Week of May 12, 2004

Tenure Bender
Goss almighty: I was one of Bob Goss' students at Webster University [Malcolm Gay, "Queer Deal," April 28]. To describe Bob as an "arrogant, sexually obsessed, vindictive gossip" is ludicrous. He is a generous, soft-spoken, knowledgeable and very sweet guy. He cares about his students, has a passion for what he talks about and is not just Mr. Gay Rights. He is equally dedicated to the abolishment of all injustice and has read more about feminism than most women.

Does Bob talk about sex a lot? Yes, and so do all religion professors. Religion is about haloes and lilies, sure, but it's also about sex and death. The Hindus and Tibetan Buddhists in particular (Bob's field) do not shy away from some pretty graphic sexual imagery. If you don't want to talk about sex, don't take a course in religion.

So why is it a problem (to some) when Bob talks about sex, and not any of the other religion faculty? Because Bob is gay. I'm queer, too, so I should know: When you talk about sex and you're straight, you're just making conversation. When you're talking about sex and you're queer, all of a sudden most straight people squirm, no matter how theoretically you're talking.

As far as grade inflation goes, yes, his classes could have been more rigorous. I think he was distracted from teaching by activist work. Grade inflation, in general, was out of control at Webster. It's a nationwide trend that is sad and that instructors just have to refuse to participate in. But if the administration was so concerned about Bob, why didn't they just reduce his course load or give him a gentle warning? And for that matter, why not refuse tenure to all professors who had accumulated more than six negative evaluations? I think that would effectively block all professors from ever receiving tenure.

Anyway, I wish Bob well and hope Webster will one day live up to its cosmopolitan, liberal reputation. As Bob's evaluations show, most students want professors who are smart and accessible. Straight's not too high on their list of qualifications. If only it were so for the administrators.
Colleen McKee, English instructor
University of Missouri-St. Louis

Goss damned: Robert Goss is portrayed in as a shining "academic star" amid a sea of jealous dim bulbs. Nothing could be farther from the truth. While I was not on the Committee to Review Faculty during Goss' review, I previously served on this committee for several years, including two years as co-chair.

Webster, like many universities, has a vibrant and professionally active faculty. Scholarly books, journal articles and other professional publications are the norm for faculty. Prestigious awards for teaching, research and the arts grace the curriculum vitae of most faculty. Our faculty hold elected positions in a broad range of professional societies. Additionally, most faculty are involved in professional service within and outside of the Webster community. And yes, the primary focus at Webster is teaching. Scholarship and professional development translates into a dynamic classroom environment. The vast majority of faculty tend to be more focused on that work than publicity.

Goss is certainly not the first person to be denied tenure or a promotion at Webster, and he will not be the last. I have yet to meet a candidate whose petition for tenure or promotion was denied who thinks the process was fair. While the tenure and review process is not perfect, it is designed to be quite challenging so as to maintain the highest quality of faculty at Webster as at other institutions of higher learning.
Linda M. Woolf
Webster Groves

Pageant Play
Jimmy D. Fuller -- Canadian through and through: I ran across the April 28 Unreal item about Shandi Finnessey and was struck with a brilliant idea: The Riverfront Times should start doing a Douchebag of the Week spotlight. My nomination for the first featured douchebag would be Rodney M. Norman.

Perhaps the fact that Shandi claimed to be from Florissant has nothing to do with why Mr. Norman's friends are laughing at him. After reading some of his quotes, I would imagine Rodney usually does a pretty good job of embarrassing himself without anybody's help. If the city's economy is really so bad that he is going to throw fits over something as trivial as this, then maybe he should move to a different city.

Someday when I am famous, I am claiming to be a Canadian.
Jimmy D. Fuller
Wood River, Illinois

Speak of the devil...: St. Louis is home to many people who have gone on to other promised lands. A lot of people, when you speak of St. Louis, think of the Gateway Arch and the zoo. They might smile with the thought of Clayton being the county seat of St. Louis, with its bustling small-skyline charm. But whether we like it or not, the fathers who discovered this vast place we all know and love embarked on keeping the tradition alive and well. When St. Louis separated from its own entity, the land beyond it still bore its name: St. Louis County.

My point is, within the county's limits, you're still a St. Louisan. No matter how famous you think you are, you're a natural-bred St. Louisan if you were born here. If [Shandi Finnessey] has forgotten that the pageant is not all about New York City and her boss, I think it would be best to start the judging all over again, until we find a more sincere and compassionate person for the title.
Rodney M. Norman
St. Louis

In Shelley Smithson's April 21 story, "Sculpture Shock," we misidentified Saint Louis University's vice president for facilities management, Kathleen Brady. In attempting to clear up the error in last week's letters column, we compounded it by misspelling Ms. Brady's name.