This week a University of Iowa professor did what we've all fantasized about doing at one point: Hitting "reply all" and cursing out the sender of an obnoxious mass email. Ellen Lewin, a professor of Anthropology and Gender, Women's & Sexuality Studies, has sort-of apologized, but c'mon — she's not really sorry.
On Monday morning, the College Republicans sent an email to the entire college community about "Conservative Coming Out Week." Planned events include an "Animal Rights BBQ" and an opportunity for students to "pick up your Doctors' Notice to miss class for 'sick of being stressed', just like the Wisconsin public employees during the union protests." Lewin's reply: "FUCK YOU, REPUBLICANS."
Student Natalie Ginty, who is Chairwoman of the Iowa Federation of College Republicans, wrote in an email to one of Lewin's supervisors:
"We understand that as a faculty member she has the right to express her political opinion, but by leaving her credentials at the bottom of the email she was representing the University of Iowa, not herself alone ... Vile responses like Ellen's need to end. Demonizing the other party through name-calling only further entrenches feelings of disdain for the other side. I am sure you understand that nothing is ever accomplished by aimless screams of attack."
Lewin issued an apology on Monday, saying:
"This is a time when political passions are inflamed, and when I received your unsolicited email, I had just finished reading some newspaper accounts of fresh outrages committed by Republicans in government. I admit the language was inappropriate, and apologize for any affront to anyone's delicate sensibilities. I would really appreciate your not sending blanket emails to everyone on campus, especially in these difficult times."
But on Tuesday, she seemed to take it back, writing in another email:
"I should note that several things in the original message were extremely offensive, nearly rising to the level of obscenity. Despite the Republicans' general disdain for LGBT rights you called your upcoming event 'conservative coming out day,' appropriating the language of the LGBT right movement. Your reference to the Wisconsin protests suggested that they were frivolous attempts to avoid work. And the 'Animal Rights BBQ' is extremely insensitive to those who consider animal rights an important cause. Then, in the email that Ms. Ginty sent complaining about my language, she referred to me as Ellen, not Professor Lewin, which is the correct way for a student to address a faculty member, or indeed, for anyone to refer to an adult with whom they are not acquainted. I do apologize for my intemperate language, but the message you all sent out was extremely disturbing and offensive."
Clearly it's inappropriate for a professor to curse at students, and while Lewin's right about addressing faculty members by their first names, her original response was even ruder. Yet it's easy to understand where Lewin's anger comes from. Aside from infuriating recent actions by Republicans, students on many campuses have complained that "Conservative Coming Out Days" make a mockery of the difficulty that homosexual and transgender people go through.
After the University's president issued a statement condemning "intolerant and disrespectful discord," Lewin apologized again in an email to the College Republicans' faculty advisor. She wrote:
"I have been sufficiently chastened by this incident that I can assure you it will not happen again ... I am adept at cursing silently to myself (or to my dogs), a skill that is necessary these days when one reads the newspaper. I think I was in a particularly bad mood yesterday when that message came, but I will censor myself in future."
Yet, the backlash continues. Though Natalie Ginty admonished Lewin that, "nothing is ever accomplished by aimless screams of attack," Republicans haven't exactly responded with civility. Lewin's email address and phone number have been posted online. The Iowa Iowa City Press-Citizen has a sampling of the emails she's received:
"Nice Manners Babe!?" "You should be fired!" "What has become of professional decorum? Have we really sunk to this level?" "Kiss my American Male (expletive)." "KEEP YOUR BIG FAT MOUTH SHUT!" "Foul mouth female, shame shame on you."
Yeah, there's definitely nothing hypocritical about attacking a woman for cursing by telling her to "Kiss my American Male (expletive)."
University Of Iowa Professor Tells College Republicans To "F" Off [The Iowa Republican]
Iowa Professor's Response To GOP Prompts Outrage [Chicago Tribune]
UI Professor Flooded With Backlash Emails [Iowa Press-Citizen]