A 22-year old female University of Utah student reported her business professor to campus administrators for, among other things, assigning too many historical texts written by influential male economists of the past.
“I understand the importance of studying the work of those before us and the importance of context,” wrote the student in a complaint to the university’s bias reporting system, where she labeled the professor’s transgressions “derogatory,” “degrading,” and “intimidating,” thereby causing a “hostile learning environment.”
The report also accused the professor of frequent sexist language, but the bulk of the complaint centered on his assigned readings for the business course.
“I believe it to no longer be necessary when teaching the foundations of our country’s economic system and those who helped build [its] ideals to be presented in conjunction with their sexist beliefs that have already planted their roots within our global and local communities,” the student stated in her complaint, filed in December 2018 and recently obtained by The College Fix through a public records act request.
The complaint was among 27 bias reports lodged at the public university in the Fall 2018 semester, according to the results of the request. The documents provided by the University of Utah redact all personal identifying information.
In the female student’s bias report, she stated that while her professor “never applauded these philosophers on their sexist beliefs,” he “never outright said they were wrong” and “continued to place them upon a pedestal.”
The report does not cite the scholars assigned in the business course, although typical economists discussed in such a class might include Adam Smith, Milton Friedman and Friedrich Hayek.
The student continued: “Many of these figures are of great importance. But at what cost do we continue to plant the seed of sexism in the minds of individuals? But especially in a course and college that is already deemed to be a ‘boys club’, continuing those teachings, and those teachings being delivered by a professor of [his] character is dangerous.”
“As a top university in the nation, I believe we have a duty to lead by example. Pave a new path and right the wrongs of those before us. Some may argue enduring this type of behavior is what needs to be done to play in the ‘big leagues’ of male-dominated fields, such as business. And I can agree to play the game to some degree, but if an opportunity to help change the game presents itself, you take it. [My] professor’s behavior and certain choice of text have greatly affected me both emotionally and academically.”
She continued that she began to “fear” his sexist banter and said she “also began to fear the readings and I could not even finish one assigned reading due to its clear sexist message.”
According to the complaint, the student was especially disturbed by a conversation that took place on the last day of class about robots taking jobs from working Americans. The professor allegedly claimed that “while all our jobs will be taken by robots,” he will be “retired living in Tahiti surrounded by 40-45 beautiful women feeding him grapes.”
When a student asked why he chose Tahiti, he allegedly responded: “That’s where most of the available women are, at least from what I’ve heard. I also don’t like the competition on the other islands.”
“Not only did Professor willingly and openly objectify women,” complained the female student, “but he also objectified women of color. Women of another culture.”
This conversation became even more problematic after the professor told the class he became a vegan at age 30 because he couldn’t stomach the idea of killing another sentient being.
“I sat in my class yesterday, a class I had tried my best to endure and keep my head up as I know myself to be a strong, intelligent, woman entrepreneur,” reported the student. “But I sat there in shock as I had just witnessed a man in a position of power at an educational facility, give more respect to animals that he refers to as sentient beings than women. As though animals are the only sentient beings, and a woman’s purpose is to satisfy his taste buds.”
“I would be lying if I said this experience hasn’t left me with a bad taste in my mouth and utterly exhausted,” wrote the student in her summary. “I’ve debated coming back to the University of Utah next semester largely due to this experience and other personal reasons including finances.”
In addition to her complaint, other bias incidents reported last semester include:
· A student in the College of Social Work complaining about racial bias by a professor who indicated students of color should be able to speak first in class in order to “decenter the whiteness” of the classroom.
· When a black male student walked into the student union office, an employee appeared “visibly taken aback” and called out, “can we help you?” The student responded he had a meeting scheduled there, and he had never had to explain himself when he previously walked into the office.
· A Utah alumnus witnessed the owners/managers (a man and a woman) of a campus coffee/snack shop bullying an employee, calling their actions “horrifying and disrespectful.” The alum reported the managers were “treating their employee like a slave,” calling it a “Shameful spectacle.” The color of the employee is not disclosed, although the complaint is classified as bias against “race and ethnicity.”
· A female student complained about a professor singling her out in class as needing special help. The same day, the student’s parents also filed a complaint, replicating the daughter’s report almost verbatim.
· A communications professor discussing concealed-carry of weapons likened the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution to the First Amendment, arguing that since a university can set up “free speech zones” on campus, he would be setting up a “Second Amendment zone” in his classroom. The professor had taped off a three-foot by three-foot square in the back of the room that he said students can “share with all other gun carriers.”
“As a person who has my CCW and carries a weapon daily, this is discriminatory and illegal under Utah Code 76-10-500,” wrote the student.
· On September 7, a group of four male students were sitting at a table studying. A female student just finishing up a group project noticed the table of male students being “loud and distracting.” At one point, a young man wearing a black shirt and khaki shorts complained that his laptop computer battery was dying. One of the other men at the table offered his charger to the student but he says the charger is incompatible with his laptop. The student offering the charger says it will definitely work if you “just force it.” The student put his hands around his mouth and loudly whispered, “That’s rape. I’m not raping my computer.”
According to the university’s Office of Inclusive Excellence website, an act of “bias” is “any act of intolerance, motivated wholly or in part by bias or prejudice against an individual’s race, color, ethnicity, age, religion, size, disability, national origin, language, gender, veteran status, identity expression, sexual orientation or age—regardless of severity.” The university’s bias reporting system was initially created in 2013, and the Office of Inclusive Excellence is currently assigned one permanent staffer.
“Each incident is handled on a case-by-case basis depending on the type of incident that was reported and any specifications made by the person who submitted the report,” said university spokesperson Annalisa Purser in an e-mail to The Fix. “These may include following up directly with individuals involved, developing trainings, working with the department or office’s leadership, partnering with other campus offices and resources, etc.,” she said.
“Ultimately, The Office for Inclusive Excellence does not have authority to conduct investigations or uphold sanctions. Instead, it is focused on professional development around creating inclusive spaces,” said Purser.
Of the 27 reports filed with the university, eight were redacted in their entirety when provided to The Fix.