Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Professor Sandra K. Soto Gets Jeered at University of Arizona Graduation

Queer Chicana Professor (and all-around awesome academic) Sandra K. Soto got booed at the University of Arizona's Social and Behavioral Sciences commencement.  Professor Soto was attempting to discuss the ways that the anti-im/migrant measures known as SB1070 would marginalize Latinos/as.  Before she could get a sentence out the crowd jeered her. Twitter drama ensued.  Most people said it was inappropriate for Professor Soto to use the event as a "political soap box" further highlighting the success of the conservative right in advancing the idea that Universities and institutions of higher education should be depoliticized places where one goes to learn objective truths.  Meanwhile, if you ask me, it's pretty inappropriate for an audience of presumably educated adults to boo a woman of letters.  

Of course, what happened to Professor Soto is just another example of what so often occurs to queers, women, and people of color (or people who inhabit all of those identities) within the academy, they get shouted down and told that they're advancing a narrow agenda or only telling half the story.  The events that transpired were truly shameful, but unfortunately are becoming more common than not on college campuses.  I applaud the stand that Soto and other educators in Arizona are taking despite the attempts to silence them.  As Professor Soto urges us...we must fight for public education.

Palante, Siempre Palante

*tip of the fitted to: The Arizona Daily Star


Zach said...

What a silly notion, that students should expect their graduation day to be about their acheivement rather than a soapbox for a leftist professor.

Here's a better question, where is your post denouncing this sort of behavior in it's many, far more common forms? I mean of course when a conservative of some kind speaks on the average college campus. College students (led by their "lettered professors") shout speakers down.

The truth is Soto's behavior was no better than a wedding guest who offers up a toast involving three words about the new couple and a ten minute monologue about her ex-boyfriend.

Shame is right, but somehow I doubt Soto feels any.

Marisol LeBron said...

It is not a question of conservative or liberal ideology. but social justice. Despite political allegiances or party lines people have spoken out about how Arizona's new laws violate basic civil liberties, deny human dignity, and reinforce racial hierarchies.

And Prof. Soto's commencement address was not a political soapbox, but rather an attempt to discuss with students the world they are entering into -- traditionally the purpose of the commencement address as they enter into a new phase of life as adults and hopefully attempt to make the world a better and more just place.

The students and their families who booed behaved poorly, period. Political leanings shouldn't keep people from denouncing such infantile actions.

Zach said...

In what universe is "social justice" not a political ideology?

Support for the new bill is overwhelming not just in Arizona, but nationwide. That support is in fact across party and political lines, the opposition is largely one dimensional and their are numerous polls that demonstrate it.

If Soto's intent was to discuss "the world they are entering into" with students, perhaps her intent would have been clearer if as she made even a tiny effort to not appear to be advancing,"a narrow agenda" or had provided more than, "half the story".

Soto's speech spent a tiny fraction of ten minutes talking about the world and the rest soapboxing on a pet issue.

Respect is a two way street professor Soto showed disrespect to the students by making their day about her pet issue. The attendee's responded in kind. The constitution is all about checks and balances, and the check on free speech is the disdain of one's peers and fellow citizens. I think Soto got exactly the reaction her speech deserved. Of course you are free to feel differently, after all isn't that what America is all about.

Anonymous said...

First off, one cannot account for boorish behavior, by either side of the political spectrum. I agree, however, with Zach. A university/college commencement ceremony should be all about the graduates and not about a particular political agenda. Your assertion that Soto’s speech was “an attempt to discuss with students the world they are entering into” is a weak argument. Commencement ceremonies are not “discussions” whereby there is free interplay amongst the participants or “consideration of a question in open and usually informal debate.” She was making a statement on a highly politicized topic that really had no place in congratulating the graduates.

Allow me to paraphrase you: Of course, what happened to Professor Soto is just another example of what so often occurs to conservatives, women, and people of faith within the academy, they get shouted down and told that they're advancing a narrow agenda or only telling half the story.

To wit:
Anne Coulter booed and heckled at Vanderbilt.

David Horowitz booed and heckled at Emory.

So let me get this right: when conservative/rightists are booed and heckled it’s considered an exercise in free speech but when liberals/leftists are booed and heckled it’s “pretty inappropriate.”

I may not agree with what people have to say but I believe they should be allowed to say it, and in the appropriate venue. The lectern at a commencement should not be used as a bully pulpit.

And this: “Universities and institutions of higher education should be depoliticized places where one goes to learn objective truths.”

So obviously you believe that campuses should be politicized, so who’s politics get advanced? Who gets to decide which political theory is espoused? The professors? The students? The parents who pay the tuition? Alumni? Who gets to choose? Better yet, how about less politicization and more emphasis on critical thinking wherein ALL sides of an issue are considered.

Also, what is wrong with learning “objective” truths in an atmosphere of free and open debate? Sorta like Socrates and Plato. Oh, wait, right they’re old dead white guys who really knew nothing.

