Thursday, January 18, 2007

I Get Evaluations

Once per year we junior faculty must cobble together a massive bundle of paperwork for an annual review by our senior colleagues. This year, I get to mail mine back to Texas from glorious Boston, thank the goddess.

While putting the package together, I remembered that I never read my teaching evaluations from the last semester that I taught in Texas. For over a year, a bundle containing students’ anonymous opinions about my classes sat sealed and untouched since the day they left the registrar’s office. To be honest, I kinda forgot I even taught one of those classes.

I fully remembered my senior-level history class. Those evaluations were perfectly normal with nothing unusual. Looking at an envelope marked “Freshman U.S. History – Reconstruction to the Present,” though, caused me to blink a few times. I taught Freshman History? Really? I checked to see if my name was on the paperwork. Huh – Why didn’t I remember? Was I drunk? Probably. Looking at the evaluations in that envelope, though, made me remember why I repressed blocked forgot all about it.

For that Freshman class, I assigned five books. One of those five books recounted the experiences of gay men and lesbians serving in the military during World War II. Why did I assign it? Well, I assigned it for the same reasons that I assigned the other texts: To push at the notion that a universal perspective about U.S. History exists. Different groups encountered and understood their role in the United States based on their race, gender, class, and sexuality. We also read books on African American women, Mexican-American Migrant Workers, Puerto Ricans during the Spanish-American War, and South Asians’ immigration to New York. All those different people considered themselves “American” and their histories impacted the larger nation. I explained that idea on the first day – and printed it on the syllabus – and reiterated it when we started each book – and had it engraved on a coffee mug that I used daily.

Oh, how some Texans in that class hated me and hated learning about the gay men and lesbians. Actually, they seemed to forget that the book was about lesbians as well. They only could remember the gay boys, who were less than 1/5 of the course content. Here is a sample of students’ comments:

The reading for this course was more about homosexuality than the history of the U.S... For a history course required by the university in most degree plans, the reading needed to be more about history than the social movements carried out by a liberal very small minority of the population. It was more of a civil rights and social/homosexual rights course instead of a general history course.


The material was more appropriate for a special topic class, not a basic history course. His readings deal largely on homosexuality and skipped over major events in history... Gay soldiers in World War II had an entire book! ... The material was offensive. While we were given fair warning, this was the only time I could take this required course. He should not [underlined three times] be allowed to teach this same class again.


I am confused as to why homosexuality was involved in our history material. I think this professor would be better off teaching a history of homosexuals course. [Sounds good to me! I hope my department chair reads that.] While I have nothing against homosexuals . . . [intro] history doesn’t mean [intro] homosexuality.


Less readings on gays – they are not important.


This is the worst [underlined three times – Three-times underline must be the universal for expressing strong emotion] class I have ever taken... The subject matter & some of the texts was [sic] undeniably inappropriate and offensive. If I had wanted to take a class about gay culture I would have signed up for it... I do not even believe that your decisions about your sexuality should be a factor in the education I am paying for.


This professor’s extreme fixation with all things homosexual seemed out of place for [intro] history. The books had little historical value, and seemed more in line with a gay sex education class. I hated this class with all my soul.

So, though we read five texts, these students clearly only remembered one -- and not even really that one beyond the subtitle. This was the same class where a student’s mother called the dean’s office asking that I be fired for assigning that book and (HORRORS!) telling my class that I was gay. Clearly, she said, I was pushing my radical queer agenda on her poor child.

You know, I had forgotten about it, but that call really put a crimp in my style. It nearly distracted me from pushing my radical queer agenda on her poor child. (What type of loser, btw, has Mommy call the dean’s office when they are in college? Yeah, way to be an adult there, Timmy.)

