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UT-Arlington Professor: ‘What’s the Big Deal’ About Adult Men Dating Underage Girls?

Keith Burgess-Jackson, who teaches courses in philosophy and ethics, has attracted criticism for an online post defending Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore.
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Earlier this month, UT-Arlington philosophy professor Keith Burgess-Jackson posed a question on his blog: “What’s the big deal about a 32-year-old man courting a 14-year-old girl?”

Burgess-Jackson’s take on the age of consent and changing cultural norms—he notes that his grandmother was 15 when she married a 41-year-old man—comes in response to sexual abuse allegations made against Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore. The Nov. 11 blog post seems to have gone mostly unnoticed until this morning, when it was quoted in a Federalist column arguing that Alabama voters should support Moore even if the accusations against him are true.

Here’s Burgess-Jackson’s original post in full:

His frequently updated blog is littered with his thoughts and opinions on politics, dating, sports, and ice cream. Elsewhere, Burgess-Jackson contends that “men use feminism to get sex,” and that philosophy is “a cesspool of political correctness, science worship, hypocrisy, and thuggery.” On Nov. 12, he repeats the long-debunked conspiracy theory that former President Barack Obama was not born in the U.S., asking to see his “original birth certificate (not a print-out by the State of Hawaii).” In 2013, in a series critiquing five columns written by women philosophers, he says that “[f]eminism has made women weak, timid, and fearful.”

Burgess-Jackson has been a professor at UTA since 1989. He teaches courses in “Logic, Ethics, Philosophy of Religion, Philosophy of Law, and Social and Political Philosophy,” and has tenure, according to his website. He has published or edited several books, including Rape: A Philosophical Investigation, and A Most Detestable Crime: New Philosophical Essays on Rape, a book whose one one-star Amazon review calls Burgess-Jackson a “debased academic megastar.”

The professor has left a long trail online. An old blog by Burgess-Jackson, last updated in 2004, is headed with the title “Anal Philosopher.” In fact, in the internet era before social media took off, Burgess-Jackson seems to have frequently battled with other philosophers with blogs, some of whom took umbrage then at Burgess-Jackson’s deeply conservative politics.

I’ve reached out to Burgess-Jackson and UT-Arlington. I’ll update this post if I hear back.

Update: UT-Arlington sent this statement: “The University of Texas at Arlington is aware of statements made by Associate Professor of Philosophy Keith Burgess-Jackson on his personal blog. These are not the opinions held by the university. We acknowledge a citizen’s right to freedom of speech and expression.”

The university also pointed to this section of the UT-Arlington’s policies and procedures, under “Rights and Responsibilities of Faculty Members as Citizens and Teachers.” Here’s how that reads:

  1. The teacher is entitled to full freedom in research and in the publication of the results, subject to the adequate performance of other academic duties.
  2. The teacher is entitled to freedom in the classroom in discussing his/her subject, but is expected not to introduce into his/her teaching controversial matter which has no relation to his/her subject.
  3. The university teacher is a citizen, a member of a learned profession, and an office of an educational institution supported by the state. When the teacher speaks or writes as a citizen, he or she should be free from institutional censorship or discipline, but the teacher’s special position in the community imposes special obligations. As a person of learning and an educational officer, the teacher should remember that the public may judge the profession and the institution by his/her utterances. Hence, the teacher should at all times be accurate, should exercise appropriate restraint, should show respect for the opinions of others, and should make it plain that the teacher is not an institutional spokesperson.

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