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Back to Feb. Ed Reporter
Education Reporter
NUMBER 181 THE NEWSPAPER OF EDUCATION RIGHTS FEBRUARY 2001

Justice: To Be or Not To Be?
William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare
'Politically Incorrect'
TUCSON, AZ - That was drama professor Jared Sakren's question after he was fired in 1998 by Arizona State University (ASU) for teaching Shakespeare and other classical works. Two years and two court trials later, he has his answer. On the eve of closing arguments in the retrial of his lawsuit against ASU for wrongful dismissal - his first trial ended in a hung jury - university officials agreed to a $395,000 settlement. This amount is six times Professor Sakren's annual salary as a drama instructor. "At least for the professor," the Wall Street Journal (11-17-00) opined, "that will make the parting a somewhat sweeter sorrow. All's well that ends well."

Sakren was sacked following complaints by campus feminists about his classical approach to teaching. A Juilliard graduate who previously taught at Yale, Sakren was warned in 1996 by the ASU drama department chair to stop teaching Shakespeare because it was "sexist," and that, if he wanted his class to perform classical works such as "The Taming of the Shrew," he would have to alter the ending to avoid offending women.

The professor's predicament created something of a stir. His former students include Hollywood stars such as Kelly McGillis, Val Kilmer, Fran McDormand and Annette Bening, and many of them went to bat for him. Ms. Bening testified at his second trial.

For firing Sakren, ASU received top honors in the Intercollegiate Studies Insti-tute's (ISI) 1998 Polly Awards - the "Campus Outrage Awards" for "berserk political correctness." (ISI is a conservative think tank based in Delaware.)

In a column dated March 22, 1998, columnist John Leo quoted a source in Sakren's department as admitting: "Political correctness was part of his firing, and the fact that he is a white male had something to do with it. If he were a minority or a woman, he would still be working."


 
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