This isn’t the first time that I have had these types of comments in freshman classes. Nor do they always go ballistic over gay stuff. I have also had students complain that we read too much about Latinos and African Americans rather than the “real” history of the U.S. My favorite comment on a teaching evaluation came my first semester in Texas, also for a freshman U.S. history class. It said, “American history should be taught by Americans.” That comment left me confused for weeks. Was it an oblique reference to the fact that I am part Latino? Or was my perceived political stance “un-American?” Did he not think New Mexico was part of the U.S.? If I wasn't American, from which nation should I be seeking citizenship?

My home institution is 90 percent white in a state with a non-white majority. I am told that some time ago the university conducted studies to see what happens to their students after they graduate. Well, it turns out that a great many of them land solid jobs right after graduating. They, though, end up being disproportionately fired from those jobs. Why? Because they often encounter racial and sexual diversity for the first time and can’t handle it. They have no idea how to interact with people different from themselves. As a result, the university has tried to improve its curriculum and add “diversity” – Enter GayProf. So, instead of harassing their fellow workers, they get to vent of all of their negative-energy onto professors through anonymous evaluations.

Let’s get this out in the open. When professors complain about teaching evaluations, the automatic reaction is to assume that they are a baby, can’t take criticism, and/or have a delusion that every student will always love them. Well, pass me that pacifier, 'cuz I hate evaluations – And you are lying when you say that all my students don’t adore me.

Teaching evaluations have become so institutionalized, so sacred, that even slightly complaining about them must mean that I hate students; or that I am a terrible teacher; or that I am in league with Catwoman in a secret plot to take over Gotham. Well, okay, that last one is actually true, but that’s just a coincidence.

To be honest, I receive just fine evaluations from students in terms of numeric scores. Actually, I am amazed that I do as well as I do given the material that I teach and the amount of work I assign. Hell, if I was a student, I would resent me – but secretly daydream about me as well. Mmm – Me.

Given all of that, when students break out the number 2 pencils and bubble in their little forms at the end of the semester, I usually come out between “okay” to “pretty darn good.” So, it’s not really sour grapes on my part – More of mildly tart raspberries.

Students, to my mind, should have control and agency over their education. Moreover, professors should be aware and receptive to the needs of their students. Trust me, I pay attention to the things in the evaluations that help me improve my work in the classroom. I make note of the things that students actually like. I have retained certain texts for use in subsequent semesters because students responded to them. Likewise, I have dumped books that clearly left them too confused. I don't just wait for the end of the semester, either. When a particular class is not going well, I will often solicit feedback from students. During the semester, I talk with students about the course direction and their own goals in learning.

Students, however, are not adequately informed to the purpose of the evaluations or criteria to gauge their classes. They don't see them as a professional activity that reflects on them as much as on the professor. As a result, many base their assessments on things other than the amount of content or skills that they learned. They want a class that entertained them. College isn't TiVo. In lieu of being entertained, they will take a class with the least amount of work.

We, both students and professors, need a new system. The bubble-sheet with anonymous comments is just our collective laziness. They really don't tell us that much about how effective we are in the classroom (in the same way that standardized tests tell us nothing about the skills of primary-school teachers).

As a result, nobody really cares about teaching evaluations at my institution. Sure, there is plenty of talk about the evaluations. At the end of the day, though, as long as I don’t burn my students with cigarettes, these evaluations will neither advance nor harm my career.

So, what do I do with these particular evaluations? Well, first they tell me that a) some students remained unconvinced by my pedagogical approach [I would be delusional to think that all would be] and b) Many Texan students are hateful and homophobic to the point that they perceive even learning that gays and lesbians existed in the past as a personal assault on their soul. Those students didn’t like the class because they refuse to see gays and lesbians as really part of the United States – or as human. That’s not really news to me.

To be honest, though, I am simply not in business for those students. Rather, I organize and teach history courses because they are many, many more students who want to know about the past beyond the same old tired stories about George Washington’s false teeth.

If I could use negative evaluations, though, to get out of teaching intro history and, instead, teach a gay-sex class, I would break out the cigarettes right now. In the meantime, I think that I will assign a book on the history of transgender people in the U.S. next semester.


Anonymous said...

