Indiana University has announced that it will offer alternative courses and "double-blind grading" in an effort to quell students' concerns amid reports that a business school professor repeatedly used his social media accounts to espouse "racist, sexist and homophobic views."
Lauren Robel, the university's executive vice president and provost, said in a scathing statement posted on the school's website Wednesday that the views expressed online by tenured professor Eric Rasmusen, who teaches in the Kelley School of Business, were "stunningly ignorant, more consistent with someone who lived in the 18th century than the 21st. "
In her statement, Robel said Rasmusen shared bigoted views "for many years" via his private social media accounts, including that women don't belong in the workplace, that gay men shouldn't be in the classroom because they are promiscuous and that black students are academically inferior to others. She said, however, that he would not be fired, citing his First Amendment rights.
On Nov. 7, a Twitter account belonging to Rasmusen linked to an article titled "Are Women Destroying Academia? Probably." With the article link, the account tweeted a line from the piece, saying "geniuses are overwhelmingly male because they combine outlier high IQ with moderately low Agreeableness and moderately low Conscientiousness."
Robel said that this post "slurring women" and recent others were then "picked up by a person with a heavily followed Twitter account" and shared on social media, sparking a firestorm on campus among the students, staff and faculty.
"Various officials at Indiana University have been inundated in the last few days with demands that he be fired. We cannot, nor would we, fire Professor Rasmusen for his posts as a private citizen, as vile and stupid as they are, because the First Amendment of the United States Constitution forbids us to do so," she said. "All of us are free to condemn views that we find reprehensible, and to do so as vehemently and publicly as Professor Rasmusen expresses his views. ... I condemn, in the strongest terms, Professor Rasmusen’s views on race, gender and sexuality, and I think others should condemn them. But my strong disagreement with his views -- indeed, the fact that I find them loathsome -- is not a reason for Indiana University to violate the Constitution of the United States."
She assured students that they would not be forced to take Rasmusen's classes and that they would be provided alternatives. According to the school's website, Rasmusen, who has taught at the business school since 1992, is a professor of business economics and public policy as well as an adjunct professor of economics.
Robel said that Rasmusen would also use "double-blind grading on assignments," meaning the student would not be identified, and that if double-blind grading could be not be used, the Kelley School would have another faculty member "ensure that the grades are not subject to Professor Rasmusen’s prejudices."
"If other steps are needed to protect our students or colleagues from bigoted actions, Indiana University will take them," she said.
In an email to students and faculty of the business school Wednesday, Dean Idie Kesner echoed Robel's sentiments, calling the remarks and beliefs tweeted by Rasmusen "reprehensible," "hurtful" and "abhorrent."
"While his stated opinions are at odds with our individual values and beliefs and those of our institution, we cannot prohibit his freedom of expression in his private social media accounts. This does not mean that we are powerless to take actions that prevent bias against students, other faculty members or staff," Kesner said. "Indiana University and the Kelley School are committed to our ethical responsibility to provide a workplace free from discrimination and harassment. ... We will take all necessary steps to ensure that students will not be harmed by the biases that could underlie the judgment of this professor."
The dean also assured students that the business school would review Rasmusen's courses "for the influence of bias."
On Wednesday, Rasmusen accused the university of "encouraging" bias in a comment to the university newspaper, the Indiana Daily Student.
"To show students that they need not fear bias in grading, the university is condemning a dissident professor, requiring him to use blind grading and allowing students to opt-out of his class," Rasmusen said, according to the newspaper. "Having seen the university crack down on the one outspoken conservative professor, students will feel more comfortable in expressing their views while at Indiana University. That is, they will know what to expect if they speak freely in the classes of the 999 liberal professors. Of course, IU is not discouraging bias, but encouraging it, even requiring it, as a condition of teaching. There are views you're not supposed to express, even outside of class, and heaven help the student whose professor checks his twitter account before issuing grades."