Public University Professor Being Investigated for Condemning Homosexuality in Class

The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports:

An Indiana University of Pennsylvania graduate student has filed a complaint with the school’s human resources department, alleging one of her business professors subjected her to humiliation and insults based on her sexuality….

Santiago said the class, instructed by faculty member Dr. Maali Ashamalla, was discussing ethics and legalities. She said a male student said he thought gender reassignment surgery was unethical and should be illegal.

Ashamalla agreed, and called homosexuality “a sin” and “unnatural,” Santiago said.

“I asked her, ‘So are you saying that students like me who identify as homosexual are unnatural, abnormal and disgusting?’ She replied, ‘Yes,'” Santiago said….

University spokeswoman Michelle Fryling confirmed that the school’s human resources department had launched an investigation….

On Wednesday Santiago raised the subject to John Cavanaugh, chancellor of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, during a campus forum at IUP. He did not directly address the issue.

Yesterday, Fryling forwarded a statement from Cavanaugh [which I assume is this statement -EV] denouncing harassment “of any kind — whether face to face or online.” …

UPDATE: An article in the university student newspaper adds more details:

Santiago said the professor went on to claim that Santiago was forcing her homosexuality on her and that she is forced to go to diversity training concerning Safe Zone. The professor went on to say that she cannot be forced to teach that homosexuality is okay and be forced to put up “homographic” images on her door, referring to the Safe Zone symbol of a rainbow and an upside down triangle.

The conversation lasted for several minutes, according to Santiago, but “it felt like forever.”

ANOTHER UPDATE: Some commenters objected to the title of the post, suggesting that it slights the fact (mentioned in the quote) that the professor told a student that the student herself was “unnatural, abnormal, and disgusting”; but given that the student herself asked the professor to chart out the logical implications of the professor’s position, the professor’s condemnation of the student is rightly seen as part of the professor’s general discussion of homosexuality.

This doesn’t dispose of the question whether First Amendment or academic freedom principles should protect the professor’s statement. But it does suggest, I think, that even if there’s a difference between a professor’s making a general point and a professor’s deliberately choosing to single out a particular student — and I think there might be, as a general matter — that difference is at most slight when the student herself asked how the professor’s thinking applies to her particular situation.

To give an analogy, consider three hypothetical situations: (1) A professor says, “Scientologists are either fools or thieves.” (2) A professor says out of the blue, with regard to a student he knows to be a Scientologist, “Mary Jones is a Scientologist, so she’s either a fool or a thief.” (3) A professor says, “Scientologists are either fools or thieves”; Mary Jones raises her hand and says, “I’m a Scientologist; do you think I’m a fool or a thief?”; the professor says, “yes, one or the other.” I think situation 3 should be seen as being considerably closer to situation 1 than to situation 2, though again that doesn’t tell us exactly how situation 1-or-3 or situation 2 should be handled either by First Amendment law or by academic freedom principles.

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