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May 13 2016

Professor Banned From Teaching Course Titled "Men in Literature"

Charlotte Allen

"Women in Literature" is now an entire academic subfield--but just try teaching a course titled "Men in Literature."

The course will be banned.

That was the fate of Dennis Gouws, an associate professor of English at Springfield College in Massachusetts. Gouws had been teaching his "Men in Literature" course since 2005, and according to Peter Wood, president of the National Association of Scholars, Springfield had officially approved the course as a humanities offering in 2010. But then--uh oh!--it became apparent that Gouws was teaching the class from a perspective that was positive toward men. That's a no-no in much of academia, where "women's studies" is a perfectly acceptable scholarly pursuit because it's typically approached from the feminist perspective that women are the oppressed and men are the oppressors. Gouw's apparent heresy was that his approach was that men are often oppressed these days and feminists are the oppressors.

Furthermore, Gouw didn't set much stock in the feminist mantra that one out of every five college women is sexually assaulted on campus--a claim that has been criticized as misleading even by the researchers who conducted the study on which it's based.

So here's what happened, starting in 2013, says Wood, writing in the Weekly Standard:

[Gouws] had helped to found a Springfield College men's group. The group created a Facebook page that irritated some campus feminists. Gouws had gone further by replying to the proliferation of feminist anti-rape posters on his colleagues' office doors. He put on his own office door flyers that presented statistics on rape that contradicted the widespread claim that one in five women are raped during their undergraduate years. His materials were torn down by a departmental colleague, and later, his door was vandalized.

Gouws was called to a meeting by Springfield's director of human resources and subjected to a harangue by a group of college officials. At the meeting one of the college officials complained that the posters created a "hostile environment," and the dean of his college called the organizations that had produced the flyer "a hate group."

Furthermore, four out of the 27 students enrolled in a writing course taught by Gouws in 2014 complained that a male-focused assignment he had given them was "absurd" and "insulting."

Then, in the fall of 2015, according to Wood, writing on the NAS website, Gouws got into more trouble because the reading list for his "Men in Literature" included such books as Christina Hoff Sommers's The War Against Boys, and Until Proven Innocent, an account of the Duke lacrosse case by Stuart Taylor and K.C. Johnson.

Professor Gouws’ departmental chair told him in September 2015 that he had to change the readings in “Men in Literature.” The ostensible aim of these changes was to assign more of what the chair termed “traditional literature.” Professor Gouws agreed to the changes and presented his new readings to the chair in February 2016, who forwarded the changes to Dean [Anne] Herzog. The new readings Professor Gouws added were a collection of World War I poetry, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, and Andy Weir’s The Martian.

That apparently wasn't good enough. Herzog, who, Wood says, already had it in for Gouws because he had failed to attend a "sexual harassment prevention" seminar (from which he had been excused) among other things, purged the course from the Springfield curriculum.

Oject lesson: If you want to teach a "Men in Literature" course, don't bother with The Great Gatsby. Your subject matter should be The Great Patriarchy.

 

 

 

 

 

 



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