By Matthew Cardinale, News Editor, The Atlanta Progressive News (February 23, 2009)
(APN) ATLANTA - The following is a reprint of the press release distributed today by Matthew Cardinale, a former lecturer at Georgia State University and the News Editor of Atlanta Progressive News:
ATLANTA - Former Georgia State University Lecturer, and current PhD student, Matthew Cardinale, today, February 23, 2009, filed an eight page complaint GSU Sociology Department Chair Donald Reitzes, and Lecturer and Teaching Director Mindy Stombler.
The full text of the complaint is available at http://www.atlantaprogressivenews.com/news/0431.html
The complaint alleges Reitzes and Stombler engaged in an unjust, unethical, and discriminatory effort to terminate Cardinale, because Cardinale was challenging textbook definitions and Stomber's curriculum practices regarding sex and gender. Specifically, Cardinale was attempting to promote awareness of intersex people in his Introduction to Sociology lesson plans.
"I was basically fired for teaching about intersex people in my Introduction to Sociology course this Summer against the wishes of Stombler. Stombler said she agreed with me that sex is socially constructed-in that we, as a society, have to define how many sexes there are, who gets to fit into each category, and how to handle the anomalies-but she said that it was too advanced for 101 students," Cardinale said.
"Because we do define sex and gender in any 101 class, I felt it was important to define those terms accurately and inclusively from the beginning," Cardinale said.
Last summer, an Atlanta Police Officer, Darlene Harris, came out as intersex, as reported in Southern Voice Magazine, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and Atlanta Progressive News.
Cardinale had invited Harris to come in and speak to his class about her experiences as an intersex person, to help illustrate the social construction of sex. Unfortunately, afterward, Stombler took issue with Harris's guest lecture and said the Department would not support Cardinale's lesson plans.
In a written response to Stombler, Cardinale refused to take the material out of his lesson plans.
In a statement of support, Atlanta-based activist who is intersex, Caitlin Childs, said: "It is imperative that universities and colleges teach students accurate information about the social construction of both sex and gender, which includes accurate basic definitions of these terms.
"So much of the pain, stigma, and shame that myself and other intersex individuals go through could be avoided if more people were given basic education around these issues. Intersex conditions are not rare, it is estimated that 1 in 2000 children are born with obvious intersex conditions (this does not include many of us, like myself, that are diagnosed later in life.)," Childs said.
"Basic education and discussion of the existence of intersex people is an integral part of undoing the damage that has been done to intersex people specifically, and the damage the idea of binary and biological sex does to all of us," Childs said.
Cardinale is asking for a University review of the circumstances of his termination, and a review of the curriculum direction by Stombler, to ensure that our most basic sociological teachings about sex and gender are accurate and inclusive from the start.
"Thank you for allowing me to speak to your Sociology 101 class on July 17, 2008. I do believe that it is imperative that Professors like yourself give a platform to people like me for the purpose of teaching and facilitating dialogue. This is what education is about, not only to learn from a text book but to be able to bring the text book alive with real life experience," Officer Harris wrote in an email.
"I truly enjoyed your class and I do believe that they learned something and was empowered with knowledge about a subject that is starting to get national recognition. Although we as a society have a long way to go when it comes to acceptance of things not understood, the process must start somewhere. What better place to start then in the classroom with the minds that will lead us tomorrow, Harris wrote.
"I think that people are starting to realize that biologically people like myself are not freaks but that we are human beings that are just different. Then again who IS the same... No one is like the next person. That is what makes us uniquely different. It is amazing what happens around us when others are uncomfortable speaking about a topic that is not understood. Dialogue is encouraged to stop and everyone begins to act like silence is the answer when it really is the opposite. When you don't understand you ask, when the answers don't come, you seek and in the end you learn. Along with this education comes with a mental freedom and tolerance that makes this world a more tolerable and enjoyable place to be, to say the least," Harris wrote.
Incidentally, Stombler has been in the news in recent weeks for her sociological expertise in oral sex, which is being attacked by Republican legislators.
"To me, it is ironic that the exact same people-Stombler and Reitzes-who were involved in my termination are now, when up against a Republican legislature, portraying themselves as champions of free thought and critical thinking, especially when I know my experience as an instructor was just the opposite," Cardinale said.
"What it suggests is that even a Department which considers itself progressive in terms of sexuality studies, is still willing to marginalize intersex people through its 101 curriculum. Despite the fact it was my lifelong dream to teach, I would never sacrifice an oppressed group to the politics of silence," Cardinale said.
To be sure, Reitzes said at the time he was concerned about Cardinale's student feedback as well as his not accepting the advice of Stombler. However, Reitzes noted that the student feedback issue alone would not have led to termination. Therefore, it was Cardinale's not accepting the advice of Stombler regarding teaching about intersex people, that led to the termination.
The complaint has been submitted to President Mark Becker, Provost Ronald James Henry, and Dean Lauren Adamson of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.
A previous article about intersex activist Darlene Harris is available at http://atlantaprogressivenews.com/news/0406.html
About the author:
Matthew Cardinale is the News Editor for The Atlanta Progressive News, and is reachable is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Happy Navaratri festival to all
10 years ago