Make a Donation

Consider making a donation to support SHAKSPER.

Subscribe to Our Feeds

Current Postings RSS

Announcements RSS

Home :: Archive :: 1999 :: January ::
Re: PC Shakespeare
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 10.0041  Monday, 11 January 1999.

[1]     From:   Tim Perfect <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Sunday, 10 Jan 1999 12:19:15
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.0038 PC Shakespeare

[2]     From:   Ann Marie Olson <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Sunday, 10 Jan 1999 17:10:39 -0600
        Subj:   PC Shakespeare

[3]     From:   David J. Kathman <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Sunday, 10 Jan 1999 14:34:05 -0600 (CST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.0038 PC Shakespeare


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Tim Perfect <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Sunday, 10 Jan 1999 12:19:15
Subject: 10.0038 PC Shakespeare
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.0038 PC Shakespeare

Unfortunately, it is true.

Jared Sakren was dismissed for his views on performing Shakespeare as it
was written, although those who fired him protest it was for other
reasons as well.  However, the fact remains that they did not agree with
his interpretation of Shakespeare, and imposed their views on him.

I had the pleasure of working with Jared during my MFA program at Case
Western Reserve University in Cleveland, while he was in town performing
at the Cleveland Play House, and am truly disgusted by what transpired.
I read some of the articles at the time, and it was very sad.  I also
spoke with some of his graduate students as this was happening, (we had
interned at the Cleveland Play House together) and they were not
surprised by this.  Evidently conditions between Jared and the other
faculty had been tense for a while.

Tim Perfect

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Ann Marie Olson <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Sunday, 10 Jan 1999 17:10:39 -0600
Subject:        PC Shakespeare

In response to  Mike Sirofchuck who questioned the veracity of the story
about the U of Arizona prof dismissed for teaching a non-PC Shakespeare:
The article in question appeared in Campus Magazine a couple of months
back. The magazine is very conservative-definitely not a _Washington
Post_ relative. I recall reading the article. Facts were quite
thoroughly delineated. The journal has a very specific and even a very
narrow editorial bias, but it does seem to document its information
thoroughly.

Regards,
Annie Olson

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David J. Kathman <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Sunday, 10 Jan 1999 14:34:05 -0600 (CST)
Subject: 10.0038 PC Shakespeare
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.0038 PC Shakespeare

Mike Sirofchuck wrote:

>A colleague recently related to me the tale of a professor from the Univ
>of Arizona who was supposedly dismissed from his position for teaching
>Shakespeare and refusing to "correct" the Eurocentrism and gender bias
>contained therein.
>
>Of course, the person who told him about it had read it in an article in the Washington Post or "something like that".
>
>Is this an urban myth or is there any truth to the tale?

The story you heard is based on a real incident, but it seems to have
gotten distorted more with each retelling.  The professor in question is
Jared Sakren, a dramaturg of some note, and it was Arizona State
University, not the University of Arizona.  Sakren was not "dismissed",
as many versions have it; he had been hired for a non-tenure-track
position, and at the end of his contract the university elected not to
extend his employment by offering him a new contract or a tenure-track
position.  The reasons for this are the main bone of contention.  Sakren
took his case to the media, claiming he had been fired for refusing to
toe the allegedly radical-feminist line of the department.  Many of
reporters Sakren approached were cultural conservatives such as John Leo
of U.S. News & World Report, who gleefully reported this story of P.C.
supposedly run amok.  I'm not sure how Shakespeare got involved, but
most of the stories soon were claiming that Sakren was fired for
"teaching Shakespeare", who his colleagues allegedly claimed was too
sexist.  I don't know all the facts, but it appears that much of what
has been written about this case is inaccurate, to be charitable.  The
ASU theater department strenuously denies most of Sakren's allegations,
but because of pending litigation, Sakren has refused to allow them to
open the files on the case in order to give the details of why his
contract was really not renewed.  The current chair of the department
has said that Sakren's contract was not renewed because of "extreme
problems with his job performance"; allegedly he did not teach what he
was explicitly hired to teach.  In any case, the ASU theater department
is certainly not anti-Shakespeare; they have produced many Shakespeare
plays in recent years, using all kinds of interpretations.  Certain
cultural critics have latched onto the concept that a professor was
"fired for teaching Shakespeare" because such horror stories make it
easy to ridicule allegedly rampant "PC police" in the universities;
unfortunately, like Ronald Reagan's famous welfare queen driving a
Cadillac, the reality is more complicated.

