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Boise State Wrestles With Free Speech After Professor Writes Anti-Transgender Article

Boise State University, campus
Adam Cotterell
Boise State Public Radio
The university has found itself in a debate over free speech after a professor published an article some say is transphobic.

The debate over free speech on college campuses has been an explosive one recently. At Boise State, backlash against an article written by a professor in a conservative blog has prompted calls for his firing, putting the university in a bit of a First Amendment bind.

The article is headlined “Transgender Activists Are Seeking to Undermine Parental Rights.” Boise State political science professor Scott Yenor penned the opinion piece, which begins by stating how “radical feminists aspire to revolutionize society”. He goes on to argue that transgender rights advocates around the world are hurting families.

Yenor published the online piece in the Daily Signal, a blog owned by the conservative Heritage Foundation. The professor was not immediately available for an interview for this story.

After it was published, the School of Public Service shared it on its Facebook page where it gathered vocal critics. Boise State Dean Corey Cook defends Yenor’s right to publish the piece as a part of academic discourse, but he says the school does not in any way endorse its message.

“Putting out pieces that are designed to inform public debates is an important role for higher education," says Cook. "But it’s also a privilege for higher education. If we put things out that make them feel less safe or make them feel unwelcome on campus, it’s really harmful to the university community.”

Cook – who has faced his own critics on Facebook through the controversy – says he has heard from transgender students who felt attacked by Yenor’s piece.

“I really want to work with the campus community and certainly with students [both] in our college and not [in our college] to ensure that we are that inclusive, diverse campus that we aspire to be.”

As of Wednesday, an online petition asking to can the professor has gained about 1,500 signatures in less than three days.

Find reporter Frankie Barnhill on Twitter @FABarnhill

Copyright 2017 Boise State Public Radio


Frankie Barnhill was the Senior Producer of Idaho Matters, Boise State Public Radio's daily show and podcast.