Take a Stance or None at All

During the American Studies Symposium entitled “The Politics of Contemporary American Intellectuals and the University” at the University of Florida in February of 2008, I had the pleasure of listening to Kim Emery and her discussion of her essay entitled “Unhappy Habits, Queer Theories, and the University.”

I thoroughly enjoyed her presentation and she was a gifted orator.  However, even though I enjoyed Ms. Emery’s speech I disagreed with a few of her points and some of her tactics. 

Firstly, Ms. Emery makes an excellent point in addressing the issue of David Horowitz’s proposed Academic Bill of Rights and his “grassroots” style of bringing education to the universities.  In principle, Horowitz has a good idea: give the students all the sides of the story they are learning.  However, as Ms. Emery points out, this does not often work so well in real life.  There is not always a proper “balance” to education.  She stated that higher and advanced educational facilities should advance the knowledge of those trying to learn from it.  We are not just meant to be “standardized” in our educational approach to learning, but to truly advance our thought processes.  

Although I agreed with Ms. Emery on the previous discussion point, I disagree with her almost lax approach at addressing the principle of establishing gay or “queer” rights in the universities.  In today’s society when homosexual issues are a highly contested issue between both the left and the right, the liberals and the conservatives, Ms. Emery failed to properly make enough significant headway.  She consistently used the term “queer” education.  She did not substitute other adjectives such as “gay” and “homosexual” once throughout her entire speech, almost down-playing the term queer.  This point, whether she made it consciously or subconsciously, hindered the effectiveness of her idea.  She bashed the notion of establishing the right for queer education while tip-toeing around the larger issue of gay rights itself.  Although this approach worked well when presenting to a group of intellectuals, I believe she will lose credibility if ever presenting the same speech to a mainstream audience.

Ms. Emery's reading of her eassy was a pleasant surprise from the droll of the previous presentors.  I believe her essay was informative but failed to take a stance.  When making bold statements, one must stand by their boldness and take a firm stance to uphold those statements.