Lecturer to address controversies over gender, academic freedom

By D.J. Lacy

World-renowned theorist Joan W. Scott will be speaking on gender and academic-freedom issues in two lectures this week.

Scott, a professor at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, N.J., will lecture on France’s ban on Islamic head scarves and other religious attire in public schools, and on what she calls a “blacklist” of college faculty who are critical of U.S. foreign policy.

The talk on the head scarf controversy will be Thursday at 4 p.m., and the one about college faculty will be Friday at 2 p.m. Both will be held on the 18th floor of the Patterson Office Tower.

“Professor Scott is amongst the most prominent historians and analysts on the historical importance of gender,” said Virginia Blum, director of UK’s Committee on Social Theory.

The topic of Scott’s most recent book “The Politics of the Veil,” which was published this fall, will be part of Thursday’s discussion. The lecture, titled “Cover-up: French Gender Equality and the Islamic Headscarf,” will address the French Government’s 2004 ban of “conspicuous signs” of religious affiliation in public schools, such as Muslim girls wearing head scarves, according to the Princeton University Press Web site (www.press.princeton.edu).

Rhiannon Goad, a gender and women’s studies senior, has read some of Scott’s books and essays.

“It changed the way I thought about equality and difference,” Goad said. “A lot of people think feminism is over, or at the very least, useless.”

Goad said students should attend the discussions because the study of gender increases people’s awareness of the world and of the interactions they have.

Friday’s lecture, “Academic Freedom in Danger, or Anti-intellectualism in American Life Revisited,” is about what Scott calls a “blacklist” that keeps a record on individuals who are hindered from becoming tenured faculty at higher-education institutions in America because they want to publish unpopular ideas.

“If someone was critical of U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East, they are accused of being anti-Semitic or un-American,” Blum said.

“Academic freedom is the freedom to write what we believe,” she said. “This is a threat to free speech amongst academics.”

The implications are that students are not exposed to multiple perspectives, Blum said, which defeats the purpose of college.

Scott’s book is available at the UK Bookstore and will be available for a book signing before and after Thursday’s lecture. The College of Arts and Sciences, the Graduate School and the Office of the Vice President for Research partnered in sponsoring the event.