Eric Rasmusen is a name you are probably familiar with. In Nov. 2019, Professor Rasmusen came under fire for sharing an article titled “Are Women Destroying Academia? Probably.” on his Twitter account. Just this week, he posted to his personal Twitter account, “I just dropped my freshman son off at Purdue earlier today. Those girls were really showing off their legs! And I could see girls sitting alone just hoping for a friend-- even a female friend, maybe.”
Although Rasmusen’s comments are clearly discriminatory, this calls into question the place professors' personal opinions have on campus and the systems and structures we have in place that allow for this type of behavior to persist.
Students have a right to a safe and unbiased learning environment, and the language and ideas that Rasmusen has portrayed in his personal accounts inhibits his ability to provide this for all IU students.
There are many professions that limit a person’s freedom of speech. For example, some journalists must maintain an unbiased appearance so that the objectivity of their reporting is not called into question. In addition to this, the military places limits on its members’ free speech and personal expression. In the court case U.S. v. Howe, Officer Howe was charged with “conduct unbecoming an officer” for joining a protest against the Vietnam War.
Once you choose to pursue certain professions, you may have to give up some personal freedoms to maintain a professional environment.
In this scenario, Rasmusen is creating a clear conflict of interest between his idea of who is welcome in his classroom and who the university says belongs in his classroom. His comments directly affect his ability to perform his job. Any professor who cannot provide a safe and fair learning environment should not continue to teach.
As of Aug. 26, it was announced Rasmusen is on unpaid leave for this academic year, and he is under an ongoing investigation that began last fall.This is a step in the right direction, and it shows IU is taking inappropriate comments made by their professors seriously.
A professor's speech can affect students and their learning environment. They can also encourage other students to take on the same hateful and bigoted approach to life. Personally, I would not feel welcome or safe in a class taught by any professor who is so willing to advocate on behalf of oppressive ideas, and I am sure many other students feel the same way.
While discussing this topic with my peers, I was struck by one comment in particular.
“These ideas affect me negatively on a psychological level because, living in a conservative American city, I am surrounded by this rhetoric,” Nicholas Johnson, a freshman studying Near Eastern Languages and Cultures, said. “I should not be responsible for using the words and ideas of people who don’t respect me as an individual, for something that I cannot change, as a learning experience. There is nothing academically valuable about bigotry.”
At its core, the perspective that Rasmusen is perpetuating has no intellectual basis. These beliefs are rooted in closed-mindedness and do not belong in any professional academic setting. His words alienate his students on a wide scale, and he therefore lacks the ability to effectively teach. His beliefs on women, members of the LGBTQIA+ community, Black students and other minority groups show he is not here to teach all students who enroll in his class.
No professor or person of authority in any institution should be allowed to perpetuate discriminatory ideas. Every student on campus deserves to feel like they belong.
We can ignite change in this one simple way: condemn those who spread hate. Make those who spread hateful views uncomfortable. People who endorse hateful viewpoints are scared because they believe that their value comes from being a part of an exclusive group that has historically held power. It is cowardice, and it can be fought by those willing to take a stand.
Aidan Kramer (she/her) is a freshman studying microbiology and environmental science. After graduating, she plans to attend medical school and pursue a career in pathology.