Interview with Professor Who Dared to Criticize Sandra Fluke

by Elaina Plott - Yale University on March 26, 2012

Steven Landsburg, the professor who was denounced by his university for criticizing Georgetown Law student Sandra Fluke, stuck to his position in an exclusive interview with The College Fix.

“Everyone deserves respect, but some people are not interested in discussing their ideas, or possibly examining a different side,” said Landsburg, a bestselling author and professor of economics at the University of Rochester. “Fluke clearly has no desire to do this.”

Fluke, an advocate for mandatory insurance coverage of birth control, was called a “slut” by Rush Limbaugh. On his blog, The Big Questions, Landsburg wrote: “While Ms. Fluke herself deserves the same basic respect we owe to any human being, her position… deserves none whatsoever. It deserves only to be ridiculed, mocked and jeered… I expect there are respectable arguments for subsidizing contraception, but Ms. Fluke has made no such argument.”

His opinion sparked controversy at the University of Rochester. Student protesters entered Landsburg’s mid-afternoon lecture and formed a line, shoulder-to-shoulder, between him and the class. Landsburg continued to lecture. The students distributed fliers that read: “We denounce professor Steven Landsburg’s attempt to smear a gender with derogatory terms.”

UR president Joel Seligman wrote an e-mail to faculty and staff that said he was “outraged that any professor would demean a student in this fashion.”

Landsburg found these criticisms to be absurd.

“Free speech isn’t the issue here,” he said. “Nobody, myself included, tried to stifle her speech.”

In fact, if anyone had stifled speech, it was the student protesters.

“I’m very disappointed in the growing trend of students and others unwilling to engage in meaningful discussion,” he said.

Regardless of political views, the ability to explore one’s opinions and engage opposition is important, he said—noting that this was why he became a professor in the first place.

“That’s what we’re here for, to share ideas and to figure out when we’re wrong and when we’re right,” he said.

As for the policy issue itself, he said the debate wasn’t about birth control—it was about whether anyone should be forced to pay for it.

“When the issue is about you paying for the lifestyle of someone else, this is the question we must be asking,” he said.

Landsburg worried that the contraception debate would distract from other issues during the election.

“Year after year we see that voters’ priorities are all wrong, and this issue will be no different,” he said.

Instead, he is focused on policies that largely affect the poor and the economy.

“I’m concerned with free trade, immigration laws, and tax policy—these are the topics that actually affect people, and not just a small, vocal minority,” he said.

Unsurprisingly, Landsburg was less than enthusiastic about Fluke running for political office—a possibility raised by Fluke during a panel discussion last week.

“She’s not interested in ideas and the motivations behind them,” said Landsburg. “But I guess that’s fitting, because those kinds of people end up in politics anyway.”

Fix Contributor Elaina Plott is a freshman at Yale University.

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  • Pingback: Steven Landsburg Professor: Sandra Fluke Position Deserves No Respect: Professor Protested by Students for Criticizing Sandra Fluke | Maggie's Notebook

  • Stanley Nemeth

    Bravo to Professor Landsburg for reintroducing reason into the current student and administrative fun and games!

  • Patrick Condon

    Glad to know there are people like Steven Landsburg in the class room. I would be proud to have had a professor with that type of intellectual honesty and fortitude. Well done, Professor. Well done.

  • RJ

    I would like to know exactly how prof. Landsburg demeaned Ms. Fluke? I know Rush Limbaugh did on his radio show, but I have not heard anyone else demean her. I do know one thing, if I had paid to take prof. Landsburg’s course and was in attendence when the protesters interupted the lecture by forming a line between my and the prof., I would become highly agitated, as I view this as theft. By placing their beliefs above my right to attend a lecture that I paid for, they are trying to steal from me.

