Students at Cambridge are objecting to the hiring of American Aron Wall, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of California-Santa Barbara who studies “quantum gravity and black hole thermodynamics.” It is not Wall’s academic credentials or theories that are controversial. Rather, three years ago, Wall wrote a blog post critical of Obergefell v. Hodges in 2015, the decision protecting the right to same-sex marriage. Wall’s criticism was of non-monogamous relations in the gay and lesbian communities. One can easily see the objections to such arguments but critics have gone further to object that Wall’s personal views create a hostile or threatening environment.
In his blog, Wall advocated a relationships for gay couples steeped in faith and monogamy:
Like anyone else, what gay people need is to turn to Christ and learn to live in freedom from the harmful fleshly desires which are indeed part of the human condition for everyone. But if they cannot accept this, it is far better that they should live in a committed exclusive relationship, than that they should live the notoriously promiscuous, reckless, and obscene lifestyle characteristic of the cultural venues of the gay community. (Note: I do not identify all gay individuals or couples as being members of this “gay community”; those are different things.)
The reference to “promiscuous, reckless and obscene” was isolated by critics and discussed in an article in The Cambridge News as being “homophobic.”
However, Wall’s posting speaks of the tension felt by many people of faith and his hope that his homosexual friends will still embrace monogamous relations founded in the teachings of Christ:
“To be clear, a conservative Christian like myself cannot actually endorse any relationship which is forbidden by God. But we can hope and pray that Gay Marriage is at least a step towards a more wholesome life for our friends who are gay, as compared to the likely alternatives. It is a relationship which requires work, sacrifice, and commitment to another person. Perhaps some diluted reflection of God’s holiness can shine through a little.”
The hiring of a person with such Christian views has been denounced at the university and critics question whether a gay student could feel comfortable being taught by such an individual. There is a call for assurances of protection or safety around Wall.
There is no consideration of the inverse implications of whether a professor critical of Christian values should also be deemed a threat for students of opposing faiths or values. Nevertheless some student activists are reportedly calling for assurances that “there are safe spaces for LGBT+ students, and there were plans in place to deal with any discrimination.”
In a statement to Inside Higher Ed, the university did not strongly defend the right of Wall and others to hold and publish such views, but rather noted that all employees are expected to adhere to university policies.