Professor's 'Economic Case Against Homosexuality' Riles Students

University: Professor's Blog Posting Within University Policy

Some Purdue University students have called for a faculty member to be fired after he posted comments online urging discussion on what he called the economic cost to society of homosexuality.

Purdue officials said they would not discipline Bert Chapman, who is the university's government information and political science librarian and does not have a classroom teaching assignment.

Chapman wrote earlier this month on the townhall.com Web site that money spent on AIDS would be better used for other health initiatives and that the current health care debate needed to address "an economic case against homosexuality."

"The money invested on AIDS research could be returned to taxpayers or transferred to more worthwhile areas of public health research such as cancer, heart disease, combating pandemic conditions like H1N1 flu, and promoting responsible sexual behavior such as monogamy within heterosexual marriage," Chapman wrote in the posting.

Purdue senior Kevin Casimer on Wednesday started a petition urging the university to take action against Chapman, saying his comments were embarrassing and detrimental to the school's reputation.

"People have confused what we are doing as attacking free speech," Casimer said. "But freedom of speech does not mean freedom from consequences."

Chapman, who has worked at Purdue for 15 years and has written three books about the military, describes himself on the blog as a conservative Christian. He says he started the blog two years to express his views.

The student newspaper has published several letters urging the university to fire him. Chapman said he was surprised at the backlash.

"It is sad we live in a time when truly free and open debate on controversial issues is characterized by such virulence," he said. "If gay rights opponents advocate removing First Amendment rights of gay rights proponents, there would be justifiable outrage over attempts to abridge their constitutional rights."

Purdue history professor Yvonne Pitts, who is a lesbian, said she totally disagreed with everything Chapman wrote, but that if the university disciplined him for his views it could chill others in the academic community.

"I would be disturbed if he lost his job because I would fear that my job could be in jeopardy for my activism," she said. "It is really good for students to be having this debate. But you can't call for his job."

University spokeswoman Jeanne Norberg said Chapman acted within university policy by including a disclaimer on his blog that his viewpoints do not necessarily reflect those of the institution.

"There are many things on the Internet that would be offensive to many but that are protected by the First Amendment," Norberg said. "The best response is to speak up, which is exactly what our students and some faculty are doing."