Unlike such luminaries as AG Holder, have your actually read the 16 pages of SB 1070 prior to forming an opinion? That would be the “intellectual” thing to do. You will find that it allows AZ law enforcement to enforce existing Federal laws (8 U.S.C §1373(c))on the identification and arrest of persons illegally in this country only during “any lawful contact.” That is all. Might that lead to “racial” profiling or “discriminatory” practices by law enforcement? Yes, it certainly could; as is true of nearly every single law on the books today. Humans enforce the law and unfortunately some of them are biased or bigoted. So do we just not have any laws at all?

Additionally, AZ’s “immigrant” law is no more stringent than Mexico’s and the US treats illegal immigrants in a far more fair fashion than Mexico seems to. But let’s not let any facts get in the way of inflamed rhetoric.

BTW, my wife is a naturalized US citizen and her mom was a “resident alien” so to me to give a group who by an accident of geography were able to just walk here without due process a pass on obeying the law is an insult to all the hard working immigrants in this country who did follow the rules, did the paperwork, paid the fees, and traveled here.

Marisol LeBron said...

Look at the blog your at...its run by a queer woman of color, so I'm sorry if my heart doesn't weep for conservative attitudes and behaviors that step on people's civil and human rights. I'm not here to shore up anyone's privilege or feel bad that people aren't allowed to be as sexist, racist, homophobic, and/or xenophobic as they want to be.

Your rights should not come at the expense of someone else just because they're not the right color, they don't speak the right language, they don't worship the right god, and so on. I firmly believe that. If that seems ludicrous to you all thats on you, but you're not convincing anyone here.

I welcome people to disagree with me but I don't feed trolls.

Anonymous said...

Not sure if the troll remark was aimed at me or Zach. It is immaterial to me that you’re a “queer woman of color” unless you chose to use that self descriptor to say you’re on the left / liberal side of the political spectrum. I also know “queer women of color” who lean more towards “conservative / right wing.”

As for me, I am neither sexist, racist, homophobic, nor xenophobic, I consider myself somewhat of a hedonistic anarchist libertarian. In my response to your blog I didn’t attack you personally, I commented on your position, and the often double standard that people of both sides of the political spectrum apply to free speech. To me the point of freedom of speech in America is that we can speak to a topic yet agree to disagree. It’s all about polite discourse and respecting the opinions of others.

I categorically do not agree with those “conservatives” who pull their morals from a book and then try to apply them to others, particularly as they are adept at cherry picking only the one’s that fit their world view. I also do not agree with “liberals” who seem to think their opinion is the only correct one and all others should just shut up. I abhor government functionaries passing laws in an attempt to regulate my personal behavior, all because they think it’s good for me. To me, the smaller the government the greater the freedom.

I have absolutely no problem with immigrants, but all of us who live in this country have every right to know who is coming into it and for what purpose. Would you let a known rapist, murderer, sex offender, or thief come into your home to stay? I am positive that most of the people who illegally come here are just trying to make a decent living and typically try to stay below the radar and stay out of trouble. But it is those who smuggle drugs or have criminal histories that are also coming, and that makes you and I less safe. Some of them crashed airplanes into some fo our buildings and killed our people. “Amnesty” is not the answer because that is a huge slap in the face to those who immigrated here legally, which is often a long and expensive process. Should we make it less cumbersome for people to come here? Yes, but we also have the right as a nation to keep people out. Our infrastructure can only support a finite number of people and most of those people need to contribute.

“Rights” is a very tricky topic, and sometimes one group’s right do come at the expense of another’s, unfortunately it’s not a perfect world. We should try to mitigate that at every opportunity, but there will always be those who feel they are being wronged, some folks are just like that. As it is said: you can please some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can't please all of the people all of the time.

If you truly want to get a taste of sexism, racism, homophobism, and xenophobism try living in some of the countries located in east or central Asia. They have most of those “isms” down to a t.

Zach said...

Up until your most recent post I found your comments to be interesting examples of an intelligent person with an entirely different worldview.

Your most recent post, unfortunately, was filled with hateful pejoratives.

I wouldn't expect you to change your worldview based on a few words from a stranger, but you might at least use the opportunity to learn why other people think the way they do. Different does not equal evil, it is possible for decent and intelligent people to disagree on issues. I'd encourage you to remember that next time around.

I applaud your courage in posting the comments, and wish you luck in your future endeavors.

Marisol LeBron said...

@ Zach: Difference does not equal evil that's my point about why SB1070 is wrongheaded -- it is based on policing and punishing difference.

I did not insult either you or the anonymous poster, but I do think people like Ann Coulter and other right-wing talking heads like Glen Beck and Rand Paul are dangerous, hateful, and spiteful. Their incendiary language is akin to shouting fire in a crowded theater it's sole purpose is to create panic

Eitherway, I don't care whether the individual is liberal or conservative (because I consider myself a radical leftist anyway)if they say or do things that are racist, sexist, homophobic, or xenophobic then they might have to deal with the prospect of getting called out on their bullshit by those being discriminated against. I have seen plenty of liberals make extremely racist comments, so like I said its about more than liberal or conservative, democrat or's about social justice.