I think that's a great idea. You'd really see the fur fly if you did that. Honestly, even in HS we studied a lot of different viewpoints on American history and we asked to think critically about things and not just memorize dates. In college classes were full of books that would fall under the general rubric of "diversity". Maybe I just didn't hang out with the right crowd, but your students strike me just as you describe them. And the thing about the class being taught by an American is really funny, but it makes me very sad at the same time. Truly very sad.

Dorian said...

Reading those comments make me so glad I turned down that scholarship to the school in Texas. Even at that age, I don't think I could have stood living with and going to school with people who think like that.

Of course, the school I did go to was so far to the left that I was considered one of the more conservative people on campus, so there is some balance to be found in the academic world.

Anonymous said...

No wonder the History Channel is so popular. There actually are many people who just don't want anyone but white straight men to exist in their history.

Maybe it's naive of me, but it seems the students couldn't even bring themselves to argue their point. It wasn't that gay people didn't have their role in American history, but rather these people just don't want to have to hear about it.

Anonymous said...

I went to a public college here that didn't have grades. Instead, we had instructor- and self-evaluations. (My transcript is as thick as a phone book.) By the time I reached my senior year I prayed for an old-fashioned grading system. Written evaluations are so much more challenging and time consuming, but ultimately more insightful and satisfying.

At the same time the political correctness at this school was so thick that students were scared silent for fear of insulting someone. Silence is the goal of all oppression, and is certainly death to learning.

All of that happened in the Pacific Northwest which prides itself on its liberal-mindedness. We don’t brag, however, about how very, very white it is here. Diversity in these parts is often academic.

In seminar I would fill the void with my own voice, as clumsy, embarrassing, or ignorant as it might be. I wasn’t looking for accommodation, or even understanding. Learning is a disagreeable thing, and real growth gets messy.

It’s like what a friend’s father once told me: “If their face don’t look ugly, it ain’t singing.”

Anonymous said...

Just dropping by to say I'm a grad student in Alabama considering a move to Texas. Frying pan fire? :-p

Good on you for the work you're doing.

Anonymous said...

It sounds like a very interesting course, and I'm curious as to what textbook you used.

Anonymous said...

Bravo for using these texts! College is about opening minds, and I hope that despite the negative evaluations some students did come away with a better understanding of what Americans really are.

Anonymous said...

This news disappoints me, but it doesn't surprise me. Those students have no fear of waking up the next morning and finding that they have turned into an African American, Mexican-American, Puerto Rican, or Asian; but a few of them are obviously greatly afraid that they may wake up, look in the mirror, and see a homosexual staring at them. The fact that you tell them you are gay, and that you are obviously okay with it, frightens them even more.

I cover gay and lesbian theatre in my Intro to Theatre class, along with all the other types of theatre, and, invariably, a few students will groan or make a face. I then usually give the mini-lecture about it being scientifically proven that homophobe=homosexual. I then point out, if they still have issues, they can see me after class and we'll set up an appointment to discuss it over a late night cup of coffee. They never complain.

Here in South Carolina, those evaluations are the same waste of time. Administration gets a copy of the statistics, but they never see the comments. I know of only one instance when those numbers came up for a promotion/tenure question, but they were considered only after numerous vocal complaints to the department chair. I think we would not even have them here if they weren't required by accreditation standards.

I doubt the transgender book would cause fewer problems. Most young men here don't seem as threatened by them... guess they don't worry as much about being one.

Those responses would slightly anger/mostly amuse me. I would then remind myself that this may very well be the FIRST time that these students may have been confronted by such information, especially presented by someone secure in their sexuality. Perhaps the next time they have deal with such material, they will be an iota more open...

By the way, I teach an Intro class in 30 minutes. I think I'm going to read part of your entry to affirm why diversity in education is so important... hopefully they'll get it.

Doug said...

Did you get any positive written comments about gays and lesbians in American history?

Excellent comment about how the evaluations say as much or more about the students as the teachers.

