Students at the University of Rochester are upset with a professor who defended radio host Rush Limbaugh for calling Georgetown University Law student Sandra Fluke a "slut" and for suggesting Fluke should be required to post a sex tape online if someone else paid for her birth control.
Steve Landsburg, an economics professor at Rochester, said on his blog that Fluke's advocacy for having contraception covered under health insurance "deserves only to be ridiculed, mocked and jeered. To treat it with respect would be a travesty."
Landsburg said he disagreed with Limbaugh for calling Fluke a "slut," and suggested it would've been more appropriate to say "prostitute:"
[Limbaugh] wants to brand Ms. Fluke a “slut” because, he says, she’s demanding to be paid for sex. There are two things wrong here. First, the word “slut” connotes (to me at least) precisely the sort of joyous enthusiasm that would render payment superfluous. A far better word might have been “prostitute” (or a five-letter synonym therefor), but that’s still wrong because Ms. Fluke is not in fact demanding to be paid for sex. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.) She will, as I understand it, be having sex whether she gets paid or not. Her demand is to be paid. The right word for that is something much closer to “extortionist”. Or better yet, “extortionist with an overweening sense of entitlement." Is there a single word for that?
But whether or not he chose the right word, what I just don’t get is why the pro-respect crowd is aiming all its fire at Rush. Which is more disrespectful -- his harsh language or Sandra Fluke’s attempt to pick your pocket?
Landsburg continued to write about his disagreement with Fluke's position, calling those who agreed with her "contraception sponges" in one entry.
Outraged by his comments, 30 students protested March 7 by walking into Landsburg's classroom, dressed in black, and passing out a statement summarizing the issue from their perspective. The 30 protesters then stood between the professor and his class while he attempted to teach, and left after about 15 minutes, according to the The Rochester Democrat & Chronicle.
"We are appalled by how often women and their bodies have been used for political theatrics, and we refuse to remain passive on this issue," Kelly Rickert, a Rochester student who was a part of the protest, told The Huffington Post. "To do so would be to condone the actions of Professor Landsburg."
Landsburg ended up calling security, but the protesting students left without incident. In an email to HuffPost he said, "in their contempt for the free exchange of ideas, they appear to be comrades-in-arms of Sandra Fluke."
University of Rochester President Joel Seligman said Landsburg has the right to express his opinion, but also condemned the professor's comments.
"I am outraged that any professor would demean a student in this fashion," Seligman said in a statement. "To openly ridicule, mock, or jeer a student in this way is about the most offensive thing a professor can do. We are here to educate, to nurture, to inspire, not to engage in character assassination."
Landsburg discussed the requirement for birth control and contraception to be covered under employer-offered health insurance plans as it relates to the prevention of pregnancy. However, he failed to mention what Fluke testified about on Capitol Hill: that oral contraception is often prescribed to prevent cervical and ovarian cancer, and for the treatment of ovarian cysts. He told HuffPost that despite Fluke's testimony on birth control's benefits, such as treating ovarian cysts, "nobody believes that all good things should be subsidized and nobody believes that all good things should be covered by insurance."
"So Fluke's argument was neither an argument for subsidizing contraceptives or for mandating that insurance cover them," Landsburg went on to say. "Toothpaste also has a lot of health benefits, but it does not follow that the law should require insurers to cover the cost of toothpaste."
Landsburg insisted in a statement he sent to several news organizations that his blog posts did a better job at igniting a lively debate than Fluke's testimony to Congress. He pointed to hundreds of comments on his blog in response to his posts.
A group of Rochester students responded in a statement to HuffPost that in their opinion, what is "not up for debate is the use of violent and derogatory terms with regard to women."
Rickert posed the question, "Which is more disruptive to an educational environment in which the majority of students are women: students standing silently or a professor condoning discriminatory, misogynistic discourse?"