An opinion piece has just appeared on the pages of The Daily Texan, arguing that the university should recognize it had a hand in the homophobia surrounding the Sochi Olympics. The Daily Texan is the campus paper for the University of Texas at Austin, where Mark Regnerus found university support for his severely flawed study of children raised by gay parents, you may remember. To be precise, it wasn’t so much that the study was flawed but that he ran with conclusions no self-respecting academic could draw on the basis of his research methods.
I won’t rehash the story here. For details, I suggest one or more of the following sources: John Corvino in The New Republic, William Saletan in Slate, Jim Burroway in Box Turtle Bulletin, Ta-Nehisi Coates in the Atlantic Monthly, Amy Davidson at The New Yorker (“breathtakingly sloppy”), Nathaniel Frank at The Los Angeles Times, Anna North, at Buzzfeed, Ryan Jaslow at CBS News, Wayne Besen, Andrew Sullivan at The Daily Beast, and my own previous blogs here and here. And by all means, don't miss Mark Regnerus’ own reservations.*
I wish I could agree more strongly with M.A. student Travis Knoll’s conclusions that the university has “indirectly legitimized the anti-gay actions of Russia.” I’m afraid I see blaming UT for Russia’s anti-gay policies as a bit of a stretch. The charge has at least a shade of truth, of course, in that any encouragement of homophobia makes the world a more unpleasant place. I just worry when people swing this widely, they risk losing credibility.
At the same time, I hope we don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. The University of Texas has to live with the shame of its endorsement and this graduate student’s opinion piece will not be the last time it has to eat crow. It’s one thing to note how badly this country has run off the rails by prioritizing money over merit. But UT’s demonstration that the big bucks can buy not only the usual politicians and even a news network, but university research as well, is more than shameful. It’s the kind of thing that should have us all out in the street banging pots and pans. Travis Knoll has done us all a favor with this noble, if noisy, attempt to get his university to regain its credibility.
*Added later in the day: Just came across an excellent site that keeps track of the fallout from the Regnerus study. Very informative.