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Boise State clears professor under fire for criticizing ‘radical feminists’: no policy violations

He hired a lawyer after faculty threatened him with ‘misconduct’ finding for his views

Scott Yenor has become a pariah at Boise State University for his expressed views on “radical feminists” and “transgender rights activists,” but according to his boss, the political science professor’s job is safe.

“There is not, has not been, and will not be any inquiry into Professor Yenor’s work” in response to widespread criticism and calls for his firing, Corey Cook, dean of the School of Public Service, told The College Fix in an email Friday afternoon.

The Alliance Defending Freedom, whose Center for Academic Freedom is representing Yenor, said Friday morning that Cook had privately acknowledged that Yenor “has not violated any university policy” despite the outrage his writing has drawn.

Yenor reached out to Cook after the dean wrote a Facebook post in August explaining the school’s decision to post a link to Yenor’s recent article in The Daily Signal titled “Transgender Activists Are Seeking to Undermine Parental Rights.”

Yenor also wrote a report for the Heritage Foundation in June on “Sex, Gender, and the Origin of the Culture Wars.”

Cook’s post said the school both encourages “faculty to engage in important public discussions” – which is why it posted his article – and strives to be “an inclusive campus,” but Yenor’s writing had brought those values into “conflict”:

I sincerely apologize that by drawing attention to Professor Yenor’s piece we have given the impression that we are in agreement with his perspective and worse that we do not value or respect the diversity of our students, faculty, and staff. To be clear, the School of Public Service does not endorse the opinions expressed in Professor Yenor’s piece in The Daily Signal or the scholarly writing upon which that piece is based. … As has been pointed out by several people in their communications with me, the particular language employed in the piece is inconsistent with that value.

But at the same time, I am not willing to condemn Professor Yenor’s scholarship and writings or worse, agree with those posters who question why university faculty should be engaging in public debates at all.

The post defended the academic freedom of all faculty and their right to participate in “scholarly activism,” but it suggested the school was wrong to highlight Yenor’s writing the same as it would promote any other professor’s work:

While I regret the manner in which we created the forum for that discussion, I hope that members of our campus community will find this to be a respectful setting for their free expressions. And I hope that over time we will regain the trust of our alumni and students.

The staff and faculty of the School are meeting this week and we will begin reevaluating our approach to social media. I do welcome the perspective of others in how we can balance these two values when they do come into conflict.

MORE: Prof who critiqued radical feminism accused of promoting ‘violence’

Yenor reached out to Cook following his post to ask him to “clarify the post and to change it,” an alliance spokesperson told The Fix in an email.

“Yenor had been trying to work with the school to get them to acknowledge that he had not violated any policy,” but nearly two months passed before Yenor got a meeting with Cook “just a couple of weeks ago,” Tyson Langhofer, senior counsel for the alliance, told The Fix.

That’s when Cook confirmed that Yenor hadn’t violated any policy with his writing, according to Langhofer.

Only confusing under a ‘selective reading’

Cook told The Fix that he wasn’t aware of any “formal statement” BSU had made to confirm Yenor was not under investigation and had not violated any policy, but said he would ask the president’s office about the possibility.

“Professor Yenor has absolutely not requested any statement from me. He is certainly aware that there is not, was not, and will not be any investigation or ‘findings’ or anything pursued against him,” Cook said.

The dean said any confusion about his post, which was written in response to “hundreds of folks who emailed, called, and posted about their disagreement” with Yenor, has resulted from a “selective reading” of it.

Cook said his statement about “core values” was not a reference to “policy” and “they are certainly subject to interpretation”:

ABSOLUTELY no action has or will be taken. Professor Yenor has been clear on this point as well. He is a tenured professor in good standing at Boise State. We will defend his rights to academic freedom as we will for all of the faculty in our college. While I understand the concerns expressed by those bothered by his work, we have consistently and unequivocally defended his academic freedom and will neither censor or censure him for expressing his ideas, grounded in his scholarship, for a popular audience.

Cook said he had taken Yenor’s suggestion to look into “opportunities to promote civil dialogue around the substantive issues raised in his article,” and the school was “planning a discussion in spring … which I expect Professor Yenor to be a big part of.”

In a statement released by the alliance, Yenor thanked Cook, President Bob Kustra and BSU for having “protected my academic freedom throughout this episode,” but said they needed to go further:

A college campus should never be an echo chamber in which only one set of ideas can be heard. Academic freedom is ultimately connected with a diversity of viewpoints on campuses.

‘Likely every Neo-Nazi would agree’ with Yenor’s writings

Conservative pundit Ben Shapiro took the “pusillanimous” Cook to task for declining to explain why Yenor’s writings were “inconsistent” with the university’s “core values.”

He wrote in The Weekly Standard last month that “Cook’s attacks on Yenor violated this value far more significantly than Yenor’s original writing,” and it whet the appetites of other university members, particularly Francisco Salinas, “a man with the Orwellian title ‘Director of Student Diversity and Inclusion.'”

The School of Public Service published Salinas’ post, which said Yenor’s writing included “the seed of a dangerous idea … that, when nourished and allowed to grow, becomes the kind of hatred and intolerance that we saw on Display [sic] in Charlottesville.”

The diversity official said “likely every Neo-Nazi would agree with the substance of Yenor’s piece”:

It is this troubling truth that should move us to more critically and forcefully call this connection out in a clear and plain way. Yenor’s piece includes a seed of hate that needs to be labeled for what it is, the spirit of an ideological animal called supremacy; supremacy of male over female, of straight over gay and of our way over yours. Supremacy is the root of genocide and this is a seed that we must label as clearly and plainly as possible as “toxic”, and a danger to all those that would handle it.

Flyers telling Yenor “YOU HAVE BLOOD ON YOUR HANDS” soon followed on campus, Prof. Royce Hutson told the faculty senate that Yenor’s writing “may be academically dubious to the point of misconduct,” and Yenor was “forced to hire an attorney,” Shapiro wrote:

If this reads more like a tragicomic Kafka novel than an honest discourse about ideas at one of our nation’s institutions of higher learning, that’s because it is. Except that it’s real: Yenor wanders the halls of an institution to which he has dedicated his life, condemned for a crime nobody will specify.

Read Cook’s Facebook post, Salinas’ post and Shapiro’s article.

MORE: Yenor blames John Locke for turning marriage into a contract

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About the Author
Associate Editor
Greg Piper served as associate editor of The College Fix from 2014 to 2021.