"DEVIANT BEHAVIOR focuses on the sociological theories of deviant behavior such as strain theory, differential association theory, labeling theory, and phenomenological theory. The behaviors that are primarily examined are murder, rape, robbery, prostitution, homosexuality, mental illness, and drug use. The course focuses on structural conditions in society that potentially play a role in influencing deviant behavior."NPR reports that a Franciscan University gay and lesbian alumni group is outraged at the course and has asked the university to revise the course description. In a statement shared at WTOV 9, Gay Alumni and Allies of Catholic Universities laments that "[o]utdated prejudices appear to be given more weight than scientific truth" at the school.
"To classify the normal day-to-day life of gay and lesbian citizens as being on par with that of murderers, rapists, and prostitutes is offensive, untrue, and an example of religious ideology being allowed to trump the scientifically demonstrated truth of the matter ... Further concern must be raised that such classifications feed cultural biases and promote hatred for lesbian and gay individuals and runs counter to official Roman Catholic teaching on this matter."Gay Alumni and Allies of Catholic Universities encouraged Franciscan University to revise its course descriptions and audit its curriculum for unsubstantiated claims. It urged the university to "stop contributing the culture of hate and ignorance" that LGBTQ persons endure.
After the group shared their press release, they received an e-mail from the general counsel of Franciscan University warning them to cease and desist from using the university's name, reports Think Progress. The group responded by taking "university" out of its name.
Inside Higher Ed reports that the university's vice president for academic affairs, Daniel R. Kempton, released a statement insisting that the school opposes promoting values contrary to Catholic teaching. Academic freedom applies to SWK 314: Deviant Behavior, he argued, claiming that the position that homosexuality is deviant is a legitimate position for the class.
Fortunately, complains have not gone unnoticed. According to NPR, the director of the office of accreditation at the Council on Social Work education said that labeling homosexuality as deviant behavior "raises a flag." A spokesperson for Franciscan University stated that the university is currently reviewing the course description.
I am aware that the social work definition of deviancy differs from the definition used in common parlance. Still, framing homosexuality as deviant alongside illegal and violent behaviors such as murder and rape ignores current science on sexuality and sends a dangerous message. I hope the university makes a sincere effort to reevaluate the content of SWK 314: Deviant Behavior.
As a side note, I'm also concerned about the course labeling prostitution as deviant and grouping it together with violent acts such as murder and rape. Will the course acknowledge that some prostituted persons do not enter prostitution willingly (i.e., sex trafficking, child sexual exploitation)? Will it acknowledge that factors such as poverty can drive people into prostitution? Does it make sense to label prostitution as a deviant behavior when the above factors are in play? I'm surprised that more attention hasn't been devoted to this in the blogosphere, but I hope the university takes these issues into consideration as well.
To read additional commentary, visit the following links.
Good As You: Catholic College Equates Gays with Murderers
Daily Kos: Catholic University in Ohio Has Anti-Gay Pseudo-Science Course, Threatens LGBT Alumni Who Exposed It
Digital Cuttlefish: You Know, Deviants–Like Rapists, Murderers ... Gays ...