An Open Letter to the Philosophy Department

Editor’s Note: The following was written at our request by a friend regarding the recent statements by Professor Rebecca Kukla, which we report on here and here.  For more on the Kukla Controversy, you can view the original post breaking the story, as well as The American Conservative’s commentary (here, here, and here), as well as First Things journal’s thoughts, in addition to The Washington Times article, and The Daily Caller piece. The speech that started the reaction is here and a poem making light of the matter has even been written.



By Sophia

I haven’t taken any philosophy courses other than the ones I took freshman and sophomore year.  My major doesn’t require it but I honestly didn’t feel they were very interesting and I feel we wasted a lot of time discussing unimportant issues that only the professor seemed to be interested in.  So I can’t speak as to the climate within the department, or whether those students majoring in philosophy and who disagree with professors like Kukla are subject to unfair and/or insulting treatment.  I didn’t experience any discrimination in class for my conservative views, but that doesn’t mean others haven’t, and to be honest conservative versus liberal issues aren’t really much discussed in my courses in general.

But I can speak as to what it is like for someone to use against me the very words Professor Kukla used against conservatives who disagree with her (they’re disrespectful and disgusting so I won’t repeat them).  On two occasions I have been told graphically by boys to do to them what Kukla said conservatives should do to her.  One was someone I knew who was angry at me for something, and no, we weren’t dating and in bed or being intimate.  He also called me a bitch during the exchange.  He later apologized.  The other occurred off campus and was from an older stranger when I was walking late at night.  It was said in jest by someone obviously intoxicated, but it still made me feel threatened and unsafe.  I moved more quickly and looked back to make sure I wasn’t being followed.  I was glad to finally get home and lock the door but didn’t stop thinking about it and being creeped out until I fell asleep that night.  Occasionally I remember it.

Both times made me feel weak.  Not powerless, never powerless, because I know there are things I can always do, such as scream if anything bad happens, but vulnerable nonetheless.  It reminded me of my relative weakness compared to men and I didn’t like the feeling.  There are some things we shouldn’t say to people even if we disagree them because it crosses a line and sometimes you can’t go back.  Sexually degrading comments meet that criteria.

That one of the professors of my school uses sexually demeaning language to refer to her ideological or philosophical opponents is a little more shocking to me than some dumbass who is drunk or a Georgetown kid telling me to do what Professor Kukla has been telling others.  I’ve never heard of a professor using such language and wouldn’t believe it if proof didn’t exist.

I don’t care about an apology though I would appreciate some acknowledgement from someone in a position of authority saying Kukla’s words are not okay. 

But to be honest, I’m not that surprised no one is saying anything.  I’ve been the victim of various insults as a result of my (“right-wing”) politics on campus and when I’ve brought them up to administrators or student leaders I’ve been dismissed or ignored.  I know others who have been insulted for thinking similarly.  Another student I know had the door of her dorm room defaced with the very same sexual organ Professor Kukla says conservatives should suck along with writing telling her something similar.   It wasn’t just a random act because there was a Democrat political message added and she's a known Republican, though she's since graduated.

I don’t think we have a rape culture at Georgetown or very many issues with sexual harassment, but I think we can all agree that statements like Professor Kukla’s contribute to those types of problems.  I do think we have a discussion problem where we can’t say what we think without being shamed or insulted and socially stigmatized.  Some people like to say The Georgetown Academy contributes to that, but I see them as a reaction to the overwhelming dominance of liberals here and the obvious attempts that have been made to silence speech or force liberal views on everyone. 

And like Burr has said, I see a double standard in how we’re treated, and I know I’m not the only one who experiences this.  A conservative professor or student making the same exact statement Kukla did, whether online or not, would be formally disciplined and made to apologize.  I think the fact is Professors Kukla operates from a position of privilege and knows she can get away with saying and doing things others can’t because she’s a radical queer feminist, so she takes advantage of this by verbally abusing others who disagree with her, knowing she’ll get away with it and be backed up by her department and the administration.  I would not want to be one of her students.

Last month the Mr. Georgetown contest had a controversy when the GU Pride candidate performed a spoken word poem that led to some upset people and an official apology.  I wasn’t there but I’ve discussed it with others who were there and who said nothing was racist about it, and in fact, it was a show of sympathy for African Americans and the discrimination they often face.  My freshmen year there were protests because of a cartoon someone drew which obviously wasn’t racist but was spun by various groups as being violently racist, and there were protests and a town hall meeting in which the student (who I knew) apologized and broke down and teared up in front of everyone.  He’s a sweet guy and actually a liberal and didn’t deserve the shaming. 

I think it’s all pretty stupid and one reason why maybe these flare-ups didn’t occur to conservatives is that at Georgetown we know better than to speak up and often keep quiet because when we speak our views we’re outnumbered and attacked or insulted.  Or they write anonymously, like The Academy, or me now, which is not something I thought I would ever do.  

But I just want to graduate and get a good job and enjoy my last two years with minimal drama.  So while I do support Trump, I’m not going to be like my friends who support Hillary and do much to campaign for him.  My close friends and I can debate without hating each other, because we’ve known each other since NSO.  But I suspect a professor might lower my grade or people would talk about me or I would be stigmatized somehow.    

Most of all I don’t want to deal with the insults.

So my final message is that someone in a position of power should say something.  The problems we have at Georgetown mirror the rest of society and it’ll all break down if one group is continually insulted and oppressed for their views while the other group gets to do and say anything.  If we want this to be a great community then we need to treat people equally and with fairness and respect.