|Author: Jerry Bergman
Subject: Social Issues
The recent scandal involving Idaho Senator Larry Craig’s alleged solicitation of homosexual sex in a public restroom brought a flood of memories of my experience as a professor at Bowling Green State University (BGSU) (Espo, 2007, p. 7A). I voiced my views about similar behavior at BGSU around 1978, but was rebuffed and told to keep my morals to myself. A few years later, after several separate arrests in the BGSU public restrooms involving males soliciting homosexual sex, several of my peers spoke out condemning the arrests claiming they violated privacy rights and personal freedom.
I then again spoke out in support of the police and the law, noting that it made me uncomfortable to go into BGSU’s restrooms knowing that this behavior was going on where I was a professor, and then a student. My speaking out in favor of the law and police turned out to be a big mistake: my colleagues rallied against me in print, and this factor contributed to my peers terminating me from the university. As was clear from the testimony in my case, although the main reason for my termination was my doubts about Darwinism, my concerns about inappropriate sexual behavior at the university were brought up at the trial and used against me.
I Object to Professors Exploiting Students at BGSU
After the rash of arrests relating to soliciting homosexual sex in public lavatories at BGSU, I wrote to the Bowling Green State University News reiterating what happened to me when I brought this problem to the attention of my peers and the administration at BGSU:
My shock after reading numerous articles relative to the sex scandal at Bowling Green State University is not that this is occurring, but that the authorities have [finally] decided to act against those individuals violating legal and community moral standards. As the 1984 book The Lecherous Professor (Boston, Beacon Press) eloquently documents, sex between professors and students is extremely common, often contains elements of coercion, and administrators tend to turn a blind eye and deaf ear to its occurrence. When I was on the faculty at Bowling Green, I mentioned several times to the authorities relative to what I thought was wholly inappropriate behavior taking place among students and faculty. I was politely told to keep my morals to myself. Possibly the situation is now such that University officials feel they must respond. Unfortunately, the recent arrests have only uncovered a small part of the tip of the iceberg. The situation is simply a reflection of the well-known sociologist Rodney Starks’ observation, printed in Time, Sept. 2, 1985, p. 57, that “anti-religion and immorality have in fact been spreading in the public schools” and the colleges and universities as well (Bergman, 1985).
In response to my letter, several letters from faculty and others were printed criticizing my defense of the police and the law. Mr. Hesske of the English Department in condemning me wrote, “Dr. Bergman invokes those old standbys ‘legal and community moral standards,’” and concluded, “Whatever happened in those bathrooms could never be as downright ugly as the type of ‘thinking’ evidenced by Dr. Bergman’s letter.” Hesske’s entire letter follows:
I don’t want to turn the letters section of The BG News into my private forum, but as long as you keep reprinting the misguided missives of people like Jerry Bergman, Ph.D., I will feel compelled to respond. Dr. Bergman invokes those old standbys “legal and community moral standards.” I happen to feel, and I hope I’m not alone on this one, that at the foundation of our legal and community moral standards is the idea that a man is innocent until found otherwise. I would like to point out that as of this writing no professors and no students have been found guilty of any crime related to the recent arrests. Isn’t it immoral and illegal to use a public forum to imply otherwise? Furthermore, Dr. Bergman seems to think that these arrests have something to do with sex between professors and students and that this sex involves coercion. Where does this nonsense come from? Finally, Dr. Bergman is concerned with the so-called anti-religion and amorality involved in the arrests. I think that there is nothing more anti-religion and amoral than to use what is so far an unfortunate incident as a springboard for airing one’s own unrelated, small-minded pet peeves. Whatever happened in those bathrooms could never be as downright ugly as the type of “thinking” evidenced by Dr. Bergman’s letter (Hesske, 1985).
Contrary to Hesske’s letter I never claimed anyone was guilty, nor did I mention any names, only that the police should enforce the law. Secondly, professors and student were, in fact, arrested as the editorial reproduced below notes. Sociology professor R. Serge Denisoff wrote that my letter expressing my concern about soliciting homosexual sex in BGSU public restrooms was a “wonderment” and “an exercise in ad homonym (sic) innuendoes” calling into question my integrity: “Is he seriously suggesting, without any documentation, that the BGSU faculty is ‘immoral’, and the administration is engaged in a Watergate-like cover-up. This comes very close to McCarthyism” (1985). I did not just suggest a cover-up, but openly stated that, in my experience, a cover-up had occurred. Even the Toledo Blade came out firmly on my side in an editorial condemning BGSU.