@ Anonymous: That "east or central Asia" comment was pretty messed up. And because another place is supposedly worse that the United States is no reason be turn a blind eye to the the injustices happening at home. You're right, its not a perfect world, but we don't need to accept that.

Anonymous said...

“SB1070 is wrongheaded -- it is based on policing and punishing difference.” I disagree that the law, in and of itself, targets any particular group (other than persons in the US illegally). Does law enforcement have to be very, very careful in carrying out the provisions of the law? Yes! I feel your argument may be that 1070 targets only Latino/as. While not in letter I would say that perhaps in spirit it does to a degree. But that is because the reality of the situation in AZ is that the majority of persons illegally there are probably of Hispanic origin. That is mostly due to geography, since one can simply walk across the border (although it is definitely not a “simple” walk). That does not mean there are no other groups illegally in AZ, but the Southwest does have a significant Hispanic population, if I were in any country illegally I would gravitate towards people who speak my language and may assist me. That’s human nature. If one were to go up to the northern border the situation would be different, I imagine there are quite a few Caucasian folks who are living there illegally. As to major metro areas like LA and NY the mixture of persons here illegally is probably quite eclectic since those places in particular have a wide range of cultural / ethnic groups in them. Having lived in AZ I can understand their frustration at the Feds not putting forth enough effort. Is SB 1070 the right answer? Maybe, maybe not. We’ll have to see. As Churchill said: You can always count on Americans to do the right thing - after they've tried everything else.

I agree with you that those of the Coulter and Beck ilk are hateful and spiteful and are fear mongers to boot. But the fact that people listen to them indicates that they are to a degree “preaching to the choir” of already like minded people. One could say the same of the Farrakhan’s and Wright’s. But they all have the absolute right to feel how they feel and say what they say. To fight them you point out their failures to present factual arguments or when they engage in hyperbole. When folks go off the deep end of rhetoric they are usually marginalized by society, look at Westboro Baptist Church. Even fundies shy away from them. As you say “they might have to deal with the prospect of getting called out on their bullshit by those being discriminated against.” Too true, as long as they are called out based on fact and not vitriol. Both sides should be allowed to speak their piece without interruption and then allow the individual to make up her or his own mind. When anyone speaks I always listen with a healthy dose of skepticism. “America isn't easy. America is advanced citizenship. You've got to want it bad, because it's gonna put up a fight. It's gonna say: ‘You want free speech?’ Let's see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil who is standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours.” Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.

Anonymous said...

As to my comment about central and east Asia, I lived in parts of both for nearly 15 years. While individually most of the people I knew were good folks, collectively many of their societies are blatantly sexist, racist, homophobic, and/or xenophobic. Many others would agree and it’s more “messed up” to turn a blind eye to those behaviors. I use them as an example to those who point at the US and say it is filled with sexism, racism, homophobism, and xenophobism. Some people need to broaden their world view and realize that, while not perfect by any means, the US is not such a bad place. It is one of the very few places on the planet where a multiplicity of ethnic, racial, religious, and non-religious folks actually live together in some modicum of peace and respect.

I agree that we should not turn a blind eye to the injustices at home, but until we can get our own house in order let’s stop trying to fix or even help other parts of the world. We cannot afford that. But we also must recognize that there are those who hate our freedoms and our lifestyles and we must protect ourselves from them. Then there are those who just want to watch the world burn, even here.

It’s good that you’re a radical leftist, just like Paine and Jefferson and Franklin. I’ve never particularly liked the “left” “right” view of the political spectrum, too linear. Politics are more circular because for every Hitler there’s a Stalin, for every Mao there’s a Somoza, for each Pinochet there’s a Pol Pot, for each soviet there’s a junta. It seems that as ideologues slip further to the left or to the right they end up meeting in some sort of totalitarian dictatorship. Which are never good for we common folks. While you and I may not be on the same page, we are in the same book. To achieve social justice we need to look forward, not backwards. If we open a quarrel between past and present, we shall find that we have lost the future.

“In this country it is not only permissible to question our leaders, it's our responsibility!”

Pablo said...

Graduation is a helluva inappropriate forum for saying anything useful, provocative, or in any way significant. She should have stuck to fart jokes & Dr. Suess, then we would't have to discuss her and could go back to obsessing over Sarah Palin and the Tea Party Movement.

Pollywolly said...

If we don't enforce our borders, there are > 1 billion people living in places poorer than Mexico even, who would all jump to move here. So our land will become one big squatter slum like the slums that surround Rio or Calcutta or Buenos Aires. If we amnesty people who moved here in violation of our laws for the second time (first was 1986), everyone will completely understand that our laws mean nothing. This is why even talk of amnesty causes more people to cross the Arizona border (google it). The Arizona law is simply an effort to make enforcement more effective. What other suggestions do you have to make enforcement more effective? Or do you just want to live in one giant squatter slum?

Marisol LeBron said...

Read Magical Urbanism about how im/migrants revitalize rundown urban areas and then get back to me. Im/migrant slums is not one of my fears I must say.