More than 1,000 people are expressing outrage at a university decision to honor Phyllis Schlafly with an honorary doctorate of humane letters for her national leadership of the conservative movement and are calling for the school to withdraw its invitation.
Students and faculty from Washington University in St. Louis, Mo., have joined other angry individuals in a protest group called “No honorary doctorate for anti-feminist Phyllis Schlafly” on the popular social network, Facebook, and membership is growing by the hour.
Schlafly is one of six guests who have been invited to receive honorary doctorates at the university commencement May 16. She has strongly opposed the Equal Rights Amendment, campaigned against gender bias laws, Title IX and the teaching of evolution. Schlafly founded the national volunteer organization Eagle Forum and is an advocate for full-time mothers and wives. It is her position on women’s rights issues that is receiving the most public attention from students at Washington University.
A recent article in Inside Higher Ed stated, “Schlafly called for bans on women holding the positions of firefighter, soldier and construction worker and argued that a woman cannot be raped by her husband.”
Mary Ann Dzuback is director of women and gender studies at the university. She told WND she objects to the college’s decision to honor Schlafly.
“When the university chooses someone who has spent her whole life and career in opposition to full equal political and economic and social rights for women, it sends a terrible message to students,” she said.
Dzuback said Schlafly’s beliefs concerning women’s rights are contrary to what the school stands for and are deeply insulting to male and female students who support women’s rights and who plan to take on social and professional roles even Schlafly has assumed.
“It’s not just that her positions appear to run counter to what the university appears to practice in its daily life, but, also, she’s a hypocrite,” Dzuback said.
Schlafly responded to negative responses to her commencement appearance saying,
“That just shows how intolerant and narrow minded they are. If they were really for achievement of women, they would be admiring what I’ve been able to achieve. They would be praising other accomplished women like Margaret Thatcher, Condoleezza Rice, Elizabeth Dole, Jean Kirkpatrick and women who really accomplish something, but they’re not for women’s accomplishment. They’re just for whining about how women are oppressed, which is ridiculous.”
As for her position on women in male-dominated fields, Schlafly said,”[Feminists] want preferential treatment for women in jobs that most women don’t want and are really more suitable for men because they require physical strength that women don’t have.”
Chris Matthews, host of MSNBC’s “Hardball with Chris Matthews” and NBC’s “The Chris Matthews Show,” is scheduled to deliver the university commencement address. He will receive an honorary doctor of humane letters degree. Schlafly and other recipients are not scheduled to speak at the event.
In a statement released to WND, Washington University administrators stood by their decision to present Schlafly with the honor:
“Alumna Phyllis Schlafly’s articulation of her perspectives has been a significant part of American life during the last half of the 20th century and now the 21st century, serving as a lightning rod for vigorous debate on difficult issues where differences of opinion are profound and passionate. Not only should a university serve as a place where such discussions take place, but it may also choose to recognize those who provide leadership and articulation – both pro and con – on vital issues.”
However, Dzuback told WND she believes the administration should reconsider its decision.
Wahington University in St. Louis
“To invite somebody in who makes a mockery of everything we’ve been teaching our students to do just runs counter to any sensible criteria for an honorary degree,” she said.
When asked how she would expect the university to handle student protests, she said, “I would like to see the university withdraw the invitation, and do it as gracefully as Northwestern did to Rev. Wright.”
Some recent Facebook posts in the protest group include:
To award Schlafly with an honorary degree of any sort is a slap in the face to all who have worked so hard to overcome the injustices of the past. She is not simply an anti-feminist. She is anti-humanist.
– Jo Lucas
If you read what she has said, it’s not hard to categorize it as puritanical psychobabble. How can anyone capable of thinking for themselves respect her “opinions” when they are so blatantly ignorant? What a disgraceful thing to do. I hope the university gets the kind of publicity it deserves for such a waste of an honorary doctorate.
– Chris Reader
All you people are crazy liberal idiots. … Respect her beliefs, and give me some reason to start respecting yours.
– Joseph Robert Smith