And it's no secret: I dream about you. Mmmmm.....GayProf.....*drool*

Anonymous said...

I hate filling out those evaluations. I never know what to say. Also, when I do want to be negative, as a grad student in a small class, it's not so anonymous.

Anonymous said...

This is news to me... i've been told that evaluations are central to getting a job for new PhD students. Or is it only relevant for new profs and not old ones? I'm getting mine back in a couple weeks and I'm a bit anxious...

Like everyone else, I'm not surprised at the reactions of some of your students. I remember taking a feminist phil course where the prof asked us not to be vicious in our comments (she had been called a dyke, communist, etc. before). This was in Alberta, though, so fairly similar to Texas.

I agree b's comments -- written evaluations are so the way to go. When profs ask me for serious criticism about how a course went, it made me feel respected and appreciated... bubbles just don't provide the same satisfaction.

Anonymous said...

Ok. I'm laughing my ass off over these evaluations as someone with an extreme fixation with all things homosexual. I don't think though that these evaluations teach you about "a" but rather "b" "A" gives too much credit to your students. We have to get you a Boston teaching job or one at some place on the East or West Coast. Nuts to the middle.

Antonio said...

The revelation about graduates frequently being fired after finding jobs says a lot about the kids at the university. Maybe at some point one of your freshmen students will realize that you could've really helped him/her.

Anonymous said...

Wait...are you, like, gay, or something? Whoa! That explains so much! I totally get it now!

Well, it sucks that you're "not important." But do you really want to be important to retarded Texas frat boys? Maybe it's better this way.

ted said...

I've been hearing from assistant profs here (I'm a grad student at UCSD) that the evaluations are of utmost importance for tenure committee--well, not as much as publishing a book, but still. This of course is awful, because if you actually assign more than 50 pages a week of reading, the students complain. If you don't give a third of the class As, the students complain. I'm pretty sure that this is a recent problem--of the last ten or so years. The kids seem to think that we work for them, that the academy is like Wal-Mart, that the customer is always right. I am constantly astounded by how little work undergrads have to do. In my Intro to Anthropology class in college, I had to read a book a week. Here, they read maybe two article and a summary a week. Bravo to you for actually teaching them something, for making their hair stand on end. Even if they complained up and down about having to hear about homosexual history, they now know something about it. They are more likely to be sympathetic now, okay, not MUCH more sympathetic, but somewhat.

Yeah, and I want to know what books you taught, too.

Anonymous said...

The sad truth is that a whole segment of the population lives for resentment and won't take to new ideas or a variegated history of the United States and will always assume that history should be by and about straight, white men with footnotes referring to Harriet Tubman and Junipero Serra.

Anonymous said...

Crazy funny.
But tragically, exhaustingly familiar.

I think you should do a trans book AND a book about communists...

That should make for real fun evals reading!

Anonymous said...

Helen the Felon, look at who's president of the United States. Yes, it's important to reach the retarded Texas frat boys if you can. They have power all out of proportion to their numbers.

Along with Doug, I'd like to know if you got any positive comments about the course's gay content.

Anonymous said...

you mean that your class didn't concentrate on the dead white men and the women who washed their feet? *gasp!*

i find it amazing that they want the pap that mainstream education considers to be "history". Right now I'm pissed that the Aboriginal, women's and Black perspectives were left out of my lessons. In fact, I've been thinking of launching a lawsuit to get canadian history changed to accomodate those perspectives.

here, the feds don't have control over education, that's provincial territory.

Anonymous said...

When I read this, the first thing I thought about was trying to remember if I'd ever said anything as stupid, bitchy or just plain wrong to any of my professors. Sadly, it was a bit too long ago to remember, so I'm hoping I didn't.

Narrow-mindedness and homophobia (there's got to be a better word for it than that) aside, is there some way that incoming students could be taught how to use the evaluation process properly, rather than let them run amok, writing juvenile rants? I'm sure I was never told anything about the process, even when handed my first form to fill out.

