A Meredith College student says she wants to clear up misconceptions about the controversy that disrupted her class last spring when political science professor Clyde Frazier released his manuscript “Is Masculinity Obsolete?” Contrary to several reports, the attacks on Frazier’s manuscript stemmed not from students in the class, but from feminist professors and students who obtained and circulated the manuscript after hearing about it from members of the class.
The student, who prefers to remain anonymous, contacted Clarion Call after reading the Spring 2000 edition of Inside Academe, a popular higher education journal, and reports by The News & Observer. According to both sources, Frazier drew fire when he distributed copies of his 26-page manuscipt to a few professors and students in one of his classes. He was developing a book proposal titled “Is Masculinity Obsolete?” and wanted feedback for his book. The N&O quoted women’s studies coordinator and professor Rhonda Zingraff as saying that students reacted strongly to his arguments because they think “it’s outrageous for someone whose views seems so narrow and negative toward feminist scholarship to be teaching at a women’s college.”
These reports are misleading, says the student, because, “they all leave off how the book proposal came to attention of anybody besides our class in the first place.” Dr. Frazier was asking his students to give his manuscript a grade. Some students worried that if they gave Frazier a bad grade that their own grade in the class might suffer.
“We felt that Dr. Frazier might not view our work objectively,” explains the student. “Even though Dr. Frazier is an objective and fair man, we should not have to fear his personal reaction to our work. He did have our GPAs in his hands and none of use had enough experience with him to know he would not take it personally if we trashed him.”
“He is one of the most neutral, unbiased professors I have ever had,” the student added. “[The class] just didn’t want to have to critique and grade something that he wrote. It had nothing to do with the content of the work. It was having to tell him… you know, the fear that it really stunk, having to tell him that and getting an F in the class.”
Fearing the problems that grading their professor’s work might create for them, some students took their complaints to the department head and the History and Politics Club. After being asked to rectify the situation, Dr. Frazier withdrew his request and the issue appeared dead. However, in the process of the students’ initial complaint, other read the manuscipt and found a problem with the content. “It was several other members of the faculty and some members of the student body, many who were outside the department, that had the problem with the content of Dr. Frazier’s manuscipt,” the student explains.
Once the manuscipt left the classroom, the debate took on a whole new premise.
“I asked in class ‘why is this still an issue’ they explained to me that this was a gender-biased issue. Several class members talked about it continuously in and out of class and how it had gotten chaotic. We were shocked that Meredith would attempt to stop his academic freedom or freedom of speech. I was one of those people. At least half of the class [members] expressed as strongly as I did how angry they were.”
Of course, there could be a bright side to this whole thing, said the student. The controversy created a lot of interest and attention in Frazier’s work. “He is more likely to have [his book] published now than ever.”