November 26, 2019. 4:30 pm.

This webpage is a fisking of Indiana University Provost Lauren Robel's memo about me. As "Provost", she is the leader of the Bloomington Campus of Indiana University (as opposed to the campuses at Fort Wayne and other places, all campuses combined being under President Michael McRobbie). I have put her words in green. I am continuing to try to finish this, but you may quote current versions you may see (Note that since I'm continuing to work on this, if a media quote doesn't match up, that doesn't mean they're misquoting me necessarily--- ask me if you wonder.)

Dear Kelley Community Members,

Professor Eric Rasmusen has, for many years, used his private social media accounts to disseminate his racist, sexist, and homophobic views.

These insults no longer have much meaning. I oppose admitting people to universities based on their race; I open doors for ladies; I say that sodomy is a sin. I suppose that's enough to qualify me for those insults under the Provost's personal definitions.

When I label his views in this way, let me note that the labels are not a close call, nor do his posts require careful parsing to reach these conclusions. He has posted, among many other things, the following pernicious and false stereotypes:

• That he believes that women do not belong in the workplace, particularly not in academia,

My wife, who has degrees from the Royal College of Music and Indiana's Jacobs School of Music, taught college students at Eastern Illinois University for a year back around 1995. I did not object. Nor did I object when she decided she liked being a housewife better, a very reasonable decision. If my daughter decides to become a philosophy professor, that is okay too. Academia is a vocation more compatible with motherhood than most jobs.

and that he believes most women would prefer to have a boss than be one;

Yes, I do believe that. It's a bit of a cheat, because I think most men would prefer to have bosses than be one too. People don't like responsibility.

he has used slurs in his posts about women;

It would make replying a lot easier if the Provost were specific as to how she comes up with these ideas about me. My guess here is that the Provost is referring to a tweet about the affair between an Assistant General Counsel and a Deputy Assistant Director at the Justice Department (she said "slurs", though--- what does she mean?). Lisa Page carried on an affair at the office with Peter Strzok. Both were married; both hid it from their spouses. This came out after Strzok was fired for various misconduct, including carelessness in letting his wife get access to his phone (which is how she discovered the affair) at the same time as he was investigating Hillary Clinton for the same thing, misuse of personal devices for official business. Their texts included abuse of Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump. Lisa Page later resigned in disgrace. Benjamin Wittes tweeted, "Whenever I think of her, this passage from the end of Prometheus Unbound comes to mind. He cites a beautiful passage starting with, "To suffer woes which Hope thinks infinite...". My reply was, "That's funny, what I think of when I hear her name is a slut who was having an adulterous affair at the office." Wittes was romanticizing someone who was cheating on her husband in a sordid office affair. I do not think it misogynistic to speak strongly against women who steal other women's husbands. And the guy, Strzok, is even worse.

• That gay men should not be permitted in academia either, because he believes they are promiscuous and unable to avoid abusing students;

The Provost should really know better, but maybe we can take that as hyperbole. I am on record as saying that homosexuals should not teach grade and high school. I don't think they should be Catholic priests or Boy Scout leaders either. Back in that kerfuffle when I was widely attacked for saying that, I was careful to say that academia was different. Professors prey on students too, so there is a danger, but the students are older and better able to protect themselves, and there is more reason to accept the risk of a brilliant but immoral teacher. It would be worth accepting the risk of sexual harassment if Indiana University had a chance to hire the best organist in the world to teach here even though he were known for his immorality, though we would need to warn him strongly that he should behave himself while on the job.

• That he believes that black students are generally unqualified for attendance at elite institutions, and are generally inferior academically to white students.

What is clear is that *some* students are admitted because of their race--- which means that others are denied because of their race, since we have a fixed number of spots. The whole idea of affirmative action is that too few black students wouldn get in without racial preferences, so we need to lower the standard for them and accept that they will do worse academically. Affirmative action may be right; it maybe wrong; but that's what it is.

Ordinarily, I would not dignify these bigoted statements with repetition,

That is, we don't want to debate things like affirmative action, because once you start talking about them in the open, it's clear how corrupt they are.

but we need to confront exactly what we are dealing with in Professor Rasmusen’s posts. His expressed views are stunningly ignorant, more consistent with someone who lived in the 18th century than the 21st.