Still, it's good to see those good kids challenged, no matter how much they hate it. They don't sound like the type to challenge their assumptions, so maybe making them squirm a bit is the best that can be expected.

Anonymous said...

My sympathies and admiration for the level-headed way that you are taking this.
And to Olaf and others who remark on the importance of the evals for jobs, tenure, etc.: yes, this is true. And those of us who resist teaching to the evals (I never won a popularity contest in junior high either), one tactic is to have your supervisors (for grad students) or colleagues (those of us already on the t-track) observe classes and write a letter of the job/tenure.
I feel so lucky that my dean knows that good teaching generally yields poor(er) evals in general ed classes. And better still for Gay Prof that your institution doesn't seem to care about them at all. But still...

tornwordo said...

I can't believe that you will eventually have to go back there.

Artistic Soul said...

I'm with you on the evals - though we are not quite as conservative as Texas, I think any school in the South will have this problem. I get the rouge comments from the entitled men who are confused as to why a woman is allowed to teach certain subjects.

For the record though, if I'd been in your history class, I probably would have written about how great it was that a professor assigned a book that represented part of MY history instead of just dead white guys. Part of why I always hated history was that I never saw my female, queer self in it.

GayProf said...

Kalvin: My impression is that Texas High Schools teach a "traditional" history. By "traditional," I mean they long for the days when people like me were hanged.

Dorian: You chose wisely. I always wonder what it would be like to work for a lefty institution. I have become so accustomed to trying to address ultra-conservative students, I am not sure that I would even know how to teach ultra-liberal folk.

Chad: They didn't argue their point because, for them, it is self-evident that gays didn't have a role in history.

B.: Yeah, I feel what you are putting down about the Pacific Northwest. It always stuck me that it must be very easy to claim to "celebrate diversity" when you never actually have to encounter it.

Kdeguy: Do you have any other options besides Texas? If so, explore them.

Anon1: The book in question was Allan Berube's Coming Out Under Fire: The History of Gay Men and Women in World War II.

Anon2: I like to tell myself that students appreciate my classes more over time. As they age, they come to an understanding about why we did things that way.

Castle: It's interesting to me that people are presuming that these evaluations came from men. Based on the handwriting (always hard to tell), they seemed to be almost perfectly split between men and women. Moreover, one explicitly stated "This professor wrongly relates everything in history to his personal sexuality . . . I am woman, but don't see everything from a 'feminist' perspective." This failure on her part, IMHO, will make her life very long indeed.

Doug: For this class, nobody mentioned the gay content explicitly in a positive way. In the past, though, I have had students say they did appreciate it.

Still, there were positive comments about the class in general. Some were coded by saying they appreciate "talking about things that aren't usually discussed in a history class."

I, as a person, tend to focus on the negative.

Les: Well, there's a difference between offering a critique verses being negative. Most professors are open to suggestions about making the class better. The problem being, though, that students often see the evaluations as, well, evaluations -- which they are not.

Olaf: I would say that evaluations are important based on the type of institution to which you are applying or working. At smaller Liberal Arts colleges, they will cary some weight. On the job market, search committees do want some evidence that you can teach.

The cold reality, though, is that research drives universities. Any faculty member who thinks otherwise is deluding themselves. You can be the best teacher in the world, but if you don't have the publications, you are not going to get tenure. Likewise, you could bore students to tears, but if you have two books, the university will promote you. That's just the way it is.

Jason: There are places in the middle of the country where I would live -- Chicago comes to mind.

Antonio: It would be a nice realization of a fantasy to have a student come back five years later and talk about how my class helped them out. To date, this has not happened.

Helen: I am gay -- but don't tell anyone.

You know, all of my videos promised that I should have a very different relationship with frat boys.

Ted: It would depend on the department, but I would guess that the Assistant Profs are believing their colleagues too much. Sure, there is an obligation to say that universities care about evaluations, but it's a lie. I also know from some senior friends that, in the end, UCSD only cares about your research and publication record. That's just the reality of the academic world.

