University professor fired for class illustration deemed “transphobic”

by Peter Heck · Feb 22nd, 2021 7:03 pm

Last Updated Feb 26th, 2021 at 7:50 am

Richard Paxton, an education professor at Pacific University in Oregon, has been forced out after the university threatened him with a Title IX inquisition, following a student taking offense to one of his in-class stories.

Attempting to explain the concept of "schema theory," the idea that the mind organizes information into different categories to better understand it, Paxton used a personal anecdote to illustrate the idea. According to the professor it was the same anecdote he has used in previous classrooms to explain the concept.

Given that psychologists point out that gender differences between men and women offer the most obvious and easily distinguished schema categories that we know, Paxton told the students about how he and some of his old graduate school friends had their schema shaken one night.

According to the account, Paxton and his all-male friends went looking for a bar to stop at after supper.

"One of the things that got our attention was a group of frankly rather fine-looking ladies standing out front smoking," Paxton recounted. "‘Looks promising,' we said."

As they approached the establishment, Paxton said they noticed a sign that welcomed competitors to the "World's Best Female Impersonators" contest.

"Our attitudes changed. Our schemas were put in disequilibrium," Paxton told the students. "A few nervous comments were exchanged and we quickly decided to go somewhere else."

A student hearing the story accused the professor of "transphobia," believing that the anecdote made jokes about the identity of transgender people.

The university reportedly had little interest in defending its employee, offering Paxton an opportunity to resign before being subjected to a public investigation and eventual termination. The professor said he was given a "voluntary separation of release agreement" the same day that he met with university officials.

Though Paxton refused to sign the document, the school has reportedly found additional information to warrant his dismissal, including "negative and stereotypical comments." Among those comments, Paxton, who is Jewish, said that Jews had funded the Revolutionary War. He also told students he thought it was "weird" that some females cried when Donald Trump defeated Hillary in 2016.

In one other offense, Paxton "told a story during which he stated that ‘every person has a gender," thus ignoring the existence of "agender" and "nonbinary" students.

Paxton has retained legal counsel.


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