I was just reading Nietzsche, and somewhere (cite, anyone?--erasmuse@Indiana.edu) he says that the goal of philosophers is to escape from their own time, from the biases they grow up with, what Francis Bacon calls the Idols of the Cave (your culture) and the Idols of the Theatre (false ideas everybody accepts because all the scholars or priests propound them, e.g. bleeding will cure your fever). One thing I try to do is think, "How would someone from the 18th century critique my view? Is what I am saying just a product of 21st century culture?". What I aim for is a view that stands up to both the 18th century and 21st century critiques, not to mention 1st-century, and to critiques from ancient China as well as ancient Greece. The Provost is taking the opposite tack here, saying that we should not care about what people from other cultures and times would think about what we say, only people in 2019 America. One problem for administrators is that the pressures of their office tend to limit their views. They have constituencies to please.

Sometimes Professor Rasmusen explains his views as animated by his Christian faith, although Christ was neither a bigot nor did he use slurs; indeed, he counseled avoiding judgments.

I hear that some other professors may put together a statement on what Christians believe about judgements. But see what Christ said in Matthew 23:

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean.

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people's bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.

Rhetorically speaking, Professor Rasmusen has demonstrated no difficulty in casting the first, or the lethal, stone.

Poorly phrased, but I know what she means. She's saying that I've used strong words first, so she's justified in using strong words too. She's not saying I'm trying to kill anybody. I certainly do not mind people stating their opinions strongly. It's just that one must be careful, especially, in making claims about other people. And one must be ready to admit to mistake. When you say something about a person's views, it's a good idea to check with them to see if those are really their views or not.

His latest posts slurring women were picked up by a person with a heavily followed Twitter account,

Why doesn't the Provost mention the name of the "person with a heavily followed Twitter account"? Perhaps because she doesn't want readers to know what it's like. The site is @SheRatesDogs. Be prepared for bad language. But decide for yourself.

and various officials at Indiana University have been inundated in the last few days with demands that he be fired.

I do sympathize with the amount of calls, tweets, emails, etc. that Idie Kesner and Lauren Robel have had, but they should realize that in the Internet Age, having 5,000 people mad at you is nothing.

Also, while I understand their annoyance, they do have large staffs to help them handle email and correspondence, and they have procedures in place for dealing with crises. I don't, though I am learning fast. As this continues, I will gain on them as I learn how to mobilize volunteers. It's interesting learning how to do that. Anybody in similar trouble, contact me for advice on that--- but wait a while, please, if it's not urgent.

We cannot, nor would we, fire Professor Rasmusen for his posts as a private citizen, as vile and stupid as they are, because the First Amendment of the United States Constitution forbids us to do so. That is not a close call.

Quite right, except that I wouldn't call my posts "vile and stupid". Also, academic freedom principles to which Indiana University subscribes prevent me from being legally fired, even apart from the Constitutional question.

What the Provost should have said is "However strongly I disagree with a professor's views, I would never fire him, even if I did not fear legal consequences, because I believe in academic freedom, and in freedom of thought generally." Then she could have quoted Milton's Areopagitica or something else like that, to educate the public a little.

Indiana University has a strong nondiscrimination policy, and as an institution adheres to values that are the opposite of Professor Rasmusen’s expressed values.

I thought public universities weren't supposed to take political stands. Just saying your political opinions are "nondiscrimination policy" doesn't mean you're not taking a stand on political issues. Maybe you're just following policies established by the state's political bodies--- the state house and senate and the governor--- but maybe you're making your own additions and subtractions.

We demand tolerance and respect in the workplace and in the classroom, and if Professor Rasmusen acted upon his expressed views in the workplace to judge his students or colleagues on the basis of their gender, sexual orientation, or race to their detriment, such as in promotion and tenure decisions or in grading, he would be acting both illegally and in violation of our policies and we would investigate and address those allegations according to our processes.

I don't judge my students "on the basis of their gender, sexual orientation, or race to their detriment" (how am supposed to even know what their sexual orientation is?) I look at them as individuals, and see how well they do on tests. And does the Provost really want to add "to their detriment"? I don't judge my students on the basis of their gender, sexual orientation, or race, whether it's to their detriment--- or whether it's to their benefit. Isn't the one as bad as the other?

And of course if I do grade students or evaluate colleagues unfairly, I ought to be punished. One thing we can all agree on is that professors should be fair.

If the University Administration does decide on a policy that I feel is too immoral to practice, I will not be shy about letting everybody know it. If Indiana University were to fire all its Jewish professors, as German universities did in 1933, I would not stand by silently. One refugee described the crucial faculty meeting like this. The announcement was made that all Jewish faculty were to fired. Then:

"There was silence when he finished; everybody waited for the distinguished biochemist-physiologist. The great liberal got up, cleared his throat, and said, “Very interesting, Mr. Commissar, and in some respects very illuminating: but one point I didn’t get too clearly. Will there be more money for research in physiology?"

