Editorial: Reaction was overblown
Faculty’s response to editorial tough to understand
Published: Tuesday, September 20, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, February 13, 2013 16:02
In several letters to the editor printed in last Friday's issue of The New Hampshire, professors and staff members defended Ed Larkin in response to an editorial that ran in last Tuesday's issue.
Ed Larkin, you will recall, is a German professor who exposed himself to a woman and her teenage daughter in a grocery store parking lot two years ago. Larkin will be returning to UNH this spring, contrary to the wish of the school administration, after an arbitrator forced his reinstatement on the basis that his actions did not constitute "moral delinquency of a grave order."
This has raised concern amongst students regarding the standards to which faculty and staff members are held on our campus.
In a letter written by English professor Thomas Newkirk and signed by 31 other faculty and staff members, the editorial this paper ran last Tuesday was attacked.
After referring to the editorial as "incendiary and unfair," the letter states that it "uses crude epithets (‘pervert') and logic unworthy of the paper."
For example, it claims that this reinstatement will open the "floodgates" for more faculty "perversion." In response to their criticism of the use of the word "pervert," one struggles to think of a better word to describe a man who exposes his genitalia to a young girl and her mother. As for criticisms of the "logic" found within the pieces, can the faculty and staff members who signed Professor Newkirk's letter say, with a straight face, that allowing such a man to return to the faculty of this university will not weaken the high professional standards that members of the faculty and staff on this campus are held to?
It is rather ironic that these members of the faculty and staff have turned Larkin into a victim while disregarding the mother and daughter he victimized, seemingly alongside every member of this campus community who has ever faced sexual harassment and victimization.
It's tough to imagine the signers of such a letter claiming to be advocates and allies of women. This sort of academic cronyism, in which principles are compromised in order to protect a colleague, is something very wrong with American colleges and universities today.
Another letter, in support of Larkin, was written by his wife Maria. In it she states, "I was surprised that at an institution of higher education where critical thinking, inquiry, tolerance, diversity and open-mindedness are revered, this type of sensationalized journalism would exist."
We were surprised in a similar way. We, for instance, were surprised that such an institution would retain a man who exposes his penis to women in a retail parking lot. Mrs. Larkin goes on to write that "the editorial written about my husband is to me so insensitive and reprehensible that it is in and of itself more damaging than the actual act of indecent exposure it wishes to condemn."
We find it hard to see how the editorial that appeared in our newspaper regarding Larkin's actions could have been more damaging than the act of indecent exposure. More damaging than either of those things, though, we feel was the decision to allow Mr. Larkin to retain his position.
Finally, she too could not help but attempt to turn her husband into a victim, stating that: "We teach staff and students about social justice and privilege at UNH in an attempt to create a climate of acceptance and cultural diversity. Mental illness is an important component of this diversity and is considered a disability…"
Ed Larkin, by virtue of his position on this campus and station in life had a lot of privileges. Social justice, in this instance, would be his resignation and departure from the university.
It is true that mental illness is a serious problem that affects many individuals, but how few individuals suffering from mental illness take the course of action that Ed Larkin took in the summer of 2009.
To put it frankly, anyone who takes such action should not be in such a position.