Washington University recently announced that it would be awarding right-wing activist Phyllis Schlafly an honorary degree at its graduation ceremony on May 16. Schlafly is notorious for her outspoken belief that women should be homemakers and her opposition to the Equal Rights Amendment. In a statement, the university lauded Schlafly as a “national leader of the conservative movement.”
Opposition was swift. Two Facebook groups opposing the award immediately popped up and now have more than 4,000 members combined. Today, 14 faculty members of the Washington University School of Law also wrote a sharp letter asking school’s chancellor to rescind the award:
We are extremely disappointed that the University has chosen to honor Phyllis Schlafly with an honorary degree at this spring’s commencement ceremony.
We are fully committed to the principle of free speech, and we believe the University should encourage a discussion of diverse viewpoints. Commencement, however, is first and foremost a time of celebration of the intellectual accomplishments of our students. It is, we believe, a disservice to those whom we honor to inject into the proceedings a person who has devoted her life to staking out and promoting polarizing, anti-intellectual positions. [...]
An even more important reason to rescind the degree offer to Ms. Schlafly is that her repeatedly expressed views are antithetical to some of the most fundamental principles for which this University stands.
As the professors note, Schlafly’s accomplishments include going after “the gay and lesbian agenda,” calling for the “impeachment” of Supreme Court justices, calling anyone who believes in evolution an “atheist,” and opposing the Violence Against Women Act. She has also claimed that women “are too emotional to handle intellectual or scientific debate” and described sex education as “in-home sales parties for abortions.”
E-mail Washington University Chancellor Mark Wrighton here to object to the Schlafly award. (Be polite.)