News Center

May 8th, 2011

College Republicans Brainwashed Into Klan Mentality?

By Nathan Tucker

Apparently that’s what Ellen Lewin, University of Iowa Professor of Anthropology and Gender, really meant to say in her recent vulgar response to the College Republicans.  Though she feels she’s “now even” with Natalie Ginty, a University of Iowa student and Chairwoman of the Iowa Federation of College Republicans, in the future she will only curse “silently to myself (or to my dogs), a skill that is necessary these days when one reads the newspaper.”

Along with The Iowa Republican (TIR), both the Associated Press and Iowa City Press-Citizen made a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for all documents and emails pertaining to the incident.  Lewin appeared pleased by the request, noting that the “abusive messages continue to come in.  Maybe the Press Citizen will find these inspiring.”

They did, posting hundreds of emails, many of which were unfortunately vulgar themselves, without comment or analysis.  (She was less than eager to give the press a picture, begging University officials not to “send these people a photo!”)  The Associated Press did not publish the emails obtained pursuant to its FOIA request.

Thankfully, one member of the media took Lewin to task.  Mike Thayer, Publisher of the Coralville Courier, wrote:  “Professor, I just got done reading the article on The Iowa Republican detailing your extremely unprofessional conduct.  What you did was highly unsatisfactory and should not be tolerated.  You owe not just the entire faculty, staff and U of I student body an apology, but the general public needs to hear a SINCERE apology as well.  I will gladly publish it, if you have the courage to forward it.”

Thayer is going to have to wait awhile.  A University employee, and a “knitting friend” of Lewin, sent the professor this note of encouragement:

Note I sent the email from my home email, lest Ms Ginty take issue with my sending on University time, albeit my lunch break:)

As I told Allie when I forwarded her the original email when it came on Monday, it is very unsettling to read these things, when one can remember the climate of 40 years ago. It truely [sic] does remind me of the Klan mentality which we both know is alive and well, frightenly [sic] so. I am saddened by the apparent brainwashing that happens to these kids at such a tender age. I don’t know Ms Ginty but do remember her as the cute, red headed, younger sibling of a boy in Allie’s orchestra group at West High, himself a seemingly wild thing who I believe has also been converted to Republican illogic now. Hopefully they’ll escape the bonds and figure it out for themselves someday! Take care. Remember, next week you’ll be old news:)  (emphasis added)

In agreement, Lewin responded:  “What a fantastic reply. I admit that I said something very foolish and not very constructive to start, but you’re right that I have apologized sincerely and that we should move on. I think your comments are very powerful and moving.”  (emphasis added)

In the initial email exchange that TIR first broke, Lewin had taken umbrage that Natalie Ginty “referred to me as Ellen, not Professor Lewin, which is the correct way for a student to address a faculty member, or indeed, for anyone to refer to an adult with whom they are not acquainted.”

When Professor Tim Hagel, the faculty advisor for the University of Iowa College Republicans, assured her that Ginty was always respectful, Lewin replied that:  “I’m glad to hear that Ms. Ginty is not generally a disrespectful person.  In that case, I suppose she meant the use of my first name as an insult, and I guess we’re now even.”  (emphasis added)

As a learned “scholar working at the juncture of feminist, cultural, and medical anthropology,” Lewin apparently construed being called by her first name as a form of sexism, even coming from the lips of another woman.  “I have to admit,” she wrote, that “I’m a bit relieved to hear that this happens to male faculty too, though I have a strong suspicion that it’s more frequent with women.”

She concluded her email with Hagel by noting that, “I have been sufficiently chastened by this incident that I can assure you it will not happen again. I am adept are cursing silently to myself (or to my dogs), a skill that is necessary these days when one reads the newspaper. I think I was in a particularly bad mood yesterday when that message came, but I will censor myself in future.”

Presumably her pledge of self-censoring will only apply to the use of vulgar language in emails, as student reviews indicate she has no qualms about classroom indoctrination.  Such indoctrination, by Lewin and many others, appears to be working.  While many university alumni were critical of her, the overwhelming majority of responses by current students were supportive.  Examples include:

  • “Thanks Ellen for expressing what we all were feeling. I hope you are well.”
  • “Professor Lewin, I just wanted to write you a quick thank you note. I respect you for your courageous stab at the college republicans, the e-mail was dripping with slurs and falsities and I am glad you brought it into the light.  Although your bold move will be ridiculed for days to come please stay strong.  In the past years liberals have failed to stand up for themselves and finally change is upon us. Thank you again for what you did.”
  • “I just wanted to thank you for your response to the email about Conservative Coming Out Week.  It needed to be said.  Plus, in my opinion, some “bad words” are far less offensive than the purposeful reappropriation of “coming out” and that Catch an Illegal Immigrant Day stunt they pulled a couple years ago. I appreciate you calling them out on this because I’ve wanted to for a long time.”
  • “Professor Lewin, I just wanted to tell you that I think you’re response to IR was amazing, and took quite a bit of nerve! You totally rock :)”
  • “Hi Professor Lewin, I know you don’t know me very well, but I’m a grad student in the department. I just wanted to tell you that I completely and utterly agree with everything you said. You simply had the courage to say exactly what we’ve all been thinking. Kudos–”
  • “Dear Professor Lewin, I am writing to assure you that members of the community do stand with you in this struggle against hatred. I am ashamed to be affiliated with a university whose administrators bow so easily to the forces of injustice and oppression. Please let me know if there is anything I can do to help.”
  • “Hi Ellen, You deserve a high-five for your response to the ‘coming-out’ email this week–you only stated what many of us were thinking anyway.  Take care, and hang in there–”
  • “Hi Professor Lewin, You might not remember me, but I was a student in a freshman seminar on assisted reproduction you taught at the University of Iowa back in 2006…I just wanted you to know that you were (and presumably still are) a wonderful professor and that you have my full support.  I am also outraged by the (mis)use of language by some on the right, and am disgusted by the general unwillingness of such individuals to take responsibility when their rhetoric has consequences. It’s nice to see someone like yourself express what many of us are feeling, but don’t often say outside of limited conversations with people we already know feel the same way we do. It’s also refreshing to see someone like yourself express an honest and heart felt opinion, instead of just falling back on canned and calculated political speak.”
  • “Professor Lewin-I admire your courage and outspokenness. Thank you.”
  • “Professor Lewin, I just wanted to message you and tell you, I support your email you sent to the republican group.  Have a wonderful day.”

It’s nice to see that our state-funded institutes of higher learning are helping young Iowans “escape the bonds” of “Klan mentality.”  It would be a shame to see them brainwashed into intolerance and narrow-mindedness…

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About the Author

Nathan W. Tucker
Nathan W. Tucker is a Davenport attorney and author of We The People: The Only Cure to Judicial Activism. He can be contacted at [email protected]

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