The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 9.0162 Monday, 23 February 1998.
From: Helen Ostovich <
Date: Friday, 20 Feb 1998 11:31:50 -0500 (EST)
Subject: Is Shakespeare sexist?
Has anyone seen this article? This is certainly twisting "political
correctness" into something out of Kurt Vonnegut's story about
handicapping those who excel!
Is Shakespeare sexist?
Arizona Daily Wildcat February 2, 1998
For years now, the literary canon has been attacked in institutions of
higher learning for being sexist, outdated and politically incorrect.
Now this type of censorship has extended to other fields of cultural
importance. Theater departments must now conform to these alternative
views of what constitutes art.
A professor of acting at ASU, whose former students include Kelly
McGillis, Val Kilmer, and Oscar winner Fran McDormand of "Fargo," is
being fired because he teaches his students Shakespeare and other
classic works. Professor Jared Sakren, a graduate of the highly
acclaimed performing arts school Juilliard, was recruited by ASU from
the Shakespeare festival in Alabama a few years ago. He was hired to
start a graduate acting department.
Unlike most of the faculty in the Department of Theater, Sakren has
extensive professional theater experience, he said. Professor Sakren
explained that this experience has taught him that "the best way to
train students in acting is to have them learn the most challenging
material, not the weakest and most self-indulgent." Professor Sakren
prefers to teach foreign, historical and classical material, especially
Shakespeare, in order to challenge students and to give them a
perspective from which to analyze their contemporary culture.
Unfortunately for Sakren, the department chair during most of his time
at ASU, Lynn Wright has expressed her displeasure for classics in the
curriculum. She has gleefully exhorted that the feminists in the
department will "kill off the classics," Sakren said. Sakren was told to
quit teaching Shakespeare, because it was "sexist." Or, if he insisted
on teaching so-called "sexist" works like "The Taming of the Shrew," he
must change the ending, so it "wouldn't offend women," Sakren said.
Wright and several like-minded faculty members in the department
submitted disparaging performance reviews of Professor Sakren,
criticizing him for teaching "sexist" classic literature. These
criticisms led the Department of Personnel Committee to recommend that
he try to be more mediocre, sensitive to the feminist perspective, and
diminish his emphasis on rigorous discipline - in essence, to "let his
program fall apart," as the DPC termed it. His office has been searched
without explanation and vicious untrue rumors have been spread about
Sakren appealed the three trumped-up performance reviews, and each time
proved that the reviews were baseless. Still, that didn't stop certain
members in the Department of Theater from trying to get rid of him. In
the third review, which rehashed the same old criticisms about teaching
Shakespeare, it was decided not to give him tenure, effectively firing
him when his contract is up for renewal this spring. Sakren appealed
this decision to the Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure, which is
composed of faculty members from various departments at ASU. The
committee found that: 1), the procedures used to evaluate Sakren were
faulty; 2), the documents used in the procedure were faulty; 3), the
review itself is probably violating academic freedom; and 4), an
independent panel should be set up to perform an unbiased performance
review of Sakren. Their recommendation was sent to Lattie Coor, the
President of ASU. Coor agreed with the first three findings, but did
not set up an independent review of Sakren. He instead sent the review
back to the Department of Theater - the very same people who had done
the faulty review in the first place. Since there are a few people in
ASU's theater department who seem not to care how many times their
reviews of Sakren are thrown out, we can expect more of the same.
Sending Sakren's review back to the same panel may violate a statute
that provides for assignment of an ad hoc independent panel to review
the facts and make a decision when there is a material failure on the
part of the department. The Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure
found that just such a material failure does indeed exist in this case.
Furthermore, several ASU law professors have stated that sending
Sakren's review back to the issuing committee violates his
constitutional right to due process.
As a result, a court of law is being asked to decide whether Sakren's
constitutional rights were violated, whether there was a breach of
contract, and whether there was discrimination. Sakren said he is
determined to fight back against this current political correctness
trend of stamping out timeless classical literature because it is
authored by dead, white, European males.
Professor Sakren is to be commended for standing up to the current fad
of political correctness which has swept ASU's Department of Theater,
and threatens to rid universities everywhere of Western literature.
ASU's President Lattie Coor listens to feedback. Please contact him at
(602) 965-8972, or fax him at (602) 965-0865. His address is ASU, Mail
Code 87-2203, Tempe, AZ, 85287-2203.