There was some discussion of the Sakren case on this list back in
February, and I'm appending part of that discussion below.  Your
colleague may have read about the case in the Wall Street Journal, which
ran a wildly inaccurate article about it on its editorial page a few
weeks ago.  (There was at least one subsequent letter to the editor
correcting the article's many mistakes, but of course few people who
read the article will see the letter.)

Dave Kathman

 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 

-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Chris J. Fassler <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Tuesday, 24 Feb 1998 12:43:44 -0500 (EST)
Subject:        RE: Is Shakespeare sexist?

I'm posting this in response to the article submitted to the list Helen
Ostovich.

I teach in the English Department (not the Theater Department) at ASU.
And I should say that I have never met any of the parties involved in
this case nor do I have any inside information.  I have, however, read
all the stories in the local media and can say that this is one of the
least balanced.  There may have been an injustice in Sakren's case, for
all I know.  But anybody interested in this case ought to know that
things presented as fact in the article submitted to the list are
basically Sakren's contentions which the Department has (of course)
disputed.  There has not been a full clearing of the air, presumably
because of pending legalities, so things look a lot murkier from where I
sit.

Curtis Perry

-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Susan St. John <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Monday, 23 Feb 98 19:02:24 -0700
Subject: 9.0162 Is Shakespeare sexist?
Comment:        RE: SHK 9.0162 Is Shakespeare sexist?

Helen Ostovich posted an article titled "Is Shakespeare sexist?" by
Rachel Alexander from the Arizona Daily Wildcat dated February 2, 1998
which expounded on the unfair treatment of theatre prof. Jared Sakren.
I am a little distraught by this article, being a graduate of the UofA
in Tucson (a wildcat) but living in ASU country, Tempe, Arizona.  I'm
not sure how accurate or believable one should take an article printed
in a student newspaper (even from my own alma mater) about happenings at
its cross-town rival school.

I do not at this time know any details of this seemingly unfair
treatment of an ASU acting prof, but I will find out what truths I can.

In the meantime, know that ASU produced a fairly accurate production of
"Shrew" a couple years ago (without the Sly business), but no one seemed
inclined to change the end or the sexist nature (if any) of the original
Shakespeare text.

I also know that ASU has produced several other Shakes plays; a
marvelous post-apocalyptic Macbeth last year, and a phenomenal Lear just
last month.

I also have worked with Lyn Wright (former Dept. Chair) and have never
found her to be unfair or overly concerned with women's issues.  Her
whole raison d'etre is Children's Theatre!

So, I hope you will all take this article with a grain of salt and not
think too poorly of ASU's theatre dept. or UofA's journalism, until I
have a chance to check out some facts.

Thanks for your indulgence.

Susan St. John

-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Marilyn A. Bonomi <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Monday, 23 Feb 1998 22:55:56 -0500
Subject: 9.0162  Is Shakespeare sexist?
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.0162  Is Shakespeare sexist?

Helen Ostovich provides us w/ what she calls an "article" from the
school paper at one of the Arizona state universities (The Arizona Daily
Wildcat).

Since I'm not a sports fan, I don't know if it's from Arizona State or
not.

However, what she presents us with tells us a great deal more about the
state of the editorial board at this school's paper than it does about
the issue of some drama professor's tenure and evaluation.

First of all, what it IS NOT is objective reporting.  It MAY be an
column of opinion, but if it is, it should be so labeled.

It is not objective, does not contain good reporting, offers editorial
comments and biased terminology.  There is no direct citation from any
documents or individuals having to do w/ the issue at hand: the
evaluations being based on his teaching Shakespeare.  It does contain an
indirect smear of the other department members from the professor:
<<Unlike most of the faculty in the Department of Theater, Sakren has
extensive professional theater experience, he said.>>

The material continues to quote Sakren both directly and indirectly in
his attacks on his fellow department members:

<<[department head] 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.