As officials of Bowling Green State University suffer through the embarrassment of the arrest of 11 men—including the head of its art department and a history professor—for alleged homosexual activities in campus restrooms, it is apparent that security against such behavior has been lax over the years. No university or other public institution likes to be tainted when a sexual scandal of any kind surfaces. The sooner it can be put to rest, the better. Before that can happen, however, BGSU officials must be asking themselves why the restroom soliciting was permitted to go on so long before police action was taken. The recent arrests, including four university employees, did not flow from any sudden outbreak of rest-room assignations. There was widespread awareness that this type of thing was going on for years on the campus. Many students knew it. Many faculty members knew it. And presumably many university officials knew it. The head of the BGSU theater department, for instance, said that he was warned eight years ago to avoid the rest room in University Hall. If men were being warned that long ago about what was going on in certain restrooms on the campus, why was nothing done about it until a “formal” complaint was filed just two months ago? (Anonymous, 1985, p. 4, emphasis mine).
The editorial concluded that
security apathy toward law-breaking by the campus homosexual community could only be encouraged by the rather curious attitude implicit in BGSU President Paul Olscamp’s initial comment when the arrests became a matter of public record. “The university is not interested,” he said, “in the private lives of consenting adults.” Come on, Dr. Olscamp. This, after all, is not a case where consenting adults indulged their sexual proclivities in private in a remote beach house on Fire Island. This involves men—some on the public payroll—using public restrooms on a state university campus for their illicit activities. They are taking their private lives into the public sector in ways that offend others who may find themselves in the same public restroom. To suggest that there is no public interest involved is mind-boggling. …[T]he fact is that this spate of restroom solicitation for deviate sexual activity was uncovered at BGSU. That institution will have to pay the price in whatever damage there may be to its image, it’s recruiting, and its future fund raising. The university will do well to take all necessary steps to prevent a recurrence of this sorry episode (Anonymous, 1985, p. 4, emphasis mine).
My response to this editorial was a hearty “Amen!” My concerns expressed a few years before this editorial was published were completely vindicated!
My concerns were based on student complaints made to me about incidents at BGSU involving inappropriate sexual behavior as well as several research studies that I conducted for which I was openly criticized in court by the university’s attorney for completing (Gerald Bergman, Ph.D. vs. Bowling Green State University et. al., Case No. 86-3031 Court Transcript page 302 and 938). Several fellow faculty objected to my doing empirical research on the immorality of professors, especially the problem at BGSU relating to inappropriate behavior between professors and students. The reason for their conclusion, according to my discussions with them, was because they accepted the Darwinian conclusions as expressed by Alfred Kinsey, that “there is no scientific reason for considering particular types of sexual activity as intrinsically, in their biologic origins, normal or abnormal” (Kinsey, 1948, p. 202). We are all descended from animals and, Kinsey argued, should look to animals for guidelines for our sexual behavior. Kinsey stressed that in practically every species of mammal studied, it has been found that they engage in homosexual behavior, and commonly even tried to mate with different species (West, 2007 p. 274 Kinsey 1948 p. 660). For this reason humans should not employ labels such as normal, abnormal or natural and unnatural (West, 2007, p. 272). Furthermore, Kinsey concluded that ten percent of all males are exclusively homosexual and 47 percent of the male population has had homosexual sex. Both of these conclusions we now know from dozens of studies are not even close to the actual figures. Numerous studies have found that the percent of homosexuals is closer to two to three percent are exclusively homosexual.
This survey was brought up at the trial because several of my colleagues then felt that soliciting sex from students was appropriate behavior, as did Kinsey, and they resented my siding with the police (since then factors such as the women’s movement has resulted in more widespread condemning of this behavior). Specifically, my department chair, Dr. Robert Reed, testified that the faculty brought concerns to him that included the above-mentioned survey that I administered in my classes (transcript p. 302). Furthermore, it must have impressed Judge Walinski in the case because he concluded that there was “a great deal” of testimony about this survey in the court trial (transcript page 938).
All other research that I am aware of has consistently found the same results that my research found. One of these studies concluded that, among students and faculty, “extremely exploitative and harmful … sexual contact [that involved coercion] is quite prevalent overall (17%) and among recent doctorate recipients (22%) and among students divorcing or separating during graduate training (34%)” (Glasser and Thorpe, 1986 p. 43).