    • http://abriefhistory.org Mike_K

      Back in the unlamented 60s, a friend of mine was a black scrub tech who was getting her RN. She was attending classes at LA State, now Cal State LA. One night, her class was interrupted by the black student union which invaded the classroom and announced they were shutting down the college. She laughed when she told me that the BSU didn’t realize it was invading a Criminal Justice classroom and most of the students were armed and not very patient at someone trying to screw up their education. The BSU vacated the classroom quickly. A few years later, she was the OR supervisor at LA County Hospital.

      Richie, I hope wherever you are, things are cool.

  • wildbiker

    Interesting that the Uof R did not take action against the protestors for disrupting a class and depriving the students in that class of the education they are paying for. Instead they issue some BS statement about demeaning a gender. Without evidence. That’s called lame leadership.

  • George M

    Prof. Landsburg makes a very good case: “ ‘I’m very disappointed in the growing trend of students and others unwilling to engage in meaningful discussion,” he said.

    Regardless of political views, the ability to explore one’s opinions and engage opposition is important, he said—noting that this was why he became a professor in the first place.

    “That’s what we’re here for, to share ideas and to figure out when we’re wrong and when we’re right,’ ” he said.”

    Ms. Fluke, and many others, seem to ignore the fact that “choice” occurs when you decide to have sex, not at some point afterwards. When you make the choice you accept the consequences. I for one, do not want to be forced to pay for other people’s lifestyle choices.

    This is substantially different from diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, or obesity which are malfunctions of the bodies processes that may be accelerated or made worse by lifestyle choices. Health care is all about taking care of these malfunctions. It is not about interfering with bodily functions when nothing is wrong.

  • N-body

    So, a college professor calmly lays out his opinion without using the word “like” every other word, doesn’t use derogatory or personal insults, doesn’t make political accusations, ignores students disrupting his lecture, but he’s accused of “smears” and his actions are deserving of “outrage”?

    Sounds like many “students” of the U of R should demand a refund.

    Well done professor. Hopefully your maturity will rub off on them.

  • Aero1

    This seems pretty straightforward. What I wonder about, pretty much in amazement, is how people like UR president Joel Seligman become president of an major academic institution. Does he answer to anyone? Who supported his appointment? I come from the world of engineering and I remember fondly the the question Lucy asked Charley Brown, “How did a jelly bean become queen of the ants”. Ditto Seligman.

    A1

  • Jen06

    He said she hasn’t made any reasonable argument. And the left is pissed because ALL of their arguments have no reason or validity.

    Makes sense.

  • Pieter Nosworthy

    The professor is surprised?

    How about the rest of us that can’t believe a county sheriff’s investigation results with a preliminary finding of fraud by the President per his birth document and selective service registration. No media, no discussion, no nothing.

    You would think the liberal media would jump on this as an opportunity to thoroughly discredit Arpaio…yet nothing. I think this speaks volumes as to the veracity of the accusation.

  • mytralman

    In the real world, if you can’t make a case you are a loser, and treated as such. Fluke will stay in politics or close by because its safer there, for her. In fact Obama guaranteed her a job, which is what she was seeking in the first place. She wil not have to make her case for it either. sweet.

  • H.P. Loveshaft

    Leave it to a bunch of liberal idiots to intrude on a lecture other students ARE PAYING TO HEAR…

  • Michel

    The only people immune from critisism are Liberal. They can spout vitirol day after day, but call them on it an you are ‘hateful’. They are the most close-minded of our society whhile walking around patting themselves on the back for being so enlightened. Like little children. That is all they are.

  • JerseyJeff

    I can’t understand why Sandra Fluke needs someone to pay for her contraception. I would think that her haircut would be enough.

  • Jim Johnson

    Professor you forgot you are dealing with the left. Free speech is OK only as long as you agree with them. If you dare to express a different POV look out. Then no holds barred as the left will do everything to silence you. They will lie about you, they will shout you down, they will try to intimidate you, they will attack your employer, they will picket your home, threaten your family and children and annoy your friends and neighbors. The left never negotiates.

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