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University says a professor’s views are racist, sexist and homophobic — but it can’t fire him

A conservative Indiana University professor drew scathing condemnation from school officials after sharing an article that says women are too emotional for academia.

Since Wednesday, Eric Rasmusen, 60, a tenured professor of business and economics at Indiana’s Kelley School of Business, has faced mounting calls for his resignation, although the university’s leadership says he is protected by the First Amendment despite peddling “racist, sexist and homophobic views” on social media.

The university was forced to respond to concerns about Rasmusen after he tweeted an article earlier this month titled: “Are Women Destroying Academia? Probably.” The 1,500-word essay was published Nov. 2 by the Unz Review, a website that says it spotlights “interesting, important and controversial perspectives” rarely published in conventional media outlets.

In his post, Rasmusen pulled a line from the article that said: “geniuses are overwhelmingly male because they combine outlier high IQ with moderately low Agreeableness and moderately low Conscientiousness.”

The tweet drew hundreds of replies by Wednesday night, including a viral Monday afternoon response from Indiana alumna Maggie Hopkins.

“This article suggests there should be far fewer women at universities. I am deeply offended by this tweet, and my ability to feel that offense does not diminish my intellect,” wrote Hopkins, who worked with Rasmusen on the Indiana University Bloomington Faculty Council.

In response, Rasmusen pushed back and said Hopkins’s response was “anti-intellectual.”

Hopkins challenged Rasmusen’s claims in a reply the next day — including his assertion that she had “difficulty listening to opposing views.”

“And for the record, I would say your embrace of largely-debunked pseudoscience is anti-intellectual,” she added. “But I’m not responsible for your sexism.”

Rasmusen, who has taught at the school since 1992, told the Indiana Daily Student on Wednesday that he only shared a quote he “thought was interesting and worth keeping note of.” He told the student publication that the backlash was surprising, adding, “It seems strange to me because I didn’t say anything myself — I just quoted something.”

In a Thursday interview with Kelly Reinke, Rasmusen said he should be able to quote from an article without agreeing with it in its entirety; he deflected questions that asked him point-blank whether he agreed with the piece.

Since then, Rasmusen has continued to update a personal page “for links concerning the 2019 kerfuffle in which the Woke crowd discovered my Twitter tweets, retweets, and suchlike and got very excited, and my Dean and Provost immediately overreacted.”

Steve Sanders, a law professor at Indiana University, called Rasmusen“an embarrassment” to his colleagues late Wednesday.

Indiana University Provost Lauren Robel did not mince words in a statement to the Kelley School community Wednesday, asserting that Rasmusen had used his social media accounts to push bigoted views for several years. Robel said Rasmusen had previously used slurs to describe women, who he has said do not belong in the workplace and academia. He has similar feelings about gay men, Robel said, because “he believes they are promiscuous and unable to avoid abusing students.”

Robel also said Rasmusen thinks black students are unqualified for attendance at elite institutions and are academically inferior to their white counterparts. She said the professor has previously indicated his views were spurred by his Christian faith — but, she added, “Christ was neither a bigot nor did he use slurs; indeed, he counseled avoiding judgments.”

“Ordinarily, I would not dignify these bigoted statements with repetition, but we need to confront what we are actually dealing with in Professor Rasmusen’s posts,” Robel wrote. “His expressed views are stunningly ignorant, more consistent with someone who lived in the 18th century than the 21st.”

She indicated that school officials have been flooded with demands for Rasmusen to be fired in recent days, a request she said the university could not — and would not — adhere to because “the First Amendment of the United States Constitution forbids us to do so.” But, she said, Rasmusen would be in violation of the law and school policy if he acted upon his discriminatory views while grading or making tenure decisions. The school would investigate and address those allegations if they were raised, she added.

In an interview Thursday, Robel said the school had received more than 1,000 messages about Rasmusen in recent days, none of which were in support of the professor.

“As you can imagine, this did surface complaints that of course we will follow our procedures on,” she said. “We will talk to the professor involved and will look at things that would help us understand whether the complaints have any merit.”

Further criticism appeared on two bridges on campus, which were painted with graffiti against Rasmusen reading: “No bigots allowed” and “Fire Rasmusen,” the Indiana Daily Student reported.

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Robel said the school had not previously received direct complaints about bias in Rasmusen’s classroom. She said she was unable to elaborate on the recently lodged complaints.

Robel further acknowledged that given the long-standing nature of his views, she understood that some women and minority students might be worried about how they would fare in his classes. To address those concerns, Robel said she will ensure that no student is forced to take a class taught by Rasmusen and that those currently enrolled will be able to transfer to other sections. Rasmusen’s grading will also be subject to strict procedural mechanisms to ensure there is no bias.

A course that Rasmusen teaches called Business Enterprise and Public Policy was a requirement for the Kelley School of Business’s public policy major this semester, according to a university spokesman. Moving forward, students will be allowed to substitute other courses for that one.

In a statement emailed to The Washington Post late Wednesday, Rasmusen lamented the university’s plan to monitor his grading and allow students to opt out of his courses.

“Indiana University is not discouraging bias, but encouraging it, even requiring it, as a condition of teaching,” he wrote. “There are views you’re not supposed to express, even outside of class, and God help the conservative student whose professor checks Facebook and Twitter before grading term papers. In the past I’ve had Christian and conservative students shyly approach me to say how happy they were to finally find a professor who was open in his beliefs. I hope to encourage them as much as I can.”

The provost’s sentiments were echoed in a statement from Kelley School Dean Idie Kesner, who similarly noted that Rasmusen’s First Amendment rights prevent the university from dismissing him because of his tweets.

“As a female academic, dean of the school, and a Kelley [alumna] who cares deeply about our School, I find the remarks and the beliefs presented in the papers cited and tweets by this professor reprehensible,” Kesner wrote. “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.”

In 2003, Rasmusen came under fire after publishing a blog on the Indiana University server detailing why gay people should not be teachers, doctors or elected officials. According to the Daily Student, part of his message said: “A second reason not to hire homosexuals as teachers is that it puts the fox into the chicken coop. Male homosexuals, at least, like boys and are generally promiscuous. They should not be given the opportunity to satisfy their desires.”

The professor told the publication at the time that his way of thinking was not unusual outside a college environment. He eventually agreed to remove the post from the Indiana University website.

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