higher ed

Should Purdue Students Be Forced to Pay the Salary of a Bigoted Professor?

Gnuman at the Purdue Sign

Should students be forced to have at least part of their university tuition go to the salary of a man who chastises gays not simply because the Bible says it’s okay, but because they’re an economic drain on society? That’s the question going around Purdue University when it comes to library science professor Dr. Bert Chapman, who just got done blogging about how homosexuals and their gay AIDS disease are costing America $1 trillion.

And students aren’t having it.

Writing in to the student newspaper Exponent, Purdue junior Max Vande Vaarst wrote:

“Dr. Bert Chapman surrendered his position at Purdue the moment he decided to publish such intellectual diarrhea on his blog. There are those who would defend this atrocious man by claiming that political correctness has conspired to snatch away his free speech, but this is not so. Dr. Chapman has the right to believe that homosexuals are immoral, just as it would be within his rights to believe the same about any other group of people. The issue is not Dr. Chapman’s views of homosexuality, bigoted and wrong-headed though they may be, but that he has abused his authority as a scholar and an expert to disseminate hate-filled propaganda.”

Sophomore Laura Blackburn:

“I’ll call for his job. As a student, as a lesbian, as a human being, I believe with every fiber of my being that Purdue University in no way should affiliate itself with the hateful, bigoted opinions of Professor Chapman.”

Grad student Corey Bechtel:

“This is a big story and not something that should merely be relegated to the opinions page; the views espoused by Chapman are nauseating and his employment at Purdue would be akin to Purdue employing someone who was openly racist or anti-Semitic. It is astounding that someone who is both a professor and a librarian, someone who is charged with teaching and assisting ALL students regardless of their sexual orientation, is saying these despicable things publicly.”

As these students point out, Chapman and his sympathizers will claim he has a right to free speech, which he certainly does. And college campuses should absolutely support a variety of opinions to encourage dialogue and free thought. That, we’re on board with.

But we certainly understand the frustration of students who see their tuition dollars paying the salary of a bigot, who abuses his university business cards to perpetrate misinformation and outright lies. Sure, depending on how Purdue slices it, some of Chapman’s salary might come from grants or donors, not students’ tuition. But it doesn’t change the situation: By keeping Chapman on campus, the university implicitly endorses his homophobia. Would they keep a racist on their faculty?

Apparently that’s not the same question; Purdue isn’t planning on firing Chapman anytime soon, relays Inside Higher Ed. A university spokeswoman says: “The university asks its faculty to make it clear that the viewpoints they express do not necessarily reflect those of the university. Mr. Chapman has gone out of his way to do this with a very clear disclaimer. He also took an extra step and posted his blog on a server not owned by the university. The university has a policy prohibiting harassment if it unreasonably affects a person’s educational or work opportunities or affects his or her ability to participate in a university activity. This does not meet that standard. The First Amendment clearly allows him to state his opinion. The best response is to speak up, which is exactly what our students and some faculty are doing.”

As for Chapman, he tells Higher Ed he didn’t want to talk because he wants everything to blow over. But, notes the website: “He did say that the angry responses have been hurtful to him, and to his wife. He said that his supervisors at the university, consistent with the institution’s statement, have not taken any action against him. But he said that he contacted the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, just in case.”

Yes, just in case. Good idea. Because today, Purdue “volunteers will be collecting signatures of people who think Chapman’s public comments were embarrassing, unprofessional, and damaging to Purdue.” Details here.