The following letter was sent to Vice President of Human Resources Karen Miller, Executive Vice President for Finance and Administration David Provost, and President Laurie Patton. Dear Karen and Dave, We are very glad that the wages for incoming workers at Middlebury have been raised to something much closer to a livable wage. We realize that the college's primary purpose was to be competitive and thus salaries were raised for entry level positions, but we are concerned that this has created wage compression and a sense of serious dissatisfaction among our longest and most dedicated employees. We believe the issue of wage-compression must be addressed. As you can imagine, for people who have been here for many years, even decades, it seems incomprehensible that their salaries should be the same as or just barely higher than incoming employees. We hope you will consider issuing an announcement as soon as possible about how long-term employees will see their wages increase in the near future in order to compensate them appropriately. Thank you for your consideration. Signed, Laurie Essig Gloria Gonzáles Zenteno Ellery Foutch Kevin Moss Ellen Oxfeld Patricia Saldarriaga Shawna Shapiro Michael Sheridan Yumna Siddiqi Daniel Silva Rebecca Tiger Max Ward Catharine Wright
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First off, I’d like to thank Mr. Khan for that little trip down memory lane! Let me state right off the bat that I have no regrets about standing up for the rights of LGBT people and other marginalized groups at Middlebury. I don’t retract a single comment, especially about Rehnquist, who not only sided against equality in every major Supreme Court case on gay rights for over two decades, but in 1986 and again in 2003 – a mere three years before Middlebury named a chair after him – considered that I should be a felon in over 20 states because of who I sleep with. (Bowers v. Hardwick in 1986 upheld Georgia’s sodomy law that carried a sentence of 1-20 years in prison for consensual sex between men. Lawrence v. Texas in 2003 found the remaining 14 state sodomy laws unconstitutional and overturned Bowers, but Rehnquist joined the dissent.) I don’t care what logic he used to justify his decision, it’s still clear to me it was really based on animus. Fortunately, by 2003 a majority of Supreme Court justices was on my side, as in 2006 a majority of voting faculty was on my side, not that of President Liebowitz. Then, as now, the people making decisions at Middlebury were blindsided. They were as unaware of what some of us knew about Rehnquist as the organizers of the Hamilton Forum were of what some of us knew about Legutko. My suspicions that they were unaware are confirmed in that other pearl-clutching article about my Facebook post, which Khan refers to. But people, it’s Facebook! It’s not as if I’ve gone on the lecture circuit and criticized my Middlebury colleagues at other institutions! Facebook is just not that serious. Furthermore, my feed is private, restricted to friends. That someone took it upon himself to steal my post and share it with, among others, students, whom I never add as friends until they graduate, is a gross violation of my privacy and totally unethical. Imagine if I stole private pictures of someone’s children from social media and shared them with some group they didn’t want to see them! The post was made in the heat of the moment, and I later tempered it. But I had been looking forward to confronting Legutko with pointed questions and was already upset that I was deprived of that possibility. Now I heard that he was speaking anyway, but I had been shut out. It seemed a bizarre move on the part of those who talk about answering speech with more speech and about questions being the coin of the realm. Someone might have reached out to the one person on campus who seemed aware of what Legutko stood for in Poland and in Europe. Finally, to the question of my publication record. Perhaps Mr. Khan doesn’t know, but different disciplines have different expectations. Some still insist on books, but others accept serious articles and book chapters, and these expectations are changing with digital publishing as well. I have over two dozen publications since those two books. The latest was the translation of my chapter on Russia for the French edition of a volume on Anti-Gender Campaigns in Europe. The chapter title, “Russia as the savior of European civilization: Gender and the geopolitics of traditional values,” could with the substitution of “Poland” for “Russia” easily describe Legutko’s book. Though short, the chapter has some 57 citations, which is 57 more than Legutko’s work. Not to brag, but last year I was even invited to Harvard to give a talk on Russia’s Political Homophobia and Geopolitics. This is what I brought to the attention of my colleagues and students at Middlebury. Now Poland’s turn to political homophobia has been in all the papers. Mr. Khan did inadvertently point to one real problem. It is likely true that my productivity has taken some hits from my activism on campus. Cis straight white men especially tend to have no idea how much emotional and intellectual energy some people on campus expend to make Middlebury a better place for marginalized students. I can’t even fathom the kind of daily toll this work takes on my colleagues who are faculty and staff of color here. But on the bright side, there is sometimes some progress. My op-ed on IVCF in 2016 (which, by the way, was about excluding a candidate from leadership not because of his stance on marriage, but because he was gay) ended with this: “Perhaps now is finally the time for Middlebury to create an LGBTQ center and hire a director who could both pro-actively make Middlebury a more queer-positive place and be brought in to help respond to any homophobic or transphobic situation that might arise in the future.” I note with pleasure that the college is now advertising for a full-time assistant director for the Anderson Freeman Center to support LGBTQ+ students and beginning discussions of what just such a center might look like. Kevin Moss is Jean Thomson Fulton Professor of Modern Language & Literature at Middlebury College.
