Rochester, N.Y.-- A blog posted by University of Rochester Economics Professor Steven Landsburg has created controversy on campus.
In a blog on his personal website, the professor said he essentially agreed with what Rush Limbaugh had to say about Sandra Fluke. Fluke is the Georgetown law student whom Limbaugh called a "slut" after her congressional testimony.
Landsburg says Limbaugh was right to ridicule and mock Fluke because he believes she did not present an argument.
"They are really good arguments for subsidizing and bad arguments for subsidizing [birth control]," Landsburg said during an interview with 13WHAM. "However, [Fluke] didn't bother to make any. She made no argument. She simply said she wanted it subsidized.”
In his post, he also says that he’s skeptical there are any arguments that are “sufficiently respectable” to convince him that contraceptives should be subsized.
He says that Limbaugh has been accused of disrespecting Fluke but says Fluke’s position on this issue doesn’t deserve respect.
"Her position-- which is what's at issue here—deserves [no respect] whatsoever,” Landsburg writes in his blog. “It deserves to only be ridiculed, mocked and jeered. To treat it with respect would be a travesty.”
He went on to say in the post that he doesn’t agree with Limbaugh using the word “slut” to describe Fluke. Landsburg suggested that “prostitute” was a better word and said there was nothing wrong with demanding to be paid for sex. He also suggests that “extortionist” is a better word to describe Fluke.
This rhetoric prompted university president Joel Seligman to respond.
In a statement released Wednesday, Seligman said:
“I am outraged that any professor would demean a student in this fashion. To openly ridicule, mock, or jeer a student in this way is about the most offensive thing a professor can do. We are here to educate, to nurture, to inspire, not to engage in character assassination.”
“I totally disagree with Landsburg that there is nothing wrong with being paid for sex… I am all too aware of the terrible correlation between prostitution and the physical and emotional demeaning of women… Landsburg has now made himself newsworthy as one of Limbaugh’s few defenders.”
Landsburg says he’s disappointed in Seligman’s criticism.
“We are all here at the university because we love the exchange of ideas, and here is a student refusing to exchange ideas,” says Landsburg. “She said ‘I want it. Give it to me’. That’s how I read her testimony anyways. That’s something everybody at a university should condemn. I’m very disappointed that the president doesn’t have more of a reaction like I do.”
Many U of R students have also gotten wind of Landsburg’s blog. Some students decided to protest the professor by standing silently, shoulder-to-shoulder, in front of the class as he continued to teach. There are also fliers being passed around which denounce the professor’s “attempt to smear a gender with derogatory terms”.
Senior Steven Solowsky was invited to attend the silent protest, but he did not. He says he disagrees on how the professor worded his beliefs.
“Regardless on whether or not I agree with what he has to say, the way that he phrased things could have been done differently,” Solowsky says. “He was basically rephrasing what Limbaugh said which was very sexist in nature, and I don’t agree with that.”
Solowsky says that while the professor is entitled to freedom of speech, he shouldn’t have published the inflammatory remarks.
“Whenever this comment gets shown, it says ‘Professor Landsburg at the University of Rochester’ so it kind of reflects badly on the university,” Solowsky says. “He needs to keep that in consideration when he makes comments like that.”
Freshman Michelle Markowitz disagrees. While she also disapproves of Landsburg’s blog post, she thinks most people can separate the views of one person with an entire university.
“The professor has a right to his own opinion,” she says. “Anyone does in any situation. It doesn’t reflect us as a community as a whole. It’s just one person.”
Landsburg says he is less harsh on his own students than he is with his feelings towards Fluke.
“I think I would be considerably gentler with my students, but I think a student who turned in a paper that was devoid of argument like Fluke’s testimony was, they would not get a passing grade.”
Despite criticism from the university president and many students, Landsburg says there are many people who support his blog post.
As of Saturday, Limbaugh had apologized for his comments about Fluke.