Mike: Yes and I often wonder if this view is on the rise. Lynn Cheney, after all, is a major proponent of regulating history content to the point of excluding minorities as "unimportant."

StinkyLulu: Oddly, in my experience, communism doesn't bother Texan students in the same way that it would have ten years ago. Sure, they still use "communist" as a mark of insult. Yet, they have no idea what it even means. To them communism and socialism are as far removed from the modern-day as the Roman Empire.

Huntington: See the blurb to Doug above about the positive comments.

Frat Boys both have a huge amount of power but also claim to be constantly victims.

DykeWife: Yes, file the lawsuit! Canada would probably be open to currculium change in ways that the U.S. would not.

Arthur: Ooh -- I remember writing two scathing evaluations as an undergraduate. In both cases, the professor really didn't teach the class and belittled students. Still, I know that my comments were not professional, either. So, there is karma at play here.

The other thing, though, is that I learned very early about the meaning of evaluations. As a result, I almost always gave my professors "perfect" scores unless I really, really thought there was a problem. So, some other karma should come my way as well.

Anon3: While my institution ultimately doesn't care, don't think that I won't hear about this from angry and disgruntled senior colleagues.

Going back to my first semester in Texas, I had outstanding evaluations for my Latino History class and respectable evaluations for my Freshman History class. Certain senior members of my department, however, claimed that the difference in evaluations showed that I "catered" to Latino students and ignored Euro-American students. This, of course, was nonsense. First, my evlauations for the Freshman class were the same as almost everybody else who taught that class. Second, not every student who signs up for Latino History is acutally Latino (Shocking, I know). Moreover, faculty almost always do better at the senior level than the freshman level.

Never underestimate, however, the ability of people to reinterpert evaluations to meet their narrative about you as a scholar. These senior colleagues resented (which they said openly) the fact that the university had hired "so many" Latino historians. By "so many," they really meant "two."

Torn: I try not think about when I will have to go go back there.

Wiccachicky: Your comment reminds me of another reason why I work to make my readings as diverse as possible. As a student, I really, really, really appreciated the courses that actually did address me and my multiple identities (gay, part-Latino, etc). In many ways, I want students from a variety of backgrounds to know other people like them existed in the past and their history is being written about and discussed.

Anonymous said...

Share the name of that book, please! It sounds way more interesting than the crap I was taught about WWII or US history!

Anonymous said...

When my alma mater, a small private liberal college in Ohio,went from grades to evaluations it was considered revolutionary.
Learning that the practice has been expanded to include a public university in Texas is surprising.
We felt the nuanced communication of an evaluation would provide a more accurate and understandable record of student achievement.More realized than a numeric representation.
Professor evaluations were primarily used to gauge student proficiency in writing and objective expressions for course improvements.
We had assigned reading also, but could not have thrived without supplimentary materials.
Is the idea of reading extra material no longer necessary for above average achievement?
This post makes my college years feel so long,long ago.

Anonymous said...

I think American history should be taught by non-Americans.

Anonymous said...

So...speaking of transgender people in the US, what's your take on this week's Ugly BEtty revelation??
Oh, BTW, I was anonymous3 - I meant to sign my name - sorry to be so stealthy.

GayProf said...

Bardiac: As I mentioned above, the book in question was Allan Berube's Coming Out Under Fire: The History of Gay Men and Women in World War II.

Brian: There is some confusion -- My home institution has not adopted such practices. Standard grades are still in place. These evaluations are anonymous standardized forms given out to all classes at the end of semester.

LotusLander: I could get behind that . . . though it might mean I would be out of a job.

Deb: It's early to make a judgment about the Ugly Betty revelation. Still, it's off to a bad start to have a transgender person as evil and manipulating.

Anonymous said...