There is a quote that supposedly led to the department recommendation
against tenure, but it's not clear who wrote this statement or in what
document the reporter (???!!!) found it: <<to "let his program fall
apart," as the DPC termed it.>>

Then follows another unattributed accusation presented as FACT: << His
office has been searched without explanation and vicious untrue rumors
have been spread about him.>.

There follows a summary of what the Committee on Academic Freedom and
Tenure supposedly said.  However, NO direct citations appear from this
document, and no quotes come from any person who served on this
committee.

Then comes a most astonishing statement if indeed this material is a
news article:

<< 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.>>

WHO IS THE "WE" cited here?

Next comes an even more egregious violation of basic journalism:

<<Furthermore, several ASU law professors have stated that sending
Sakren's review back to the issuing committee violates his
constitutional right to due process.>>  Which professors?  Precisely
what did they say?

<<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.>>

WHAT court?  Who brought the suit?  Against whom?

IN other words, fellow SHAKSPERians, what we have here is NOT evidence
of PC being used to destroy a wonderful teacher who honors the great
classics of drama.  What we DO have is evidence of extremely shoddy
journalism.

If someone can make contact w/ faculty at ASU and get some REAL
information, I for one would be thrilled to make a passionate plea for
the Bard, and all those other DWEM's who have so brilliantly shaped our
culture... so long as their presence doesn't exclude all those who
aren't D, W, E, or M from being equally acknowledged.

Yours in the pursuit of truth and good journalism!

Marilyn B.

-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Matthew Bibb <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Friday, 27 Feb 98 10:31:30 -0800
Subject:        Is Shakespeare Sexist?

SHAKSPERians,

I'm forwarding this response to the list concerning the "Is Shakespeare
Sexist?" article with the permission of its author, Bonnie Eckard. Ms.
Eckard is the Chair of the Department of Theatre at ASU.

     Matt Bibb
     Lost Dog Productions

****************************
I had not seen this article.  It's totally misinformed.  Unfortunately,
the writer did not check with the Department of Theatre before
publishing her article.  Please be assured that the Department of
Theatre is not abandoning the classics (particularly Shakespeare) and
certainly not abandoning the cannon of Western literature.

Every year, for the past four years, we have produced a major
Shakespearean play as a part of our mainstage season.  This  year, we
produced King Lear, directed by Marshall W. Mason, an Obie winning
director who is a member of our faculty. Professor Mason, who has
directed on and off Broadway for many years, is a white man who was
hired the same year Sakren was hired.  Mason received tenure and
promotion after two years; Sakren received a terminal contract (he never
stood for tenure).  One can only ask why Sakren was terminated.
Unfortunately, because Sakren has refused to allow us to discuss his
case, I cannot give you more information.  You need to know, however,
that our faculty is a professional faculty including Marshall W.  Mason,
Artistic Director Victoria Holloway, playwright Guillermo Reyes, and
Scenographer Jeff Thomson, among others.  (The writer's assertions are
so easy to disprove, it's laughable!)

Although I was not Chair at the time, my faculty tell me Mr. Sakren was
never told how to interpret his productions.  He was never told how to
teach or direct or what to teach or direct.  These accusations are
false, and I believe they have been published by newspapers in order to
sell papers that appeal to a sexist feminist backlash.  There is no
truth in his accusations.  Mr. Sakren has been terminated because of
extreme problems in his job performance.

The evaluation process has been complete and fair.  The evaluation
process here at ASU involves a five level peer review process.  The
writer has misrepresented the grievance process and the recommendation
of the Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure who heard his case.  We
are prevented to sharing the report from the committee because Sakren
has refused to allow us to do so.

I urge you not to believe everything you read.  Remember, Sakren has
refused to allow us to open his files to reveal the real reasons for his
termination.  Without that permission, I am prevented from discussing
any more details regarding his personnel situation with you.

I appreciate your concern, and I hope this information will reassure you
that diversity of thought is alive and well at Arizona State
University-particularly in the Department of Theatre.  If you wish to
talk with me directly,  I can be reached at (602)965-9547.

Bonnie J. Eckard, Chair, Department of Theatre
602-965-9547  FAX 602-965-5351
e-mail  
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 
 

Other Messages In This Thread

©2011 Hardy Cook. All rights reserved.