University of Arizona professor heckled at commencement for denouncing ethnic studies ban

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Months ago, Sandra Soto was asked by her dean to be the faculty speaker at the graduation convocation last week for the University of Arizona's College of Social and Behavioral Sciences. Soto didn't know it at the time, but her commencement speech would closely follow the adoption of two new Arizona laws. One gives the police more authority to question anyone they believe may be in the United States illegally -- powers that critics say will lead to widespread ethnic profiling. The other bars ethnic studies in the state's public elementary and secondary schools.

Soto, associate professor of gender and women's studies and a scholar of Latino literary theory, said that she thought it was her "responsibility" at such a time to use her 10-minute address to critique the new laws. The response -- captured on YouTube -- has set off a debate over civility and over the nature of speeches at graduation events.

She was booed, jeered and heckled, with a few shouting personal comments (shouting at her to cut her hair, for example, and calling her expletives). Soto held her ground, and while pausing at times, finished her talk -- with many applauding. Soto related her critiques of these state actions to graduation by talking about how their education should prepare them to be "better public citizens." (Soto's text for her talk may be found here.)

Since the talk, Soto said she has received a barrage of e-mail messages, many of them hateful and some of them potentially threatening. Many such messages have also been posted on YouTube and on local Web sites that covered the speech....

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Robert Kessler - 5/28/2010

It is always disturbing when people use vulgar language. It is always upsetting when people heckle a speaker, as was done recently at UC Irvine by students who repeatedly interrupted the Israeli ambassador.

However, far from an organized harassment of Professor Soto, the reactions to her comments were spontaneous outbursts of people who were apparently fed up with her doctrinaire defense of a curriculum that is increasingly seen as being of dubious academic value.

Any discussion of ethnic or gender studies has to deal with the fact that these schools are based on very poor scientific foundations, do in fact create a bunker mentality in their students, and do not fulfill the requirements of academic standards that are demanded of other scientific fields of study.

To put it simply, typical womyn's studies departments attack men as inherently inferior, and typical ethnic studies departments attack "whiteness". Both schools devalue the institutions crated by the "white patriarchy" in a continually downward spiral of junk research and forced prejudice. Why would a school like Smith College have the phenomenon of "Lesbian Until Graduation" if there wasn't an atmosphere of indoctrination?

There is great value in studying the contributions of women and diverse ethnic groups to culture and history. Unfortunately, the modern university, in it's attempt to specialize these areas of study, has created a curriculum that effects a political agenda of indoctrination and hate.