Jul 19, 2014

50% of College Professors Think That You're a Deviant

Most colleges aren't as homophobic as The Fashion Institute of Technology, but still, sociology professors are very likely to think that you're a deviant.

In 2012 Franciscan University, a small Catholic college in Steubenville, Ohio, came under fire for a three-line course description in its catalog. Deviant Behavior, in the Social Work Department, listed homosexuality among its topics of discussion, alongside rape and murder (Brady, 2012).

After a media blitz and an investigation by its accrediting agency,  it deleted homosexuality from the course description, along with the other examples.

But Franciscan is not alone.  Hundreds of colleges include homosexuality as one of the topics to be covered in deviance courses.

At the University of Nevada, the course description for The Sociology of Deviance includes "prostitution, homosexuality, drug and alcohol abuse, and violence."

At Onondaga Community College in Syracuse, New York, Social Deviance covers "homosexuality, prostitution, suicide, and alcoholism."

The University of Pittsburgh pairs "homosexuality" with mental illness.

Even when the course catalog doesn't include "homosexuality" in its list of deviant acts to be covered, professors often include it in the syllabus.  50% of the syllabi I checked devoted class time to "homosexuality."

At the University of Utah, Sociology of Deviant Behavior devotes two weeks to it, just after violence, and before prostitution.

At the University of Wisconsin, Deviant Behavior devotes one week to "Homosexuality and Deviance."

Even Rutgers University devotes a class to "Contrasting Perspectives: Homosexuality."

How did gay people become so integral to deviance class?  I blame Howard Becker, whose Outsiders: Studies in the Sociology of Deviance (1961) invented the field.  He refers to criminals 8 times, the mentally ill 12 times, and "homosexuals" 42 times!

For the next fifty years, sociologists who needed a quick, easy example of deviance turned, again and again, to homosexuality, no matter what their topic.

They ignored, or didn't care about, Stonewall and Gay Rights Parades and Harvey Milk and Barney Frank and Lawrence v. Texas and marriage equality.

Today sociologists sometimes go through great lengths to "prove" that gay people are deviant. For example, the article on "Homosexuality" in The Routledge Handbook of Deviant Behavior offers four pieces of evidence: the slang phrase "that's so gay," ex-gay therapy, anti-gay hate crimes, and the homophobic protests of the Westboro Baptist Church.

Of course these suggest that some people are homophobic.  Some people are also anti-Semitic, but the presence of the slang phrase "jew him down," attempts to convert Jews to Christianity, swastikas painted on synagogue walls, and the "Jewish conspiracy" rants of Aryan Nation are never used as evidence that being Jewish is deviant

When the fall semester begins, thousands of college students are going to be enrolling in Deviant Behavior classes.  And they're going to be shocked to discover that they, their friends, their parents, and their state senator are including in the category of "deviants," along with the murderers.