Penn Anthropology Professor Under Fire For Discussion of Transgender Issues in Class

University of Pennsylvania Anthropology Professor Theodore Schurr is apparently an academic recidivist in allowing a diversity of viewpoints in a classroom. For that offense, Dr. Schurr is again the subject of complaints and a call for suspension. Tolerating, let alone encouraging, such diversity of viewpoints in a classroom is now considered harmful and abusive.

Dr. Schurr would appear to be someone who fits in with the political profile of most faculties. He was one of the signatories on a letter attacking then-President-elect Donald Trump for alleged “racist, xenophobic, sexist speech and behavior.”

However, Schurr has some old-fashioned ideas of teaching, including the value of discussing opposing views on relevant subjects. In his course, “Sex and Human Nature,” transgender issues loom prominently in the subject matter and Schurr allowed students to share their different viewpoints.

That is now verboten on campuses where students are constantly told that they do not have to tolerate the opposing views of others. Indeed, we previously discussed the effort to fire University of Pennsylvania Professor Carlin Romano for questioning the language of a proposed statement on racism in the publishing industry.

It is also the university at the center over the long fight to terminate Professor Amy Wax for her controversial views.

Pennsylvania is ranked as “very poor” at 202 out of 203 in the recent ranking on free speech. Only Columbia University has a more hostile environment for free speech.

The school newspaper, The Daily Pennsylvania reported that the course is heavily attended because there is a mandatory “cultural diversity” requirement for students and it double counts for the separate “Living World Sector” requirement.

First-year student Haydr Dutta declared that Dr. Schurr (who has a long list of prestigious publications) was completely ignorant of the subject as it relates to transgender issues: “Things were a little horrifying because [Schurr’s] definitions about being trans were basically all factually wrong.” Haydr Dutta, who alternatively uses “Aiden,” is on the Trans/Nonbinary Committee at the LGBT Center.

Dutta added that the class fueled divergent thoughts and that there was a risk that students “walk out with these wrong views about what being trans means.”

Dutta told The College Fix that Schurr encouraged discussion of why trans healthcare could be controversial, opening up some students’ points that ‘a fair number of people detransition,’ that ‘taxes should not be spent on trans healthcare and should instead be going to a useful place like the military,’ and that ‘the treatment of transgender people is driven by big pharma who just want the money.’”

This is not the first time that Schurr has been targeted. In 2019, he was removed from teaching the “Human Nature” course, though he resumed teaching the course in 2021.

He is now under investigation by the university’s Title IX office. Among the complaints is that Schurr used the “deadname” of actor Elliot Page who was known as Ellen Page during the movie Juno but now identifies as a male.

Penn student Lex Gilbert also told The Fix that “when asked clarifying questions during class, he relied on students to give their thoughts and appeared to not know how to respond. He relied heavily upon extremely dense PowerPoints throughout the course.”

Another student, who remained anonymous, complained that “once we really got to the topic of gender and sexuality, the conversation got pretty uncomfortable.”

The controversy reflects a different culture at Penn from the top ranking university, The University of Chicago (where I attended).

UChicago shocked many in 2016 when it sent a letter to incoming students that promised an unfettered and uncensored education without the protection from disturbing or offensive ideas. While most schools are actively curtailing free speech, its letter warned the students that they will not be protected against ideas or given “safe spaces.”

The origin of the letter is found in a policy produced at the University of Chicago in 2014-2015. The Chicago Statement’s key provision declares that a university’s

“fundamental commitment is to the principle that debate or deliberation may not be suppressed because the ideas put forth are thought by some or even by most members of the University community to be offensive, unwise, immoral, or wrong-headed. It is for the individual members of the University community, not for the University as an institution, to make those judgments for themselves, and to act on those judgments not by seeking to suppress speech, but by openly and vigorously contesting the ideas that they oppose. Indeed, fostering the ability of members of the University community to engage in such debate and deliberation in an effective and responsible manner is an essential part of the University’s educational mission.”

The Chicago Statement also states unequivocally that students cannot “obstruct or otherwise interfere with the freedom of others to express views.” That latter statement stands in contrast with many academics who believe that stopping others from speaking is free speech.

The complaint raises both free speech and academic freedom issues. While this first-year student believes that Dr. Schurr is ignorant of the subject matter of his course, he was selected to teach the subject at one of the premier universities in the world. In addition to receiving tenure at Penn, he is a Consulting Curator in the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archeology and Anthropology, and the Director of the Laboratory of Molecular Anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania.

Dr. Schurr was assured that he could do so with the full benefits of academic freedom — the touchstone of higher education. Penn now faces yet another test of its commitment to that principle.

Nevertheless, students have already reportedly been allowed to take just a credit for the course or transfer to other classes due to their discomfort.

103 thoughts on “Penn Anthropology Professor Under Fire For Discussion of Transgender Issues in Class”

  1. Trans racial people believe they were born into the wrong race. A white woman cannot actually become a black woman, just because she identifies that way.

    People with Body Integrity Disorder believe they are supposed to be handicapped or an amputee. It’s now called “Transableism”. They demand that surgeons mutilate their healthy bodies. Why is it horrific to amputate a healthy limb, but not genitals or healthy breasts? It’s essentially the same.

