I am writing today to ask you to reconsider a decision that will have a profound effect on the Northwestern community. Many have suggested that the cancellation of Professor J. Michael Bailey’s Human Sexuality class was due to the incident involving a fucksaw at an after-class demonstration. If this is true, then your decision is the wrong one.
Currently a senior set to graduate in March, I took Prof. Bailey’s class Winter Quarter of my sophomore year. I admit, I took the class for the relatively easy grade and rumors about controversial subjects. However, I will say that Prof. Bailey’s class had more of a personal impact on me than any other course I have taken at Northwestern.
I have never personally spoken with Prof. Bailey, but I am taking this time to defend his decisions from an intellectually stifling university administration more worried about the opinion of the outside world and alumni donors than the social consciousness and growth of its students.
Michael Bailey does not shy away from controversial topics and is one of the only professors on campus unafraid of making students feel intellectually uncomfortable. He forces students to entertain points of view that may not agree with their own, something a good teacher should always do. He forces us to confront the idea that childhood sexual abuse may not result in irreversible psychological trauma, that the fetishization of bondage or feet is not strange or uncommon and that even sex offenders are people, too. In what other class are we forced to deal with ideas that are so against what society has told us?
Prof. Bailey’s frank discussions of sexuality have helped more students than he will ever know. I am from a relatively small town in Michigan and attended a small parochial school. Accusations of homosexuality were whispered behind hands with sighs of disapproval or evident shame. It was during Michael Bailey’s class in Ryan Auditorium that I learned my bisexuality was not only nothing to be ashamed of, but was in fact more likely than complete heterosexuality. And I know that I am not the only one.
In a world where the government is pulling funding from schools who teach anything but abstinence-only sex education and frank discussions of sexuality and sexual issues have become politically incorrect, universities should be a place of refuge for topics too controversial to receive attention elsewhere. It is the duty of Northwestern to protect the rights of students to experience classes that push the boundaries of intellectual comfort without fear of political or social reprisal.
It should be stressed that absolutely nothing Prof. Bailey is being punished for happened during class time. Students who did not want to witness the demonstration were warned about the graphic nature of the presentation before it occurred. And I have yet to speak to a student (I have many friends who were in last quarter’s class) offended by the presentation.
So shame on you, Morty. Shame on you for denying students the right to expand their intellectual horizons and shame on you for bowing to the pressure of the media and the political establishment instead of standing up for the institution of this university.
Quite frankly, sir, if people were offended at the thought of a woman experiencing sexual pleasure, that is not Professor Bailey’s fault.
Journalism and Middle Eastern Studies
Class of 2012