Indiana University business and economics professor Eric Rasmusen has come under fire for posting tweets labeled as racist, sexist and homophobic. Last week, Lauren Robel, the university’s executive vice president and provost, condemned his beliefs in a statement but said based on the First Amendment, the university would not fire him.
Rasmusen published a webpage with his response to the statement, upholding his views that gay people should not be K-12 teachers because they are promiscuous and can abuse young boys, that women can be labeled as “sluts” and that affirmative action is corrupt. He bemoaned the “kerfuffle” in which these tweets were discovered.
Robel said unless Rasmusen were to be discovered to have acted on his beliefs and discriminated against students or staff, he was not in violation of Indiana University’s anti-discrimination policy and was protected by the First Amendment.
“We cannot, nor would we, fire Professor Rasmusen for his posts as a private citizen, as vile and stupid as they are, because the First Amendment of the United States Constitution forbids us to do so,” Robel said.
However, she also said no student would be forced to take his class, and he would be required to use blind grading on his assignments. Robel’s statement vehemently denounced Rasmusen’s beliefs and encouraged others at Indiana University to as well. She said the First Amendment protected Rasmusen as much as his critics.
“I condemn, in the strongest terms, Professor Rasmusen’s views on race, gender, and sexuality, and I think others should condemn them,” the statement said. “But my strong disagreement with his views—indeed, the fact that I find them loathsome—is not a reason for Indiana University to violate the Constitution of the United States.”
Rasmusen’s response broke down many elements of Robel’s statement, starting with calling her labeling his views as “sexist, racist and homophobic” as insults.
“These insults no longer have much meaning,” Rasmusen said. “I oppose admitting people to universities based on their race; I open doors for ladies; I say that sodomy is a sin. I am sure that is enough to qualify me for those insults under the Provost’s personal definitions.”
In a phone interview with Eyewitness News, Rasmusen maintained that he was not racist, sexist or homophobic and that people were drawing conclusions based on what he said.
“It’s their conclusions based on a limited set of things I say without asking me, ‘Do you believe X or do you believe Y?’ … It’s taking something that I believe, it’s taking something else I wrote and saying, ‘If he believes this, then he must believe that,'” he said in the 3-minute long phone interview.
Rasmusen also said people were making assumptions about things he retweeted. In one Nov. 7 instance, he retweeted an article titled, “Are Women Destroying Academia? Probably.” He quoted the piece in his tweet, saying, “Geniuses are overwhelmingly male because they combine outlier high IQ with moderately low Agreeableness and moderately low Conscientiousness.” The tweet sparked the recent attention on him.
He wrote in his response to Robel that his wife has degrees from the Royal College of Music and Indiana’s Jacobs School of Music and, at one point taught, at Eastern Illinois.
“I did not object,” he wrote in response to Robel condemning the aforementioned tweet. “Nor did I object when she decided she liked being a housewife better, a very reasonable decision. If my daughter decides to become a philosophy professor, that is okay too. Academia is a vocation more compatible with motherhood than most jobs.”
Additionally, Robel called Rasmusen out on his calling an unnamed woman in the Department of Justice a “slut” because of an affair. In his defense, he maintained that “slut” is a justified slur against some women.
“My use was perhaps hyperbole, depending on one’s definition of ‘slut’,” he wrote. “The woman is certainly an adulteress; slut is more vaguely defined … A women who sleeps with 100 men in a year is a slut. Whether her sleeping with 100 men is moral or immoral is a question of one’s standards. To be sure, using the word ‘slut’ implies that you think it is immoral, but that is a reasonable position to take.”
He also has often expressed his contempt toward affirmative action, which Robel classified as him believing Black students are not as qualified to attend elite universities as white students. He defended his rhetoric in his response.
“What is clear is that *some* students are admitted because of their race— which means that other students are denied because of their race, since we have a fixed number of spots,” he wrote.
Rasmusen continued by saying: “Affirmative action may be right; it maybe wrong; but that’s what it is.”
When asked in the Eyewitness News interview if he was a racist, he said he was not at all.
When also asked if he believed minorities were equal to whites, he said, “It’s hard to say what equal means, but they are people like any people.”