Indiana University’s provost wrote a letter to the community Thursday detailing how a professor, Eric Rasmusen, has repeatedly expressed “racist, sexist and homophobic views” online ― but the school will not fire him, because of the First Amendment.
Provost Lauren Robel detailed how Rasmusen, a professor of business and public policy who has been teaching there since 1992, repeatedly expressed discriminatory views on social media. These include, in Robel’s words, the idea that “women do not belong in the workplace,” that “gay men should not be permitted in academia ... because [Rasmusen] believes they are promiscuous and unable to avoid abusing students,” and that Black students “are generally unqualified for attendance at elite institutions.”
Yet Robel also wrote that the university won’t fire Rasmusen, because “his posts as a private citizen, as vile and stupid as they are,” are protected by the First Amendment.
Instead, the school will not “force” any students to take his classes and he will be required to use “double-blind” grading, a method meant to mask students’ identity to avoid discrimination. She noted that the university will work to ensure Rasmusen does not act on his views “in ways that violate either the federal and state civil rights laws or IU’s nondiscrimination policies.”
The provost was forced to address Rasmusen’s discriminatory statements after a recent tweet of his drew attention online. He tweeted an article titled “Are women destroying academia? Probably,” and then quoted from it: “Geniuses are overwhelmingly male because they combine outlier high IQ with moderately low Agreeableness and … Conscientiousness.”
Rasmusen responded to the provost on his own web page Thursday, saying her description of his views as racist, homophobic and sexist were “insults.”
“I opposed admitting people to universities based on their race; I open doors for ladies; I say that sodomy is a sin. I am sure that is enough to qualify me for those insults,” he wrote.
He then went on to double down on his discriminatory views, noting that he is “on record as saying that homosexuals should not teach grade and high school.”
(HuffPost reached out to Rasmusen to clarify how such views could possibly be considered not homophobic, but did not immediately receive a response.)
In responding to allegations of sexism, Rasmusen also defended himself by saying his wife used to teach college and he “did not object” and when she later chose to become a “housewife,” he deemed that “a very reasonable decision.” He then said that if his daughter decided to become a professor one day, “that is okay too” because academia is “a vocation more compatible with motherhood.”
When HuffPost reached out to the provost to see if IU’s position about firing Rasmusen had changed since his response, a university spokesperson pointed us back to the provost’s initial statement.
Rasmusen is teaching one course this semester, with 20 students enrolled, IU spokesperson Chuck Carney told the Indy Star.
“Professor Rasmusen has now created an environment ... where students representing marginalized communities, like LGBTQ Hoosiers, have to worry about who they are,” Drew Anderson, director of campaigns at the LGBTQ advocacy group GLAAD, said in a statement.
Anderson attended the university as an undergraduate student from 2007 to 2010 and said it was the first place he came out “and truly found acceptance for being LGBTQ.” He urged students and faculty to report any incidents in which they have felt that their academics or well-being was negatively affected by Rasmusen’s views.
This article has been updated with a response from the provost’s office.