UPDATE: GSU Dean’s Office Reviewing Lecturer Appeal

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(APN) ATLANTA — APN’s News Editor, Matthew Cardinale, is issuing the following second press release to media outlets concerning his termination as a Graduate Lecturer at Georgia State University. The first press release was issued on February 23, 2009, and was reprinted on APN as well. The press releases are reprinted here in the public interest, although APN is not reporting on this story in the usual sense because the story involves an APN staff member.

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

UPDATE: GSU Dean’s Office Reviews Lecturer Appeal

The Office of the Dean of Georgia State University’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences is reviewing a complaint submitted by former Graduate Lecturer Matthew Cardinale claiming wrongful termination by the Sociology Department.

Cardinale sent an email on February 23, 2009, to the President and Provost of GSU and to the Dean’s Office, with an initial complaint.

The complaint alleges Sociology Chair Donald Reitzes and Teaching Director Mindy Stombler engaged in an unjust, unethical, and discriminatory effort to terminate Cardinale, because Cardinale was challenging textbook definitions and Stomber’s curriculum practices regarding sex and gender. Specifically, Cardinale was attempting to promote awareness of intersex people in his Introduction to Sociology lesson plans.

“I was basically fired for teaching about intersex people in my Introduction to Sociology course last Summer against the wishes of Stombler. Stombler said she agreed with me that sex is socially constructed-in that we, as a society, have to define how many sexes there are, who gets to fit into each category, and how to handle the anomalies-but she said that it was too advanced for 101 students,” Cardinale said.

“Because we do define sex and gender in any 101 class, I felt it was important to define those terms accurately and inclusively from the beginning,” Cardinale said.

The Dean’s Office responded to the initial complaint, and after several email exchanges, met on May 06, 2009, with Cardinale and a witness to discuss the next steps regarding the complaint.

Per the advice of the Dean’s Office, Cardinale re-directed the complaint to the Sociology Department on May 07, 2009. The Department failed to address the complaint, arguing that the complaint was not timely. Cardinale claims the complaint is timely because he was fired after the end of Summer Semester 2008 and he should have had until the end of Spring 2009 to file, according to University policy.

On June 04, 2009, per University policy, Cardinale then submitted an appeal to the Dean’s Office. In the appeal, Cardinale asks for reinstatement as a Graduate Instructor, policy and curriculum review and change within the Sociology Department, and for disciplinary action to be taken against Teaching Director Mindy Stombler and Chair Donald Reitzes.

The Dean’s Office notified Cardinale that they are currently preparing to review the complaint and their review should be complete by this Friday, June 19, 2009.

“I am glad that the University has agreed to review this complaint and I am equally glad I filed it. While of course I am skeptical of any institution reviewing itself, I have made a good faith effort to take advantage of the University’s appeal procedures,” Cardinale said.

CHALLENGING TEXTBOOK DEFINITIONS OF SEX AND GENDER

Last summer, an Atlanta Police Officer, Darlene Harris, came out as intersex, as reported in Southern Voice Magazine, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and Atlanta Progressive News.

Cardinale had invited Harris to come in and speak to his class about her experiences as an intersex person, to help illustrate the social construction of sex. Unfortunately, afterward, Stombler took issue with Harris’s guest lecture and said the Department would not support Cardinale’s lesson plans.

In a written response to Stombler, Cardinale refused to take the material out of his lesson plans.

Meanwhile, Officer Harris wrote an email expressing appreciation for being able to come in and speak with the students.

“Thank you for allowing me to speak to your Sociology 101 class on July 17, 2008. I do believe that it is imperative that Professors like yourself give a platform to people like me for the purpose of teaching and facilitating dialogue. This is what education is about, not only to learn from a text book but to be able to bring the text book alive with real life experience,” Harris wrote.

“I truly enjoyed your class and I do believe that they learned something and was empowered with knowledge about a subject that is starting to get national recognition. Although we as a society have a long way to go when it comes to acceptance of things not understood, the process must start somewhere. What better place to start then in the classroom with the minds that will lead us tomorrow,” Harris wrote.

“I think that people are starting to realize that biologically people like myself are not freaks but that we are human beings that are just different. Then again who IS the same… No one is like the next person. That is what makes us uniquely different. It is amazing what happens around us when others are uncomfortable speaking about a topic that is not understood. Dialogue is encouraged to stop and everyone begins to act like silence is the answer when it really is the opposite. When you don’t understand you ask, when the answers don’t come, you seek and in the end you learn. Along with this education comes with a mental freedom and tolerance that makes this world a more tolerable and enjoyable place to be, to say the least,” Harris wrote.

EVIDENCE SUBMITTED

Cardinale also issued several pieces of evidence in his appeal, labeled Exhibits A through J. The evidence included several emails from former students of Cardinale claiming he was a great instructor; the paper for Stombler in which Cardinale refused to change his lesson plans; and contemporaneous notes from a telephone conversation in which Stombler criticized Cardinale for having an intersex guest speaker against her advice.

PRO-STOMBLER GRADUATE STUDENTS DEFEND STOMBLER, INTERSEX EXCLUSION

After Cardinale submitted his initial complaint and reprinted it on the Atlanta Progressive News website, a few pro-Stombler graduate students posted comments on several blogs which had carried items concerning Cardinale’s termination.

In their comments, these students were not able to speak to the specific issues of the complaint because they were not privy to the circumstances of Cardinale’s termination. However, some defended Stombler’s decision to disallow an intersex guest speaker in an Intro class.

“If I were to teach an intro class, I could not get as depth into these [intersex] issues because there is so much to cover in intro. Yes, I would include them in an intro discussion, but then would refer students to take the upper-level substantive courses (and outside reading) to give the necessary attention and context that these issues deserve. In my mind, it’s inappropriate to extensively engage intro students on upper-level substantive gender, sex, and sexuality topics,” Elroi Windsor, a GSU graduate student and “great friend” of Stombler, wrote on Intersex News.

“This topic is SENSITIVE. Thus, it needs a special forum to begin its infiltration into college and even mainstream discourse. You can’t just spring this kind of stuff on 18 year olds, who just came from a sheltered lifestyle, or who still believe that premarital sex will send you to hell,” a former GSU graduate student named Cameron wrote.

In a response on the Intersex News blog, Cardinale replied: “It would be unethical to teach a definition of sex that doesn’t note that sex is socially constructed. Students cannot be expected to grasp the social construction sex in a five minute discussion. I brought in a guest speaker which took an additional 40 minutes on the sex and gender day (including discussion) to ensure the students were comfortable with the idea of the social construction of sex.”

“Stombler said she didn’t want to me to have done that and she was angry I didn’t follow her advice and she said ‘the Department won’t support you’ if I want to do it again in the future,” Cardinale wrote.

STOMBLER AND REITZES INVOLVED IN RECENT CONTROVERSY INVOLVING REPUBLICAN LEGISLATURE

Incidentally, Stombler was also in the news in February of this year for her sociological expertise in oral sex, which was attacked by several Republican legislators.

Stombler and Reitzes both appeared before legislative committees to answer questions of legislators.

“To me, it is ironic that the exact same people-Stombler and Reitzes-who were involved in my termination are now, when up against a Republican legislature, portraying themselves as champions of free thought and critical thinking, especially when I know my experience as an instructor was just the opposite,” Cardinale said.

About the author:

Matthew Cardinale is the News Editor for The Atlanta Progressive News and is reachable at matthew@atlantaprogressivenews.com.

Revised syndication policy:

Our syndication policy was updated June 2007. For more information on how to syndicate Atlanta Progressive News content, please visit: http://www.atlantaprogressivenews.com/extras/syndicate.html

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