Campus Dailywatch (2009-03-17)

I totally missed an article about scandal in Brown’s international studies program the first time around, but now it’s been the subject of some outrage in the Brown Daily Herald‘s letters section, so I gave it a reread. To summarize, the article is critical of the new director of the Watson Institute for International Studies, David Kennedy, because of a new legal studies program that he’s established and because of the faculty in it. The paper indicates, with some degree of shock and alarm, that many of the Watson Institute’s new hires have Harvard Law degrees, like Kennedy, and that two of these Harvard Law people, hired for the new legal studies program, who—gasp!—don’t even have PhDs, are a former student of Kennedy’s and someone with whom he “is in a romantic relationship.”

This last reference drew the most ire. Kennedy himself wrote into the Herald to observe that “My partner Dan Danielsen and I were pleasantly surprised to learn in your lead story… that our relationship remained ‘romantic’ after more than 20 years together.” Peter Andreas, a political science/Watson Institute professor, was slightly less sarcastic in his disapproval, writing that he was “dismayed by both the tone and content” of the article—most notably the whole “romantic relationship” thing. And I really have to applaud Andreas’ point here—obviously, I don’t know the details of the situation, but Andreas is absolutely right that it was absurd to insinuate that “that there may be something improper about their involvement,” when, as Kennedy said, he and his partner have been together for more than 20 years. Andreas goes on to bring up spousal hires, which of course do happen in academia; a desirable job candidate is going to be a lot more likely to move to a new university if his partner is offered a job as well. This happens fairly frequently, or so I understand, and in fact I think Brown should be applauded for extending its spousal hiring policy to same-sex couples, despite the fact that same-sex marriage is not legal in Rhode Island.

My mother says that I have a one-track mind when it comes to picking out the LGBT angle in news stories, and yeah, I probably do—I don’t think I would have noticed this story if I hadn’t noticed Kennedy’s letter to the editor first. But doing so does lead me to a larger point about what appears to be the Herald‘s desire to make news where it doesn’t really exist. Campus dailies are a great training ground for aspiring reporters, so I hope that the folks involved in this article do a little academia fact-checking—and yes, because I have a one-track mind, stop insinuating things about Kennedy’s (gasp!) same-sex partner. Would the Herald have made the same insinuations if Kennedy were married to a woman? You have to wonder.

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