlash.

http://www.pollingreport.com/civil.htm

Internet Ronin said...

MadisonMan: $500,000/year is just a drop in a very large bucket. I assume he's young and the university had great hopes for him.

All of this harkens back to a discussion earlier about why Arizona said no to a similar measure and Wisconsin didn't. One of the things I've seen in numerous articles about Arizona is that the people there were confident that their state supreme court was not an "activist" court. IIRC, the people of Wisconsin already have ample proof that their supreme court is an activist one.

I can't help wondering how many people, for example, read about the New Jersey State Supreme Court decision, where the court basically said granting any rights meant granting all rights including marriage.

MadisonMan said...

$500K per annum yields $160K for the University in overhead. And then there's the expected income in the next decade, as you note. Many millions gone. How will the deanlets who live on overhead get by?

Perhaps a socially conservative Professor will replace those fundings, but as I noted upthread -- will professors want to be hired where the threat of turmoil and staff change is present because of policies that don't allow Domestic Partner benefits? Professors leaving -- for whatever reason -- means extra committee work.

Dusty said...

Ann, there is a Listening Session scheduled for today at 5-6:30 at Main Lounge of Memorial Union at which the Chancellor and Provost are expected to attend.

While mentioning that the domestic partnership issues will be discussed at the session, that seems secondary to the "opportunity to voice feelings related to the recently-passed marriage amendment".

Considering that the University as an institution had been used by those in authority to quite exclusively campaign against the Amendment, fostering diversity of views is not the least of concerns of those who hold the reigns of power at UW-Madison. Then again, the session could surprise with the diverse ways in which "shameful" can be described.

Any plans to go and then report on it?

ed said...

Hmmm.

No offense to anyone but I am beyond sick and tired of gay issues. You'd think half the country were gays when it's actually a very small percentage.

IMHO I'd be in favor of permanently banning gay marriage on a national level, i.e. US Constitution, it it would just shut everybody up and end the endless mantra of gay this and gay that.

And I'm sure quite a few people feel the same way.

chickenlittle said...

I had no idea there was any shortage of good qualified researchers who desparately wanted into academe, especially in science. Last time I checked, we were over-producing them, which is one reason I checked out. Of course, there are certain under-represented minorities. But now I read in this thread that gays may be over-represented in academe? If true, maybe the university should be reaching out to strike a better balance?

MadisonMan said...

chickenlittle, the press on Carpick made it pretty clear he was beyond good, and that the UW expected most excellent things from him -- like continued grants and the inevitable patent royalties. It'll be interesting to follow his career at Penn and see what kind of cash flow he brings to them.

I think there are a lot of merely good researchers. It's the especially good ones a University wants to retain.

chickenlittle said...

Madisonman said:

"the press on Carpick made it pretty clear he was beyond good"

That's hard for them, you or me to call.
Still Penn is a lateral move

AJ Lynch said...

Just for the record Derve, I never drank Schmidt's because it was known for its tendency to give you exceptional headaches.

But if you are making your Xmas list, it's Jack Daniels for me. You know from Lynchburg.

chickenlittle said...

Here's a link to support my assertion:

http://www.usnews.com/usnews/edu/grad/rankings/eng/brief/engrank_brief.php

Internet Ronin said...

AJ: I have a small plot of land somewhere in Lynchburg if you are interested ;-) I got it for taking the Jack Daniels distillery tour. It was great fun, particularly since the guy giving the tour had the deepest Tennessee accent I ever hope to hear and people were constantly asking their neighbors for translations.

They send me pictures of the plot, and odd notes throughout the year.

Revenant said...

As "servants of the people" -- it is their job to use their brains (that plus experience is what they're paid for) and advocate on behalf of the school. Despite what the majority says.

Then their job is worthless to the people, and should be eliminated.

We're adults. We don't need to be lectured by people who can't find real jobs.

MadisonMan said...

That's hard for them, you or me to call.

True. He did have a solid record of obtaining funding, however, so the opinion that he could produce wasn't just one from the UW, but it pervaded funding agencies and the peer reviewers as well.

chickenlittle said...

Madisonman,

But if he was as good and rare as you imply, other (better) schools would have jumped at a chance to land him at this point.

I don't mean to knock the man as researcher/professor. But I don't see any evidence that he was irreplacable.

Internet Ronin said...

Madisonman: As I said, the economic loss is a pittance given the university budget. No one knows what the future holds, so any estimate, high or low, is complete pie-in-the-sky.

It is also apparent that this guy was shopping around for a new position well before election day and ended up with a 10% increase in pay, probably more research assistance, and better access to funding to boot, so I doubt he was planning to stay all that long in Madison anyway. He got lucky and got to make a political point on his way out the door. Good for him. I don't expect many others to follow him, however.

As others have said, this initiative is being challenged and nothing the university currently provides is going to change in the next few years as the challenges go forward in court. Given the reputation of the Wisconsin Supreme Court, do you really expect them to uphold this law? They will find a way out of it, I'm sure.

