During his first year at Humboldt State University (HSU) - as a tenure-track professor in the Psychology Department - faculty and students tried to silence Mark Harwood on a number of occasions. He was hired primarily to teach Human Sexuality—a class he had taught in a variety of settings including a doctoral program in the UC-system, a psychology program in the second highest ranked City College in the nation, and at a private university.
Mark Harwood received excellent reviews from most students; however, with a class as personal as human sexuality, some found a way to be offended. His teaching evaluations were well above average and, in some instances, stellar. His first experience teaching human sexuality at HSU proved to be different. The students in the Master’s program simply couldn’t wrap their minds around the idea that males and females are different. They objected to his emphasis on techniques for treating sexual dysfunction – although this was the primary purpose of the class.
Professor Harwood’s second semester was even more distressing and he almost left HSU to take a position elsewhere. During the spring semester, he taught the undergraduate course in human sexuality. The course was cross-listed with Women’s Studies. Before the semester began, a student from the Women’s Studies department asked if he would allow her to be the T/A for the course. He agreed.
About four weeks into the course, the T/A indicated that she would like Dr. Harwood to cover domestic violence. He replied that because domestic violence isn’t directly related to human sexuality, he had not included it on the syllabus; however, he said that if they covered all the material in the syllabus and had time at the end of class, he would be happy to address this issue. As it turned out, he had the time.
Dr. Harwood sees domestic violence as a complex problem. Overall, he sees it as a relationship problem with both partners contributing to the dysfunctional relationship and one or both of them playing a role in the initiation and maintenance of the violence. This is recognized by virtually all experts in the field of family therapy. But to the Women’s Studies students, domestic violence is always entirely the fault of the male.
During class one day, Dr. Harwood handed out two peer-reviewed articles. The major findings of the articles were:
1. Women are more likely than men to initiate domestic violence.
2. Women are more likely than men to maintain domestic violence.
3. Women are more likely than men to report that they were victims of domestic violence.
4. Women suffer more serious physical injury than men when involved in domestic violence.
5. Women do not fear retaliation for physically abusing their male partner.
Before all the empirically supported findings had been presented, the class erupted with outbursts, primarily from the Women’s Studies students. One actually yelled that Dr. Harwood was a “privileged, rich, white male.”
The Women’s Studies students continued to disrupt class so it was generally unproductive—they simply didn’t want to hear what the researchers had discovered. What angered them the most was the applause Dr. Harwood received at the end of class by a large number of students who appreciated that he presented material most professors would shy away from.
A day or two after the class, Dr. Harwood received a call from the Chair of the Women’s Studies department, Kim Berry. She wanted to meet with him and the department Chair to discuss the complaints she received from some of her students.
Based on the complaints from some students, she decided that the way Harwood presented the research was improper. Berry did not bother to get feedback from the students who applauded after the lecture. Mark Harwood replied to Kim Berry saying that his time was limited. A meeting never took place. Instead, she called his department chair and insisted that he never be allowed to teach the class again. She threatened that she would not allow her Women’s Studies students to take the class if he taught it.
Dr. Harwood’s department capitulated to her demands.
I wish I could say that the story ends here. But HSU is a relatively small institution and rumors can be spread quickly, especially among the radical feminist students who constitute a large percentage of the student body. It was soon evident that a concerted effort to have Harwood dismissed was underway.
Near the end of his time at HSU, before he received tenure, Dr. Harwood was asked to attend a thesis proposal meeting for a student who was doing research on domestic violence. He had been asked to be on her committee almost two years earlier and, upon accepting, gave her copies of the aforementioned articles and instructed her to make sure these seminal studies were included in her literature review.
He was appalled to find that they were not mentioned anywhere in the literature review or thesis. Instead, junk research, “studies” from non-scientific organizations, and propaganda permeated the literature review.
Dr. Harwood was confident that the Chair for the thesis committee, Bettye Elmore, a full professor, would recognize the importance of including an unbiased treatment of the literature; however, he was wrong. The student and the professor became angry when he stated that these studies must be included in the literature review and the non-peer reviewed garbage that comprised the bulk of the review should be removed.
Elmore refused to read the research articles Harwood handed to her, and denied that they could be true. She went on to state that her ex-husband had depleted her savings and run off.
An hour later, the third committee member, a sociology professor arrived. The Chair then announced that Dr. Harwood had said women are more physically violent than men in domestic relationships. Harwood was surprised when he said, “Of course they are—we have known this for years”.
In Seattle, domestic violence calls were so frequent that a policy was instituted that stated when an officer arrives on the scene of a domestic violence call, someone must be arrested. It turned out, that in the very first year that the policy was in place, women were arrested for domestic violence 51% of the time. Upon hearing this, Elmore was visibly embarrassed and the student was angry. Harwood was later asked to relinquish his position as part of the thesis committee.
Once, when teaching a graduate class, Dr. Harwood used the symbol for male and female to designate the two groups and provide information under the categories. A female student became angered at the male symbol and erased the “arrow” that had an upward trajectory. She replaced it with an arrow that pointed down. Dr. Harwood asked if she was intimidated by male genitalia. He also asked if the Penis Monologues would offend her. Finally, he asked whether it would matter to her if all the males in the class began chanting “penis.” She filed a complaint with her department Chair.
Mark Harwood eventually left HSU because he realized he was in a dysfunctional intellectual relationship. And he knows feminists don’t fear retaliation for abusing their intellectual superiors. He now teaches at Wheaton College.