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Office of Institutional Research

Communications & External Affairs

Erica Meiners

Erica Meiners This poetic trace was used in:
Poem 10: The Policy on the Free Exchange of Ideas

December 21, 2006

Dear Drs. ______ and ___________:

We received your letter dated November 21, 2006, and while we appreciate your communication, we disagree with your interpretations. Here, we respond to the points outlined in your letter and invite you and your students to an event where we propose to continue this dialogue.
For us, and the queer youth, teachers, parents, colleagues and allies we work alongside, the Accredit Love Not Condemnation action at the Illinois Association for Colleges with Teacher Education (IACTE) was a great success. We distributed love-centered flyers and pink teacher-power buttons. These, along with our positive queer presence, countered XXXX College’s gay-excluding policies. As importantly, we raised questions about the appropriateness of XXXX as a meeting place for the professional organization of teacher educators in Illinois, and the importance of sexual orientation and gender identity as key aspects of diversity. We believe that IACTE should not legitimize with its presence any institution that dehumanizes and devalues lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered people.
XXXX’s “Community Covenant,” which is part of the application for admission to the college, equates “theft, murder, and rape” with “homosexual behavior.” As lesbians, and educators, we find this an insulting and dangerous comparison, and the kind of assertion that lays the ground for violence against LGBTQ people. In addition, for queer youth, families and educators, the distinction you attempt to make between identities and acts is false and cruel. Sexuality is not divisible from other aspects of our lives as workers, parents, and students; no person should have to agree to forgo loving relationships in order to be safe from hateful characterizations.
It is hard for us to understand why you think the Accredit Love Not Condemnation project shows a “clear bias against traditional Christians.” It is inspired by and grounded in the traditions of critique and resistance exemplified by many Christians at the forefront of the profession of education including Margaret Haley, organizer of the first American teacher’s union in Chicago; Myles Horton, co-founder of the Highlander Folk School who played an integral role in the labor and civil rights movements; and Paulo Freire, author of Pedagogy of the Oppressed. Outside this field, Christians have been central to worldwide movements against oppression. The list is nearly endless, but includes Harriet Tubman, John Brown, Eleanor Roosevelt, Jane Addams, Desmond Tutu, James Baldwin, Óscar A. Romero, Fannie Lou Hamer, Bayard Rustin, Cornel West, and Mel White. We claim their engaged faith traditions as our guides.
We disagree with your letter’s claim that our distribution of the Accredit Love flyers was “surreptitious.” In addition to writing our email addresses on the flyers, as your letter notes, we walked from table to table during the meeting breakfast, passing out and explaining the flyers; wore t-shirts with the same slogan; introduced ourselves to the conference and individuals; and passed out business cards. However, secrecy is a strategic tactic that is respectable and sometimes necessary—the Underground Railroad is a clear example of this—and one that should be familiar and acceptable to XXXX, which highlights a rich history at the forefront of the abolitionist movement on its website. But, we didn’t choose secrecy for this campaign; we chose visibility to counter the shame and silencing that institutions like yours seem to prefer for queers.
We also reject your characterization of our distribution of the Accredit Love flyer as “unprofessional.” Sexual and gender minority youth are unremittingly subject to violence and hostility in public schools, and we believe it is our professional obligation to raise this issue and seek solutions with our colleagues in teacher education, despite the desire of some to suppress that dialogue. It is the responsibility of the profession of teacher education to affirm and advocate for all students, parents and teachers, including those who are queer. Advocacy requires that problems are made visible. And that is what we have attempted to do.
We regret that you found the Accredit Love Not Condemnation flyers and pledge “quite distressing.” However, imagine how we felt to discover that our profession held a meeting on a campus where every person has sworn that the expressed sexualities of LGBTQ people, including youth and teachers, are the moral equivalent of “rape and murder”? Distressed is the mildest way to describe our reactions:  pain, fear, anger are more accurate. Public meetings should not be held at institutions that degrade and exclude entire classes of people.

We appreciate and accept your invitation to talk further and propose co-hosting a discussion about this topic—Tensions Between Private Beliefs and the Public Good in Teacher Education—in a public venue, with fellow teacher educators and students of education and members of LGBTQ communities. We’ve secured a site, the Jane Addams Hull House Museum, and a tentative date and time, Feb. 20, from 5:30—7:00. We suggest that we work out other details together—who to invite, how to organize the dialogue, food or not—if you choose to participate. If not, we plan to hold the discussion anyway, and hope you will announce the event to your students and staff. In particular, we would like to invite your LGBTQ students, staff and faculty to attend.

Erica R. Meiners

Therese Quinn