    Therians believe they are other species, such as dogs, cats, or horses. No matter how they identify, obviously they are humans. Otherkin believe they are mythological or alien species that do not exist, such as vampires, elves, dragons, or unicorns. Lycnanthropy is the specific subset that believes they physically transform into wolves or werewolves.

    In all of the above, how someone internally perceives themselves does not change the biological reality, and it would be absurd to propose that anyone who disagrees with their delusion be harassed, shouted down, fired, sent home from school, sent for reeducation, denied college admissions, lose their medical license to practice psychiatry, or otherwise punished. No one would have excoriated JK Rowling for rightly pointing out that a man who identifies as a dog is not really a dog. Should the definition of “species” be changed to a personal identity, as well, until biologists will refuse to admit they can tell a species by genetics? A biologist in an auditorium is presented with a horse, and a human being, and asked how many horses are in the room. “Well, I don’t know, sir. I don’t know what species this other guest identifies as.” “In 2,000 years, if you were to find the bones of both these individuals, could you tell which one was the horse?” “Why, no. Species is a social construct, and we have no way to know what species they identified as.” The transgender movement has reached that level of insanity, where academics claim there are no physical or neurological differences between men and women, and that there is no actual definition for woman.

    Why was gender dysphoria plucked from among the myriad other dysphoria as the one where personal identity magically transforms the person into what they desire? Out of all the dysphoria, why must the entire country be forced to positively affirm the delusion? It’s not enough that people show compassion. They have to voice affirmation, constantly, at all times, for the delusion, using mandatory pronouns that match the person’s delusion.

    The movement has gone so wildly aberrant as to force people to use any noun or verb the self-identified transgender person chooses. “Banana” can be a pronoun, and you can be fired if you don’t use it. I have a hard enough time remembering someone’s name. The thought of remembering their internal psyche’s preferences and limitless pronouns is exhausting.

    Psychiatrists are not allowed to question whether someone is really experiencing gender dysphoria, or just succumbing to peer pressure or social contagion. Considering gender dysphoria results in castration/sterilization, and the removal of healthy body parts, this is shocking medical abuse.

    People who medially transitioned are now suing healthcare providers and advisers who set them on the automatic affirmation path. This course will correct itself. I predict that many people who harass others for not jumping on the bandwagon are going to deny they ever supported this movement in about 10 years.

    1. Karen – you’re asking the right questions. This moment has been several hundred years in the making, in terms of the development of both philosophy and technology that makes transitions possible (as well as allows communication across the world so as to re-form the idea of “community” from nation, family, and church to like-minded identities). Tolerance is not enough for the people in these “communities” – affirmative acceptance and agreement is required by them, otherwise they throw a hissy fit and get violent.

      One recent street-level book that explains all this is Strange New World by history professor Carl Trueman.

      Uncle Henry

    2. Best analysis on the subject that I have read lately. The Trans-Chic is spanning the globe now, but I doubt seriously the Iranians and other theocracies are putting up with this nonsense. This fad has to end now before more children are mutilated. Sadly, what in God’s name will the world be like in 10 years? We racing at warp speed to the cliff.

    3. Why was gender dysphoria plucked from among the myriad other dysphoria as the one where personal identity magically transforms the person into what they desire?

      I’ve asked myself this question too. The answer that seems to present itself is that ever since the Sexual Revolution, it appears that sex is everything. Your attitude toward sex defines you as a person. Your sexual practices indicate whether you are “open” or “closed,” “frigid” or “free.” “Free-thinking” is now defined as “sexually libertine and up for anything,” regardless of your attitudes about anything else.

      Which is why the emphasis on introducing this form of dysphoria to ever-younger children is so disturbing.

    4. Oh, come on, Karen…

      A freshman trans called out her (or his or its?) professor for being ignorant and anti-trans for allowing his students (with differing points of view!) to “speak their truth”? Poor thing, probably needs not only a (much) larger safe space, but a hefty GoFundMe lawsuit to get over this terrible injustice.

  2. Dutta added that the class fueled divergent thoughts and that there was a risk that students “walk out with these wrong views about what being trans means.”

    The intolerance of “divergent thoughts” or “wrong views” about a topic shows that the orthodoxy being enforced (trans ideology) is a dogmatic religious faith, where heresy is not permitted. Hence their violent rage against traditional feminists, whom they refer to derisively as TERFs (trans-excluding radical feminists).

    1. Balkanization destroys countries, so perhaps this intense tribalism will destroy the Left. They are eating their own, turning on feminists and lesbians who acknowledge that woman actually means something. Rosie O’Donnell is now under fire for admitting that when her 9 year old daughter informed her that her stuffed animal was non binary, she explained that girls can like boy things, but still be girls. She said that girls who identified as tomboys a generation ago would now be called transgender, and she’s getting a world of hate.

      Perhaps the Left will be so busy devouring its own that it won’t have the cohesion to do any more real damage.

      I won’t interfere with an enemy engaged in destroying itself.

      Bud Light, Miller Lite, North Face, Ford’s Very Gay Raptor, Disney’s deliberately targeting kids, and all the kids shows that suddenly had non binary and transgender characters like “Blue’s Clues”, and “Owl House” (cancelled), can all be examples of massive failures in reading the room.

      1. Add Target to the list. The insanity will continue unabated and only get worse if another similar administration that facilitates this returns to the WH in January 2025. Will we make it to 250 year anniversary of the founding?

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