Support from the Community
Several persons also wrote to the paper in support of my concerns. Three of the letters that were published are as follows:
And speaking of “ugly thinking,” let me inform Mr. Hesske that letters to the editor reflect one’s own personal view. You, Mr. Hesske, do not have to agree with everything a person writes about. But, please, don’t feel “compelled” to write every time someone disagrees with your views. Otherwise, you’ll be quite busy this year. If you don’t agree with what someone says; state why and be done with it! Do not resort to personal attacks and don’t put down anyone for expressing their views in a public forum. A public forum means that you will get a diverse range of opinions and that’s the idea of it, isn’t it? I feel Mr. Hesske’s comments toward Dr. Bergman were uncalled for. I may not agree with Dr. Bergman’s opinion, but he has a right to his own views. Isn’t that what freedom of speech and of the press is all about in the first place? (Elder, 1985).
The second is as follows:
Congratulations to the Bowling Green police and campus security officers for their recent investigation of illegal sexual activity at BGSU. As a state taxpayer and mother of a BGSU alumna, I heartily endorse their steps to enforce the laws against public soliciting. Contrary to the statements made by the more liberal factions on campus, such sexual laws are on the books because they do reflect the “legal and community” standards. I would like to also add my thanks to Dr. Jerry Bergman, Ph.D. for his letter of September 12, 1985. His reasoned comments on the inappropriateness of such behavior among students and faculty were appreciated (Hoy, 1985).
The third letter is as follows:
Once again I feel I must dust off my typewriter and speak my mind and voice my opinion … on the matter of the misuse of the University’s public restrooms for deviant sexual activities. Why are so many trying to condone and defend these “alleged” offenders? If they’re guilty—they’re guilty. Nail ’em! As to the extensive coverage by the media being “blown out of proportion,” hogwash! Privacy and discretion went by way of the wind when the men were so indiscreet as to solicit sexual acts with other men in public (Knneve, 1985).
After being roundly condemned by certain faculty, I licked my wounds and forgot about the incident until I had my day in court against BGSU at which time this incident was brought up again in an accusatory manner against me. I had accused the University of religious discrimination and in court in front of the judge the religious inquisition continued. For example, I was grilled about my religion by the universities attorney, asking “can you tell me whether your stand on homosexuality is based on your religious beliefs” to which I answered “yes it is” (court transcript page 262). I was taught that homosexual behavior is wrong and that I should obey the law, and soliciting sex in the public restrooms is against the law and should be obeyed
Maybe the law, the police, and I were all wrong. The Sixth Circuit Court must have concluded that I was wrong; they did not support my right to speak up in support of the police, the law, and the public because they ruled for the University and against me after I was terminated as a result of exercising my freedom of speech in this and other areas. They must have agreed with Steve Hesske’s conclusion that “Whatever happened in those bathrooms could never be as downright ugly as the type of ‘thinking’ evidenced by Dr. Bergman’s letter.” Senator Craig’s situation brought a flood of memories back about my BGSU experience. Obviously, in contrast to The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals—the US Congress, the Senate, the press, and the American people do not conclude that attempts to regulate what is known in sociology as “tea room behavior” in public restrooms is inappropriate.
Anonymous. 1985. “Sex at BGSU.” Editorial. Toledo Blade, September 6.
Bergman, Jerry. 1985. “Arrests Uncovered Tip of the Iceberg.” BG News, September 12.
Denisoff, R. Serge. 1985. “BGSU Professor Says Bergman’s Letter Came Very Close to McCarthyism.” The Daily Sentinel Tribune (Bowling Green Ohio), September 9.
Elder, Jerry, Jr. 1985. “Quiet, Hesske.” BG News, October 2.
Espo, David. 2007. “Senators Urge Craig to Quit” The Journal Gazette. August 30, page 7A.
Glasser, Robert and Joseph Thorpe. 1986. “Unethical Intimacy: A Survey of Sexual Contact and Advances Between Psychology Educators and Female Graduate Students” American Psychologist. 41(1):43-51.
Hesske, Steve. 1985. “Do Not Assume Arrestees are Guilty.” BG News, September 18.
Hoy, Marilyn J. 1985. “Police Praised for Enforcing Laws Against Public Soliciting.” BG News, September 20.
______. 1985a.“Kudos to Police for Restroom Arrests.” BG News, October 2.
Jeffrey, Terence. 2007. “Get the ACLU Out of Our Bathrooms.” Townhall.com, Wednesday, September 26.
Kinsey, Alfred et al. 1948. Sexual Behavior in the Human Male. Philadelphia, PA Saunders
Knneve, John C. 1985. “The Guilty Ones Gave Up Privacy.” BG News, September 26.
West, John. 2007. Darwin Day in America. Wilmington, DE: Intercollegiate Studies Institute.