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Thursday, May 11th 2006

Dr. Blaine on Cardinal Martini

Cardinal Martini has some more coverage of the ongoing saga of feminist USC instructor Dr. Blaine. There are plenty of others, but here are some good summary posts:

Post #1: The 10 Commandments of Dr. Blaine

Post #2: The argument against Dr. Blaine’s continued employment

This really is of a larger issue. How do you balance academic freedom (which I truly do highly value) with extremist personal beliefs? I don’t know the full answer but I do know it must involve the right to discussion in her taught courses and the ability of her to not discriminate against students who disagree with her. I don’t buy that part of opening students to new ideas and experiences is in forcing them to accept such views.

Maybe she does that, I have no reason to believe otherwise. Many of her collective comments posted by Cardinal Martini seem to imply at least lip service to allowing students to engage in her class even with differing opinions.

TrojanWire also gets in on the act
concerning Dr. Blaine’s comments on Mark Sanchez’s recent sexual assault arrest.

Finally, I want to look at the way Dr. Blaine goes around defending herself:

So I hadn’t been on your blog in a while, as finals have been currently ruining my life, but I was shocked to see how many people have made it their life’s work to respond with such hate. While they try to sound quite philosophical with their responses, they come out sounding ignorant.

This is from a student email in support of her which she quotes. I just don’t think she does a very good job defending her beliefs. I think she does at least as poorly as those who disagree with her, despite the letter above. I understand that much of what she comments on concerning feminism are standard feminist ideas in some circles – such as holding men as a sex responsible for rapes but some of her discussions seem to draw conclusions based on naked evidence and at times she makes seemingly opposed comments.

For instance look at this anecdote as”proof”.

I had been teaching at Claremont McKenna, where there’s not one [a Gender Studies Department], and I had become disheartened by the misogyny flourishing at that school. Prove it? O.K. One evening the Take Back the Night march came through CMC’s campus and some of the students enacted a mock-rape in silhouette as the protestors walked by.

Singular events, simple stories don’t establish evidence of broad claims. The vocabulary implies a condemnation of more than just those who carried out the fake rape. I’m not saying that the culture at Claremont McKenna isn’t misogynist…I have no idea about that, this is merely commentary on Dr. Blaine’s apparent thought process. The reasoning behind her claims, her debate points just seems lacking (and no matter how much she claims she doesn’t care about the opinion of her detractors every post seems to be a thinly veiled response to such).

Maybe medical school is just getting to me; who cares about standards of evidence?
I’m still struggling with what I think of this situation at my alma matter. The real debate is twofold when does academic freedom cross the line and when should one’s personal life have consequence in one’s professional life; I guess that should’ve been the real focus of this post (but it wasn’t). There are lines that can be crossed for both these issues. Academic freedom isn’t limitless and notoriety so as to bring disrepute to your job is also a real issue.

We might certainly be closer to those lines than Dr. Blaine seems to want to admit. I certainly don’t expect USC to take action, but this is a real debate.

Finally (really this time) I bring up the idea of personal responsibility for others which I trashed previously. I want to give the idea of the sin of omission a fair shake, even as a Libertarian I don’t buy it. You can read a short, famous theological debate of the issue or you can read how our responsibilities to others only extend to not opposing them, all else is a personal belief/choice.