Tuesday, August 19, 2003

God and Woman at Rhodes 

We shared with you last month a story about a tenure decision that gave way to a sexual harassment suit at Rhodes College. The Memphis Flyer runs another story about it this week (rated PG-13). Ralph Luker adds some background as another historian well acquainted with the accuser.
she graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Allegheny College; she earned a graduate degree at Yale University; and she completed her graduate studies at the University of Chicago. She had excellent teaching evaluations at Rhodes and she brought two books to the tenure decision. Frankly, at a good liberal arts college, such as Rhodes, it just doesn't get much better than that.
The article confirms that Walsh was a good instructor, and that perhaps 500 students signed a petition urging the college to keep her. The petition is offered in the lawsuit as evidence that she was not denied tenure for poor teaching.

The lawsuit centers on Walsh's tenure year conferences with her department chair, Ellen Armour, and the story includes quotes that are shocking if true. Rhodes, a college of about 1500 students with Presbyterian roots, has sent an email to the campus asking that all media inquiries funnel through their public relations office, where hopefully the transparency their college president discussed in a CASE publication last month will be on full display.

In the new Flyer article, we also learn that Walsh issued a campus-wide broadside against the religion department in which she worked.

In this religion department, Jesus, I was informed by the New Testament scholar no less, was a wimp, Paul an idiot, the Resurrection, a no-brainer (no), God, alas, an ancient delusion, irrelevant yet curiously worthy of contempt.

I'm no saint or fundamentalist, just an average, lazy Catholic, tolerant of differences, but I was deceived and axed when I didn't share cynicism about faith.

If you've ever watched someone undergoing a tough tenure decision, some of Walsh's behavior is easily described as someone under understandable stress. But there's more to this. It is pretty clear that the defense is based on denial of wrongdoing and chalking up Walsh's behavior to psychological problems -- the Flyer reports one history professor there as besmirching the school on the basis of "[a] 22-page lawsuit filed by someone 'under the care of a psychiatrist'" which "certainly suggests that the author might have some difficulties constructing reality," and she is described as a scatter-brain (who nevertheless wrote two books in six years.) [Hat tip: Critical Mass]