Definitely go for teaching the transgender book next semester. I remember teaching "Stone Butch Blues" to an Intro to Women's Studies in the Arts course or two(in New England no less) and having the entire course end up focusing on what we came to call "the deception of the dildo" (when Jess sleeps with a woman using a dildo and passes as male... of course, such a perspective shows a reader's bias in thinking that the woman didn't realize Jess was trans and just didn't *say* anything). I'd *love* to hear about how THAT would go in Texas. Keep up the subversion, GayProf.

Anonymous said...

GayProf, you said you assigned five books. If I'm reading your original post right, one was on the experiences of gay men and lesbians in the military in World War II, one was on African American women, one was on Mexican-American migrant workers, one was on Puerto Ricans during the Spanish-American War, and one was on South Asians' immigration to New York. So all five of the books you assigned for a freshman-level survey class on U.S. history were about minority experiences? I hate to say it, but it seems like, in a freshman-level U.S. history survey course, having only minority experiences in the texts would frustrate even an open-minded student.

Anonymous said...

The homophobia is tragic and I will not defend it. I think, though, that some - not all - students find ANYTHING at odds with their current belief system to be offensive. I once got accused in my course evals of "pushing my agenda" when I told the class about U.S. pregnancy rates; according to years and years of data by reputable sources like the CDC and the Alan Guttmacher Institute, 49% of U.S. pregnancies are unplanned; half of those unplanned pregnancies are terminated via abortion. This isn't something I made up I was called "extremely liberal" and "one-sided" and "raging feminist" and someone even complained to my department chair that when I discussed contraception, I didn't spend enough time on ABSTINENCE. Sigh. Like I'm making this stuff up. I WISH because the stats are pretty damn depressing. Oh well. Again - if some students don't agree with you or believe your data, you're offensive. And I thought MY red state was bad!

Anonymous said...

The homophobia is tragic and I will not defend it. I think, though, that some - not all - students find ANYTHING at odds with their current belief system to be offensive. I once got accused in my course evals of "pushing my agenda" when I told the class about U.S. pregnancy rates; according to years and years of data by reputable sources like the CDC and the Alan Guttmacher Institute, 49% of U.S. pregnancies are unplanned; half of those unplanned pregnancies are terminated via abortion. This isn't something I made up I was called "extremely liberal" and "one-sided" and "raging feminist" and someone even complained to my department chair that when I discussed contraception, I didn't spend enough time on ABSTINENCE. Sigh. Like I'm making this stuff up. I WISH because the stats are pretty damn depressing. Oh well. Again - if some students don't agree with you or believe your data, you're offensive. And I thought MY red state was bad!

Anonymous said...

Oops, sorry, I missed it before. Putting in my order tomorrow! Thank you :)

Anonymous said...

GayProf, I just wanted to drop a line to say that I really enjoyed reading your blog. I especially enjoy the intelligent, thoughtful comments left by your readers. I will definitely be checking back soon.

Anonymous said...

Wow, all the Texas-bashing on here from all of you oh-so-enlightened East Coast liberals must be really gratifying. As a gay man raised in Arkansas, and currently living in Texas (voluntarily!!) reading all of your comments made me really sad, and reminded me of how ignorant so many people in this world are; even self-described open-minded Good Little Samaritans like yourselves.

I'm currently a 29-year-old undergrad at St. Edwards University in Austin (a Catholic institution, no less) and have found it to be the most warm, open-minded, accepting, adventurous, and challenging environment I've ever stepped foot in. My literature professor from 3 semesters ago was an openly gay, FLAMING, older man who focused the entire course on gay American writers like James Baldwin and Thoreau, and we read many different texts and talked openly in class about all kinds of things, including gay sex, HIV/AIDS, history, etc. And he is one of the student body's favorite professors. And I've had similar experiences repeatedly in other classes, even my Spanish class. In my history class, the entire course was taught from the point-of-view of the immigrants, underpriveleged and oppressed, including the women and the gays. The students loved the class.

Maybe Austin is a bubble, but the community and environment here is welcoming and supportive. When a gay man was gay-bashed here last year by three guys, the whole city rallied behind him and it was huge news that everyone talked about and was saddened by. I know people who have been bashed in NYC and Los Angeles, and you know what? Nobody gave a shit.

