Several readers alerted me to this tweet, which contains a link to a story in the Bangor (Maine) Daily News (“USM” is the University of Southern Maine).
“I want her to do some diversity training at least — or just retire,” said student Elizabeth Leibiger, who plans to become a high school English teacher.”
Students demand USM replace professor for allegedly saying there are only 2 sexes https://t.co/Er72w1w3EM
— Kathleen Stock (@Docstockk) October 1, 2022
I thought at first that the students were conflating gender with sex, but no, they apparently see both sex and gender as interchangeable terms that both comprise a spectrum of different types. Christy Hammer, the professor who was attacked, was teaching a graduate course called “Creating a Positive Learning Environment” in the Extended Teacher Education Program (!). The class is required in the graduate program, and the program must be completed for a student to be certified as a teacher in Maine.
So, for uttering a biological truth that seems unpalatable in today’s climate, the students have accused Hammer of being transphobic and purveying “hate”. A bit of the article:
Nearly two dozen graduate students at the University of Southern Maine are demanding their education professor be replaced after the professor allegedly said only two biological sexes exist.
The students said professor Christy Hammer’s remarks were inaccurate and transphobic.
After all but one student walked out of Hammer’s class on Sept. 14 in protest, they demanded a facilitated restorative justice meeting between the 22 students and their professor.
They got it, but, according to students, Hammer maintained her position saying non-binary biological sex designations are merely variations on male and female. Now they want Hammer gone.
Biologists believe there is a larger spectrum to sex than just the male-female binary
No we don’t, not in most animals. And check the link: it goes, of course, to a Scientific American article that argues, because of the rare existence of people with disorders of sex development, clinically defined intersex, or chromosome loss, that “sex is a spectrum.” But none of these individuals aren’t considered members of a different sex—not as biologists define it in animal species, where it’s based on whether your gametes are big and immobile (eggs) or small and motile (sperm). Certainly in humans there are just two sexes, though a variety of genders.
But the students insist, along with Scientific American, that “sex is a spectrum”. One student who particularly objected identifies as “non-binary”, but that’s not a sex. The student is either biologically male or female and has a gender identity of “nonbinary”. The student is mentioned in the article:
I want her to do some diversity training at least — or just retire,” said student Elizabeth Leibiger, who plans to become a high school English teacher.
According to several students, the situation began Sept. 7 while Hammer was teaching a graduate course in the Extended Teacher Education Program titled “Creating a Positive Learning Environment.”
The class is required to complete the graduate program and become a certified teacher in Maine.
During the session at Bailey Hall on the Gorham campus, a free-for-all discussion erupted over both social gender and biological sex identifications, with one student and Hammer saying they believed only male and female biological sexes exist.
The rest of the class maintained both biological sexes and social genders are on a spectrum.
The heated discussion was not resolved before the end of the class period.
Leibiger, who is non-binary, was absent from class that week but learned about the incident from classmates. When Leibiger arrived for the next class, on Sept. 14, they immediately brought up the discussion again.
“I asked [Hammer] how many sexes there were,” Leibiger said. “She said, ‘Two.’ I felt under personal attack.”
Leibiger then gathered their things and walked out of class because they no longer felt respected.
The students, in other words, are trying to rewrite biology to fit their ideology.
The students have reported Hammer’s remarks to the administration, and if anyone knew any biology here, this would just blow over. But it didn’t, and Provost Adam Tuchinsky says “it’s taking steps to provide students with the support needed.” This is fragility taken to its maximum. Anyway, there was a meeting, and some “resolution” was worked out (see below):
The students then drafted a letter to the school of Education and Human Development, asking for a facilitated restorative justice meeting with their professor and the single student who agreed with her.
“We thought she was just speaking from a place of ignorance, not hate,” Leibiger said.
The meeting took place Wednesday, and the sole student who had disagreed reportedly apologized to classmates. But Hammer maintained her position on the binary nature of sex.
“I went in very optimistic, but at the end of the three hour session it felt like we weren’t listened to,” said [student Michael] Lombardi, who plans to teach high school science.
I hope Lombardi doesn’t plan to teach biology! I don’t think I need to harp agaub on the way that scientific facts deemed politically inconvenient are being rejected, or scientific definitions rewritten so they comport with the au courant ideology. This article shows what we’ve come to: students demand “restorative justice” and even resignation of a teacher who simply says what is universally accepted by biologists about humans.
Channel 23 (a Fox) channel in Maine adds two items. First, quotes from two other students:
“I believe that everyone should be accepted based on their identity,” Petersen said. “And I think the professor was in the wrong for invalidating her own students.”
“It’s just not something you say out loud, especially with the current environment and stuff like that,” USM student Jalen Charles said. “It’s something you should really keep to yourself.”
That is, keep the truth to yourself. It’s this kind of stuff that we call “chilling of speech” or, to franker, “censorhip.”
The Channel 23 piece also implies that something has been done to placate the students:
Two students in the class say they’ve reached a solution with USM that all the students are satisfied with, though they’re not releasing details.
I don’t know what that solution is, but it’s not one that I think biologists (or true liberals) would like. It has to involve penalizing the professor in some way: either through making her apology, allowing the students to avoid her class but still get credit, or something else.
If the students really object to what Professor Hammer said, they should go over to Wikipedia and look up “Gonochorism“. There they’ll find this. Bolding is mine:
In biology, gonochorism is a sexual system where there are only two sexes and each individual organism is either male or female. The term gonochorism is usually applied in animal species, the vast majority of which are gonochoric.
Humans are one member of that “vast majority” of animal species.
Now I’m wondering if my posting this will instigate a big fight on Wikipedia that will change the definition, so I’ll put a screenshot below, just in case (click to enlarge).
The next paragraph of the Wikipedia article (below) mentions hermaphrodites, many of which also can come in two sexes (like the famous and oft-cited clownfish—which, as a sequential hermaphrodite, can change from male to female—but there are still only two sexes. Simultaneous hermaphrodites can be considered as a species that has only one sex incorporating both male and female functions. These are of course rare in animals, but more common in plants. But remember, all the debate is about Homo sapiens.
The next paragraph:
Gonochorism contrasts with simultaneous hermaphroditism but it may be hard to tell if a species is gonochoric or sequentially hermaphroditic. (e.g. Patella ferruginea). However, in gonochoric species individuals remain either male or female throughout their lives. Species that reproduce by thelytokous parthenogenesis and do not have males can still be classified as gonochoric.
Punishing Professor Hammer would be the same thing as saying that Wikipedia—and biologists—are wrong.