Professor, UNLV at odds over lecture complaint
February 11, 2005
LAS VEGAS – A prominent economics professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas is fighting academic sanctions for saying during a lecture that gays save less money for the future than heterosexuals.
Hans Hoppe, 55, a conservative libertarian economist with almost 20 years at UNLV, rejected a university offer that campus administrators on Thursday called “a fair conclusion for all parties involved.”
Hoppe, a tenured professor, said he and the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada were prepared to take the question of academic freedom to court.
“I want an apology from them that they mistreated me, that they gave in to a brat who should have been told to grow up,” Hoppe said.
The ACLU made public a letter accusing Hoppe of violating “standards of scholarship and instruction responsibility.” In it, Raymond W. Alden, university executive vice president and provost, instructs Hoppe to “cease mischaracterizing opinion as objective fact in the educational environment.”
Hoppe said he wants the letter removed from his personnel file.
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ACLU officials on Friday compared Hoppe’s case with University of Colorado Professor Ward Churchill, who has been criticized for an essay comparing victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center in New York to “little Eichmanns,” a reference to Adolf Eichmann, the Nazi organizer of the Holocaust.
“What is at stake in each case are the principles of free speech and academic freedom,” said Gary Peck, ACLU of Nevada executive director. He added that the ACLU does not endorse the theories of either professor.
“Academic freedom means nothing if you don’t defend the right of professors to say things that are relevant to their curricula but are controversial and might offend people,” Peck said.
UNLV lawyer Richard Linstrom told the Las Vegas Sun that Hoppe was not prevented from stating opinions, only being instructed to label them appropriately.
“Academic freedom doesn’t mean that you can subject people to your personal opinions without at least designating them as opinions or backing them up with fact,” Linstrom said.
The Hoppe debate stems from a March lecture during which he said families with children tend to save less than singles, the young and the old. As an example, he said, homosexuals tend to plan less for the future than heterosexuals.
Student Michael Knight raised no objection during class, but said he felt uncomfortable and later filed a complaint. Knight, who is gay, graduated in August and now lives in Seattle.
“He was stereotyping homosexuals,” Knight told the Las Vegas Review-Journal.”We don’t have any family values. We don’t know how to manage our money. We basically just blow all our money immediately. That was my take on it.”
Hoppe said he clarified his remark to the class a week later, but insisted his theory has backing from economists worldwide and his generalization was not meant to offend anyone.