Texas may be an overall conservative state, but you know what? No state is perfect and my last boyfriend was from Boston, and it drove him crazy that everybody in Texas was just so darn friendly. He couldn't wrap his head around why people would smile at him on the street for no reason or why everybody didn't try to kill you on the freeway.

So before all you narrow-minded idiots start casting all these stones, maybe you should actually get to know someone from Texas, or Alabama, or Nebraska, or wherever, and stop living in your little liberal dream worlds that don't actually exist.

GayProf said...

Ryan: I appreciate your sentiment. Indeed, even I bristle at those who critique Texas without having first-hand knowledge.

All the same, while I currently reside on the East Coast, I am not a native here. I grew up in New Mexico, did my graduate work in the Midwest, and then spent four years in Texas. In that time, I have encountered a massive variety of Texans. While I don't doubt your experiences, mine have been real as well. My brother-in-law is also a Tejano, but not recognized by other Texans as a "native Texan" because he is of Mexican decent.

My experience has been that the friendliness in Texas is often a thin veneer that covers up serious problems about racism, sexism, and homophobia. This is, after all, a state where the governor explicitly stated that gays should live elsewhere; Martin Luther King statues have been defaced (in Austin); Texans have voted overwhelmingly to deny gays rights; and migrants are harassed on a daily basis. Before blindly defending Texas or call others "idiots" for critiquing the state, I might ask why you have so much invested in that location.

Anonymous said...

Admittedly, I was playing Devil's Advocate a little bit, but I have so much invested in this location because this is where I've chosen to make my home for the past decade, and I love it. I've made lifelong friends, fallen in love with a city, and found myself here. I've done a lot of traveling all over the world, including a fair amount of time on the east coast (I have several close friends that live up there that I visit frequently) and it's just clear to me that Austin is my home.

I guess my main point is that no place is perfect, and maybe Texas-bashing is just a sore spot for me because I've deliberately chosen to live here, and I take it personally. As for Rick Perry, well, even most Republicans don't even like him, and he's pretty much a joke to everybody. I wouldn't judge Texas by Rick Perry. Everyplace has its pros and cons.

And I agree, there is much to hate about Texas; even I bash it frequently. But that's okay, because I live here. I can also guarantee that if I were to move to Boston, I could find plenty to hate about Massachusetts too.

Anonymous said...

It's certainly true that there have been political, public actions against diverse groups of people in Texas (and other places) as you mention. But there seems to be an implication in what you say that racism, sexism, and homophobia do not exist in Boston and such places. Does your experience really show this to be true?

As a university professor in the northeast, I hear story after story of students who experience those things regularly and consistently. I remember grading an essay by a gay male student writing about how he was forced to wear a dress by guys in his high school and then gang raped. All in Boston city limits. And he found out, from slowly talking to others, that he was not the only gay male in the city to experience such violence as a teen or young adult.

And I contrast that with one of my best friends in grad school who now teaches gay/lesbian lit at one of the largest schools in Texas, not in Austin, and loves it. And she/he also includes quuer texts in intro classes, sometimes getting the comments you mention. But sometimes getting thanks and notes about truly learning about other people's lives.

Maybe she/he teaches differently than you do. I don't know. But Boston is not a place I'd feel safe in considering what the experiences of other gay men have shown me.

It's never that simple.

GayProf said...

Anon: Boston has an extremely long and complicated past in terms of racism/sexism/and homophobia that I have written about elsewhere. This post is not about Boston -- It is about Texas. I am very confused by the logic that racism/homophobia existing somewhere else somehow dismisses the problem in the first location. Of course, the main difference between Boston and Texas is that gays have legal protections that Texas explicitly rejects.

Yes, I also get thanks and such comments from students as well. Moreover, my senior-level classes draw a very different crowd entirely. Again, though, this does not therefore mean that we should just dismiss the hateful comments. That large a number suggests that this is not just a random thing.

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