Professor Faces Disciplinary Sanctions Over Politically Incorrect Joke
In this Politically Correct Atmosphere, it has to be tough to be a Comedian, but at least they are given some leeway. A professor made a joke in an elevator and now his job is in jeopardy. During an annual meeting of The International Studies Association (ISA), Richard Ned Lebow, an International Political Theory professor out of London, found may have failed to read the room. Lebow was riding in a crowded elevator when someone asked him what floor he needed. Lebow answered quickly “Ladies Lingerie,” aiming to get a few chuckles out of the others in the cramped space. But not everyone was amused.
Simona Sharoni, a women’s studies, and gender professor filed a formal complaint with the ISA. She claimed that Lebow broke the ISA’s code of conduct.
“Harassment may be defined as, but is not limited to: i) Unwanted conduct affecting the dignity of people or individuals. It may be related to age, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, race, disability, religion, nationality, citizenship or any personal characteristic of the individual, and may be persistent or isolated. The key is that the actions or comments are experienced as demeaning and unacceptable by the recipient.”
This is a pretty broad and vague definition. Under this guideline, a person could file a complaint about almost anything as you can’t prove what someone feels and there are not any real limitations.
Lebow received the complaint and was directed to apologize to Sharoni. He responded in an email.
“I certainly had no desire to insult women or to make you feel uncomfortable… Like you, I am strongly opposed to the exploitation, coercion, or humiliation of women,” Lebow wrote. “As such evils continue, it seems to me to make sense to direct our attention to real offenses, not those that are imagined or marginal. By making a complaint to ISA that I consider frivolous — and I expect, will be judged this way by the ethics committee — you may be directing time and effort away from the real offenses that trouble us both.”
The lingerie comment is by no means a fresh joke but instead an old one that was commonly used to lighten the mood in an elevator. But Lebow was wrong the ISA were even more upset about his response to Sharni and demanded that he now apologize for the email in addition to the original incident.
Lebow refuses to apologize and claims that this situation is ” a horrifying and chilling example of political correctness” that “encourages others to censor their remarks for fear of retribution.”
Sharoni has also expressed her concerns on the matter.
“In an email to me, Sharoni said “political correctness” was nothing more than a “blanket excuse by those who refuse to rethink and change their racist, sexist and homophobic beliefs and practices. From inappropriate jokes in public spaces to unwanted sexual advances and assault, men in positions of power are outraged when they are being held accountable, even if the sanction is as minor as a request for an apology.”
Lebow has until the 15th of May to apologize or he will face sanctions. Is she overstepping and infringing upon his freedom of speech, as his comment was not directed at her? Or should he apologize for making a joke?
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