Does it make UW's job recruiting any easier? For a few of their preferred candidates, no. For the vast majority of their candidates, this will not be a deal-breaker, because most people are, in the end, primarily concerned about their own well-being. (In fact, based on what Ann has written, the biggest deal-breaker is Wisconsin's high taxes on income and property.) If the Democrats pass the proposed changes in the AMT, this would help.

Would I prefer a different outcome if I was in Wisconsin? Yes.

(DTL likes to say Massachusetts is wonderful, but that is only because the legislature refuses to do their constitutionally-mandated job and has thus far prevented a vote on the issue. If that ever happens, Massachusetts will probably join that long list of states that DTL derides.)

AJ Lynch said...

Internet Ronin:
I have never been to Lynchburg or seen whiskey made. But I was in a cigarette factory in Winston-Salem and they gave the visitors free samples - can you imagine that?

It was in the mid-1980's before smoking became evil. It was actually pretty neat seeing a very tiny overhead conveyor belt filled with single cigarettes headed for packaging.

I have always felt those kind of tours are great for school kids to see how things are made. I say let's make them mandatory while we still have a few factories left in this country (at least until Jim Webb fixes that).

Internet Ronin said...

I agree Aj. When I was a kid, everyone in 2nd grade took a field trip to see how bread was made at Helm's Bakery. (I know, I know, nothing more exciting than watching bread rise ;-) In those days, in Southern California, Helms Bakery trucks cruised most neighborhoods daily, and people had little carboard signs to leave in their windows if they wanted their "regular order."

The neatest part of the tour was at the end, they gave each of us a mini loaf of Helm's bread. It was about 2"x2"x5" at best. The wrapping was miniaturized as well. This little loaf was so special because it wasn't sold anywhere, so each kid felt like they had a real treasure. Can't remember anyone ever eating it before getting home to show mom. Do know of one or two who kept it until mold had long since taken over. (Never saw anything like it for years after they went out of business.)

Oh yes, Helm's bread was the first bread on the moon (and probably the only one at that). Richard Helm's was an old friend of Richard Nixon. The bakery was in Montebello, and, IIRC, was located in Nixon's original congressional district.

Internet Ronin said...

AJ: P.S. As for "One-term wonder" Webb: I doubt he'll make any difference.

AJ Lynch said...

IR:

The Webb point was my atempt at sarcasm. And after reading his WSJ Oped today, he sounds a little nutty to me.

Last point, I wonder if even a bread bakery could give out free samples to visitors today. Afterall, carbs are almost as vilified as tobacco. Maybe a carrot stick factory will have to do.

Undercover Blogger said...

The University may have had an interest in the passage of the amendment and, therefore, you may beloeive the promulgation of the letter to be justified. However, the dean characterizes the outcome of the vote as "discriminatory" and a "shameful aberration". By dogmatically assigning these judgments, she is clearly violating the University's "Think Respect" campaign. While I have no porblem with gay civil unions, I disagree with those who assign bigoted motives to people who genuinely believe that marriage should be protected as an institution. It is definitely posible to oppose gay marriage and not be a homophobe. Where is the dean's appreciation of Nuance? I thought all liberals had it.

The Jerk said...

It seems to me that a state employee has no business commenting, in an official capacity, on the morality of laws the public chooses to pass. They are servants of the people; it is not their place to question the people's will

Yeah, let's get rid of departments pf political science. And economics, and sociology, and history, and any other discipline that might possibly question the wisdom of today's majority.

Revenant said...

Yeah, let's get rid of departments pf political science. And economics, and sociology, and history, and any other discipline that might possibly question the wisdom of today's majority.

If your education in those areas consisted of being lectured on morality and the correct political views to hold, that certainly goes a long way towards explaining why you never have anything intelligent or insightful to say about economics, sociology, history, or politics.

Real universities, meanwhile, teach things like facts and scientific theories, and leave the moralizing to the politicians, priests, and other such blowhards.

Internet Ronin said...

AJ:

OK, I'll admit it, I knew that but was just looking for an opportunity to use my own line ("One-Tem Wonder Webb." ;-)

The Jerk said...

If your education in those areas consisted of being lectured on morality and the correct political views to hold, that certainly goes a long way towards explaining why you never have anything intelligent or insightful to say about economics, sociology, history, or politics.

Ad hom. Also an incredibly stupid comment, unless you've read everything I've ever written.

Anonymous said...

I can personally assure any doubters out there that anti-gay decisions affect gay academics' career choices. When I finished my PhD, I asked about partner rights everywhere I interviewed because my partner is self-employed and gets his health insurance through me. Laws like Virginia's (and apparently WI's) will make it illegal to provide these, and I would not have pursued jobs in states like that any farther unless I were desperate enough to take the pay cut private insurance requires.

If gays are overrepresented in academia, and I'm not saying they are, I can imagine why. Gay students in high school and college might feel marginalized and react to this by studying more. Academia doesn't value group socializing the way business does, and lots of gays are reluctant to socialize outside work with their coworkers. And yes, academia is left-wing, and therefore seen as more welcoming than, say, the oil industry.