‘Men in Literature’ course cancelled for ignoring women
- Springfield College recently cancelled a “Men in Literature” course on the grounds that its inordinate emphasis on one gender creates a “hostile environment” for women.
- The school also objected to an essay assignment on the treatment of males in academic environments, saying students should be required to write about the opposite gender.
Springfield College recently cancelled a “Men in Literature” course on the grounds that its inordinate emphasis on one gender creates a “hostile environment” for women.
Professor Dennis Gouws began teaching the course back in 2005, and has offered it several times since then upon the encouragement of his department chair. The course was intended to survey contemporary culture’s preoccupation with gender by specifically focusing on the male role in culture.
“He never set out to be a gadfly against progressive dogma or a stalwart opponent of the ideological regime. He was, to the contrary, picked for the part by the regime itself,” Peter Wood, president of National Association of Scholars, explains in a detailed account of Gouws’ case.
Now, though, Springfield has determined that Gouws’ course is unfit to teach after the chair and dean of his department questioned the content of his syllabus, claiming that Gouws focused too much on the male’s societal function rather than his portrayal in literature.
Gouws agreed to change his syllabus to include more literary texts and fewer gender studies readings, but the university still ultimately decided to cancel the course, informing Gouws with a letter from Provost Jean Wyld on March 15.
According to the letter, Dean Anne Herzog deemed the proposed revisions to be insufficient, arguing that several of the remaining reading assignments involve materials that relate more to gender studies than to literature.
Administrators also reviewed the syllabi for three other courses taught by Gouws, ruling that two of them “appropriately focus on literature,” but raising objections to an essay assignment in his ENGL 113 Composition Course that asks students to “write about how men are treated in their respective academic environments.”
“You do not afford students the opportunity to choose a gender to write about nor do you require all students to write about the opposite gender,” the letter admonishes him, saying, “Such is certainly a concern from an academic and even legal perspective.
“Based on this it is our judgement that your chair and dean are well within their rights to question your course content and to request changes in your courses to ensure that they are aligned with the approved course outcomes,” Wyld writes. “We also believe that you should modify any assignment in ENGL 113 or in any other course you teach that would require students to focus on a single gender.”
Wyld then encourages Gouws to submit a revised syllabus for consideration in future semesters but neglects to comment on his previous revisions.
“In conclusion, we agree that your Men in Literature course should not be included in the fall course schedule,” Wyld adds.
Meanwhile, Springfield offers several other English courses focusing on gender and specific racial groups, including “Women and Literature,” “Native American Literature,” “Asian American Literature,” and a two-part course on “African American Literature.”
Nonetheless, the school insists that Gouws’ course was uniquely discriminatory, saying it has advised his department chair to “ensure that [his courses] are properly aligned to the subject matter and are neither discriminatory nor foster a potential hostile environment for students of either gender.”
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