Skip to comments.Wagle: Fight over class was about decency, fairness
Posted on 06/20/2003 7:50:43 AM PDT by axel f
Wagle: Fight over class was about decency, fairness
By Sen. Susan Wagle Special to The Capital-Journal
My attempts to de-fund or regulate a human sexuality class at a Kansas university received a significant amount of press attention during session, and continues to draw the ire of many editorial writers across the state. My work has been criticized in most newspapers as an attack on free speech and academic freedom. Reports fail to mention, however, that these activities are financed by taxpayer dollars, and taxpayers have the right to demand accountability from all institutions and agencies they fund.
In addition, few newspapers documented the specifics of the charges behind my attempt. They were the use of vulgar language, pornographic films (including slides of the genitals of children), sexual harassment, and condoning the act of incest, all in an attempt to teach "Human Sexuality in Everyday Life".
My allegations were well documented. While debating on the Senate floor, I passed out documents from students who had complained to the associate dean of the School of Social Welfare, the assistant chancellor of the university, the school ombudsman and to the professor himself, all of which went disregarded.
I also passed out a few of the documents I have received from students who did not file a complaint to the university, but who verified the actions of the professor. I deleted all names to protect identities and to protect families from the type of harassment my public informant, my family and I have received in recent weeks since this issue has been brought forward to the Legislature.
Many news reports continue to state that only one student complained; however, the deletion of names did not invalidate the charges or the validity of the documents. Many of these individuals are willing to testify in a court of law if the actions of this professor are challenged in the legal system.
Additional news reports have surfaced that verify my concerns since session ended. On Memorial Day, National Public Radio did a news show about an additional student who complained to the dean of the School of Social Welfare, again to no avail. Several weeks ago a popular radio talk show host from Topeka called to apologize on air after he had eaten dinner in Lawrence and discovered his waiter had attended the class this past semester. The waiter not only verified all allegations, but expounded further on the sexual harassment going on in the classroom, stating men are the object of harassment, in addition to the women in the class.
The university, after a supposed one month long investigation, cleared the professor of all charges and continued to defend the professor, again in the name of academic freedom. The investigators refused to listen to the audio tapes of the class the informant offered them, and they failed to contact any of the individuals who have written me verifying the charges. From reading the report, it appears that only defenders of the class were contacted, of which such defenders were easy to find, since the professor used the class to rally support after charges were made.
My concern is that academic freedom has a responsibility to the public, and the expenditure of taxpayer dollars to fund higher academics in Kansas is accountable to the public and to the Legislature. My first amendment, which was vetoed by the governor, represented the taxpayers well by placing into statute a requirement that a department of a higher education institution that purchases or shows films that are considered "obscene" by Kansas law would not be funded with tax dollars. Many Kansans support this concept and do not consider this is an infringement on free speech. Guidelines for the expenditure of tax dollars, of which there are many, exist in state law.
In addition, most Kansans agree that academic freedom of instructors ends at the point where the rights of students in the classroom are being infringed upon. Students have a right to attend class without having to make a personal journal of sexual experiences to share with their professor. They have the right to attend class without being given assignments that are personally sexual in nature, or without being insulted or categorized for their values or beliefs, their looks, or their sexual preferences. Students have the right to attend the class without being told the professor is personally aroused by their presence.
More important, Kansans who foot the bill for our higher academic institutions, our judicial system, our criminal justice system and our social service system have the right to ask this class not to teach the concept that sexual acts with children are not harmful to them. Taxpayers spend millions every year defending the rights of children and locking up or terminating privileges of those who do not respect those rights. A professor who under the umbrella of academic freedom professes otherwise is an insult to our civilized society that advocates for the welfare of all the defenseless.
I talked with many students before I carried my amendment on the floor of the Senate. I documented and researched the happenings in the class. I found students who considered the class offensive and I also found students who verified the happenings in the classroom, but rigorously defended the professor. While I recognize the atmosphere on a college campus differs from the atmosphere in the work place, I hope this professor's defenders realize that such conduct is not acceptable in other aspects of our society.
I am hopeful that my new amendment, which was signed by the governor, will help to correct this abomination to the taxpayers of Kansas. Each higher educational institution will write a public policy dealing with sexual harassment and the use of sexually explicit materials in the context of a class dealing with sexuality. In addition, guidelines for the teaching of pedophilia will be required.
Again, while there has been much press and much angst among editorial writers over my actions, the state of Kansas, the taxpayers of Kansas and the children of Kansas are better protected and better represented as a result of my legislative actions. I continue to stand, along with many concerned citizens, by both amendments that were passed by the Legislature.
Susan Wagle is a Republican state senator from Wichita.
Are you against creationism being taught at the University? Are you against free speech. Hey, according to your standard, not only should it be taught, but you should have to fund it (at a university near you).
For the past 20 years, it has been required that I, Steel Eye, axel f, Sunshine Sister...PAY for it. That's our beef.