Ok, I don’t have confirmation on the marketing campaign yet, but surely representing Christian dieters everywhere is Sherley’s next career move?
On Friday, February 16, MIT’s Professor Sherley ended his hunger strike, explaining that his “carefully modified” demands were still on the table even though he was breaking fast from his success at shining attention on issues of “equity” and “diversity” at MIT and in higher ed. Too bad it was his insanity that spent most of the time in the limelight; his “open letters” to the MIT community got increasingly vociferous and wacky as he dropped 20 pounds in 2 weeks. In one letter he compared his own travails to that of African-America civil rights activists, writing:
“These actions on the part of our provost and president are nothing short of the water hoses, dogs, and billy-clubs of the civil rights struggles that Martin Luther King, Jr. led.”
This proved to be too much for some on campus. Last week, other professors and execs – including a former President of MIT who bristled at the suggestion that he might be the administration’s “errand boy” in his visit to Sherley’s hallway protest site – got in on the hunger strike “listserv” and started emailing public responses to Sherley.
“An MIT Associate Professor, typing away on his computer and broadcasting electronic messages from the comfort of his office or home, his only physical suffering self-inflicted, simply cannot be compared to a civil rights marcher being set upon by water hoses, dogs and billy-clubs.
The impact of the civil rights movement was magnified by looking outward and showing the world that the suffering of one race was the suffering of all humanity. In this way it demonstrated that its message was universal and timeless. This inspires our remembrance of it and its leaders, which is not hypocrisy despite our many failings. In contrast, to schedule a deliberately conflicting forum “on the cost of unfairness in higher education” invites us to spend the morning looking inward, examining a topic of narrow importance in our particular place and time. You have inadvertently illustrated the self-absorption of which we are famously accused by those outside academia. Your overstated comparison and your hunger strike illustrate it far more compellingly.”
“I am writing to stand up and be counted…in saying: “enough!” Why would you attack in such an hysterical fashion an event at MIT honoring Dr. King? Your attack on the motives of those hosting this event, and your self-comparison to the
sufferings of the civil rights movement do not stand up to any reasoned scrutiny, and undermine your credibility across the board.
Playing [your tenure case] out in the public email echo chamber is an unfortunate choice. I’ve been somewhat confused all along by the cacaphony of your accusations, but your most recent email really is too much.
I wish you well in moving forward, but cannot support your protest given the direction in which you have taken it.”
My inside sources involved in mediating the end of Sherley’s case told me that they reached consensus with the administration on process issue; i.e., the next chapter in his battle with MIT – and it ain’t over, by any means – will again review the tenure process and whether it was equitable, just, etc. However, my insiders confirm for me that this is so much less about racism, and more about the $$$ involved (or possibly lost) in having an evangelical Christian campaigning against stem cells in a profitable biotech haven like the Biological Engineering dept. As I thought, Sherley believed racism would prove the more playable card than raising questions about his faith.
We’ll see what shakes out next, though it’s not likely we’ll have as close a seat to the drama now that he’s off-line and working with an attorney. Boring! But perhaps best for all. It’s one thing to fight the good fight to equity and justice; it’s another to have your primary mouthpiece be the equivalent of an American Idol audition gone horribly awry. Enough already Sherley!, audience and judges agreed.