A University of Iowa professor felt the need to reply to a blast email by the College Republicans on Monday morning. Ellen Lewin, a professor of Anthropology and Gender, Women’s & Sexuality Studies in the Department of Gender, Women’s & Sexuality Studies, sent a vulgar response to a College Republican email about the group’s, “Conservative Coming Out Week.”
The College Republican email, which was sent to the entire University of Iowa Community, had been approved by a number of university officials before being sent out.
Lewin responded to email by writing, “#*@% [F-Word] YOU, REPUBLICANS” from her official university email account.
Natalie Ginty, a University of Iowa Student and Chairwoman of the Iowa Federation of College Republicans, demanded an apology from Lewin’s supervisors. “We understand that as a faculty member she has the right to express her political opinion, but by leaving her credentials at the bottom of the email she was representing the University of Iowa, not herself alone,” Ginty wrote to James Enloe, the head of the Department of Anthropology.
“Vile responses like Ellen’s need to end. Demonizing the other party through name-calling only further entrenches feelings of disdain for the other side. I am sure you understand that nothing is ever accomplished by aimless screams of attack,” Ginty concluded.
In an email to the College Republicans, Professor Lewin wrote, “This is a time when political passions are inflamed, and when I received your unsolicited email, I had just finished reading some newspaper accounts of fresh outrages committed by Republicans in government. I admit the language was inappropriate, and apologize for any affront to anyone’s delicate sensibilities. I would really appreciate your not sending blanket emails to everyone on campus, especially in these difficult times.”
Lewin sent that email at 10:51 a.m.
Lewin’s response is as inappropriate than her choice of language in her first email. At the bottom of the original mass email, a University of Iowa disclaimer reads, “Distribution of this message was approved by the VP for Student Services. Neither your name nor e-mail address was released to the sender. The policy and guidelines for the UI Mass Mail service, including information on how to filter messages, are available at: http://cs.its.uiowa.edu/email/massmail.” The College Republicans didn’t even know who all would be receiving the message.
At 11:06 a.m. on Tuesday, Professor Lewin sent another email saying:
I should note that several things in the original message were extremely offensive, nearly rising to the level of obscenity. Despite the Republicans’ general disdain for LGBT rights you called your upcoming event “conservative coming out day,” appropriating the language of the LGBT right movement. Your reference to the Wisconsin protests suggested that they were frivolous attempts to avoid work. And the “Animal Rights BBQ” is extremely insensitive to those who consider animal rights an important cause. Then, in the email that Ms. Ginty sent complaining about my language, she referred to me as Ellen, not Professor Lewin, which is the correct way for a student to address a faculty member, or indeed, for anyone to refer to an adult with whom they are not acquainted. I do apologize for my intemperate language, but the message you all sent out was extremely disturbing and offensive.
It’s strange that Professor Lewin is upset with a student for calling her by her first name AFTER she told them to “$%@& [F Word] OFF.” Quite honestly, Lewin’s continued attacks make it seem like more serious punishment of the professor is called for rather just than the public apology that the College Republicans are demanding.
Professor Tim Hagel, the faculty advisor for the University of Iowa College Republicans, also interjected on behalf of the group.
The issue isn’t whether you found something in the message sent by the College Republicans to have been offensive, but how you chose to express yourself. Although some would disagree with the reasons in the message immediately below, there would have been a more appropriate way for you to have expressed yourself. Your initial apology, though qualified, was at least a step in the right direction. The “additional note” only served to retract the apology and was an apparent attempt to justify your initial response.
It’s not my place at this point to debate the merits of whether the CR message was offense, but let me remind you that they have First Amendment rights as much as you do and that their message was approved for mass distribution by the VP for Student Services, as was indicated at the bottom of the original message.
Let me also note that I found your complaint about Ms. Ginty’s use of your first name to be rather ironic. As much as I agree with you that it would have been better for her to have shown the respect for your position by referring to you as “Professor,” respect is a two way street and you clearly did not show respect for the College Republicans in your initial response.
UICR Faculty Advisor
Update :University of Iowa President Sally Mason has responded to the incident by sending out a blast email. Mason’s response was “spurred” by TheIowaRepublican.com’s story about the incident.
Dear Members of the University Community:
The University of Iowa encourages freedom of expression, opposing viewpoints, and civil debate about those opposing viewpoints. This is clearly articulated in our core values of Diversity and Respect. Because diversity, broadly defined, advances its mission of teaching, research, and service, the University is dedicated to an inclusive community in which people of different cultural, national, individual, and academic backgrounds encounter one another in a spirit of cooperation, openness, and shared appreciation.
The University also strongly encourages student engagement in such discussions and supports students acting on their viewpoints. Student organizations are sometimes formed along political lines and act on their political beliefs. Even if we personally disagree with those viewpoints, we must be respectful of those viewpoints in every way. Intolerant and disrespectful discord is not acceptable behavior.
Below is the original email that includes Lewin’s response.
In 2010, Lewin’s salary from the University of Iowa was $94,800.00 plus benefits. In her spare time, Professor Lewin was written books entitled, Inventing Lesbian Cultures in America, and Gay Fatherhood: Narratives of Family and Citizenship in America.