The meeting broke up shortly thereafter with the commissar assuring the scholars that indeed there would be plenty of money for “racially pure science.” A few of the professors had the courage to walk out with their Jewish colleagues, but most kept a safe distance from these who only a few hours earlier had been their close friends."

We have to rememember historically how most of us professors behave when persecution arrive. But if Indiana University institutes a key policy bad enough that I feel compelled to violate it, the Administration will hear about it from me.

Moreover, in my view, students who are women, gay, or of color could reasonably be concerned that someone with Professor Rasmusen’s expressed prejudices and biases would not give them a fair shake in his classes, and that his expressed biases would infect his perceptions of their work. Given the strength and longstanding nature of his views, these concerns are reasonable.

No, those concerns are not reasonable. Every professor has political opinions of some kind or other. I know many professor with leftwing views (actually, I don't know many with *rightwing* views), but I don't assume that they grade conservative students unfairly. Some do, I would guess, but some evidence about their individual behavior is needed, rather than prejudging them as a group based on their opinions.

Therefore, the Kelley School is taking a number of steps to ensure that students not add the baggage of bigotry to their learning experience: "Baggage of bigotry" has a wonderful ring to it, and I can understand the Provost's temptation to use such an elegant phrase, even if it's not actually correct.

• No student will be forced to take a class from Professor Rasmusen. The Kelley School will provide alternatives to Professor Rasmusen’s classes;

• Professor Rasmusen will use double-blind grading on assignments; if there are components of grading that cannot be subject to a double-blind procedure, the Kelley School will have another faculty member ensure that the grades are not subject to Professor Rasmusen’s prejudices. The Provost means "blind grading". I slip into saying "double-blind" myself, but what it means is the professor doesn't know which student's exam he's grading, and the student doesn't know which professor is grading his exam. That's what's done in experiments. Here, it's "single-blind" or just "blind". Just terminology.

The Dean told me about the idea of using blind grading for my spring classes, and I volunteered to do it for the fall too, for the remaining assignments. It's no big deal, just a little bit of extra hassle. Maybe all IU professors should use blind grading for final exams. I suppose some of them must have political biases, though I wouldn't claim that of anybody specific, since I have zero evidence at hand, just their political views.

I am told that the caselaw suggests that if I refused to use blind grading, I'd win in court. But lawsuits aren't the best way to deal with situations, and I'm willing to be reasonably cooperative.

If other steps are needed to protect our students or colleagues from bigoted actions, Indiana University will take them.

How about replacing the Provost? Isn't it clear that Indiana University students and faculty need to be protected from her bigoted actions?

Someone told me this was the one paragraph of mine he didn't like, because it sounded so strident. Well, yes--- that's because of the allusion I'm making. I will add that do not think the Trustees should fire Professor Robel; they should just fire Provost Robel. She has two titles, and she should leave the job of Provost, from which she can be fired by the Trustees, and return to the role of tenured professor, from which she cannot be fired.

The First Amendment is strong medicine, and works both ways. All of us are free to condemn views that we find reprehensible, and to do so as vehemently and publicly as Professor Rasmusen expresses his views.

I'm not sure. If the Lauren Robel speaks as a citizen, she has every right to condemn views she finds reprehensible. If she speaks as Provost, does she still have that right? I don't know. Similarly, I have every right to condemn views I find reprehensible when I speak as a citizen. But do I have a First Amendment right to spend part of my G406 lecture condemning as reprehensible something I'd read on the Internet by one of the students sitting in front of me?

We are free to avoid his classes, and demand that the university ensure that he does not, or has not, acted on those views in ways that violate either the federal and state civil rights laws or IU’s nondiscrimination policies. I condemn, in the strongest terms, Professor Rasmusen’s views on race, gender, and sexuality, and I think others should condemn them. But my strong disagreement with his views---indeed, the fact that I find them loathsome---is not a reason for Indiana University to violate the Constitution of the United States. This is a lesson, unfortunately, that all of us need to take seriously, even as we support our colleagues and classmates in their perfectly reasonable anger and disgust that someone who is a professor at an elite institution would hold, and publicly proclaim, views that our country, and our university, have long rejected as wrong and immoral.

Provost, not everybody in America is a liberal Democrat. You may find my views loathsome, but remember that I probably would detest many of your views too, if I knew the specifics. It's just not a priority for me.

Lauren Robel

Executive Vice President and Provost