From the moment I became aware of Ryszard Legutko’s statements, I have shared them with the organizers and the sponsors of his talk. The context of the first statement I saw was a new turn towards homophobia in Poland’s ruling PiS party, a backlash against the Warsaw mayor Trzaskowski, who offered to extend protections to LGBT people. Legutko echoed the official party line, but added “These activists and organizations are very brutal. They have Bolshevik methods. If someone imagines these people as lost, abused by human prejudices ... of course not! These are the people who rule. They have behind them the most powerful means that exist.” This is a common paranoid fantasy among the anti-gender and anti-LGBT activists I research. Gays are all-powerful. There is no need to protect them. They in fact oppress others. Legutko cites no evidence for his claim. Prof. Callanan thanked me for my “perspective,” but has never engaged with the actual quotations I pointed to or rebutted them. When student organizers publicized quotations from Legutko’s book, as well as some from this more recent talk on Polish TV, Prof. Callanan did respond: in a letter to Political Science (PSCI) students defending Legutko, he says of these quotations, “Some are doctored and others accurate, some in context and others not.” Like Legutko, he cites no evidence for these claims. My colleagues and I have checked the quotations, and in some cases provided translations from Polish. They are accurate. Prof. Callanan goes on to write, “For my part, I find in these quotations the words of a man who has been sharply critical of the methods of activists in the European Union, and who holds the same position on same-sex marriage once held by President Obama, President Clinton, and Secretary Clinton.” I am acutely aware of Obama and Clinton’s evolving positions on marriage equality. Never, however, did they argue that LGBT people were not discriminated against, but instead rule over others. In fact both supported extension of rights, more like mayor Trzaskowski than Legutko. Obama signed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Protection Act into law, something Legutko would vigorously oppose. My first inkling of Legutko’s position came about as a result of a post by Polish feminist and scholar, Agnieszka Graff. She and the team of European scholars with whom I collaborated on Anti-Gender Campaigns in Europe recognized Legutko’s rhetoric as typical of the anti-gender discourse of the far right. It is not just Catholic or just conservative, but part of a global attack on women’s rights, LGBT rights, and more. I spoke about this at last week’s panel on Populism, Homophobia, and Illiberal Democracy, a panel Prof. Callanan did not attend. As student parodists have demonstrated in their annotated version (on go/beyondthegreen), Callanan’s letter itself contains much more false information than the quotations posted by student organizers, which were accurate. Yet student organizers have been harassed, first by some PSCI students who received his letter, and now by right wing trolls outside Middlebury. The students and I appealed to the PSCI department to correct the record early last week. I challenged Prof. Callanan last Thursday to provide evidence for his claims. Again he has failed to engage with the facts. Apparently he cares more about giving Legutko cover and protecting his own false narratives than about the pursuit of truth or about the welfare of our students.
Re “Response to Setting the Record Straight” (online, Dec. 1) As long as Prof. Stanger is advocating precision for the record, perhaps she could correct the description of the event at ASU, which currently reads as follows: “Professor Stanger was there to verbally challenge the speaker. She never got the chance, and the invited speaker never spoke.” There are at least two falsehoods in those two sentences, possibly three. She did get the chance to challenge the speaker and the speaker did speak. We have a link on the Middlebury website to prove that. As to whether she “verbally challenged” the speaker, I suspect we disagree. I don’t find the following introduction to a discussion of The Bell Curve “verbally challenging”: “Please know that I believe your work has been unjustly maligned. Correlation is not causation, as you yourself have repeatedly pointed out. I don’t want to question your data from The Bell Curve. Instead, let’s assume your data is sound.” But the other two falsehoods on the ASU website clearly distort the record to play into the dominant narrative used to defame the college and they should be corrected. Kevin Moss is the Jean Thomson Fulton Professor of Modern Languages and Literature at Middlebury College.
I was surprised to see the headline “Christian Group Dismissed Gay Lead- ers” in the last Campus, and not just because it shouldn’t be happening at Middlebury today. My shock was based on the fact that exactly the same thing happened in the spring of 2000, and I thought the issue had been resolved. I know the students involved think they know the Biblical texts and traditions they base their interpretation on, but as a linguist and a language teacher, I won- der. My students spend years learning Russian and study at our School in Rus- sia before they can really pontificate on Pushkin or Dostoevsky. How many of the IVCF students are fluent in New Testa- ment Greek or spend a semester in the Holy Land in their junior year, much less in the first century?All joking aside, I had just finished reading Boswell’s Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality with my Intro to Gay and Lesbian Studies class. Aside from the textual analysis, one of the main points of Boswell’s book is that there was a time in the eleventh cen- tury when gay people were prominent and respected both in Europe and in the Catholic Church, so the “tradition” of ho- mophobia is hardly a continuous one or one that is truly based on theology and the Bible. Rather, societal change in the following centuries led people to seek Biblical justification for their prejudices. There was, says Boswell, a much stron- ger and more theologically sound tradi- tion against lending money at interest in the medieval period, but somehow we manage to allow banking, even today. As an educational institution, we should en- courage discussion of such issues, even or especially within Christian groups on campus. In 2015, as in 2000, both the local chapter of IVCF and the national orga- nization claimed that they don’t dis- criminate based on identity, but only on beliefs. The effect of the discrimination, however, seems to be the same. Can we really expect gay and lesbian Christians to consider themselves second-class citizens who must remain celibate and proclaim their own exclusion from mar- riage? While we can’t dictate what IVCF believes, must we always defer to “sin- cerely held religious beliefs”? I am old enough to remember when white evan- gelicals in the South sincerely believed that God had separated the races. Bob Jones University banned interracial dating until 2000 because “If you are against segregation and against racial separation, then you are against God Al- mighty.” Would we allow a pass for that? The recurrence of this kind of incident also shows that we need some structural change at the institutional level. Perhaps now is finally the time for Middlebury to create an LGBTQ center and hire a direc- tor who could both pro-actively make Middlebury a more queer-positive place and be brought in to help respond to any homophobic or transphobic situation that might arise in the future.