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Editor's note: In the winter 2015 issue Northwestern magazine published a letter from Warren Anderson criticizing Northwestern University for undertaking research on HIV. Mr. Anderson’s letter was published in the letters to the editor column, in which alumni voice their personal opinions about Northwestern or about articles that previously have appeared in the magazine. His letter was in response to “Expanding LGBT Research,” the lead article in the “Lab Notes” section of the fall 2015 issue.
Several readers have raised a good point about whether we should have run Mr. Anderson’s letter as it was written, and upon reflection, I agree that we should not have done so. It was an error in judgment on our part, and I apologize for that. Northwestern magazine’s letters to the editor column is named “Feedback,” and, as is printed in the magazine, the opinions expressed are not those of the editors or the institution, but of the letter writers. Nevertheless, the letters we print should not attack any individual or group of people in the manner that his letter did. We will review our guidelines regarding letters to the editor to ensure that this does not happen again.
Again, I apologize for the pain that Mr. Anderson’s letter and our decision to run it have caused.
We were surprised and disappointed that an alumnus wrote a letter to Northwestern magazine that slurred the LGBT community as “notoriously promiscuous” and erroneously presented this as the only risk factor for HIV infection.
Data reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that the median number of sex partners of all men (approximately 90 percent of whom report as heterosexual) aged 25-44 was 6.6 partners in their lifetime. Changing partners is common behavior for many young people, regardless of sexual orientation. Nor is living in a long-term, committed relationship the sole province of heterosexuals, as evidenced by the moving and successful fight same-sex couples have made for the right to marry. Application of the principles of “Epidemiology 101” requires a nonbiased examination of the frequency of disease as well as all risk factors that lead to exposure. Our own research has demonstrated that African American men who have sex with men have lower indices of behavioral risk factors (including number of sex partners) than their white counterparts but have substantially higher rates of HIV infection. This is a clear example that there is more at play in HIV infection than just the number of partners.
Many times research shows that conventional wisdom doesn’t hold up. Epidemiological research has shown that in fact most HIV transmissions among young gay/bisexual men occur within serious relationships because too few have ever been tested for HIV and therefore don’t know their status. HIV stigma is perpetuated by linking HIV to sin, and that stigma is a barrier for too many to seeking HIV testing and effective medical care.
Applying worn stereotypes will have little success in ending the HIV epidemic. Creative, rationally designed and critically reviewed studies are essential for identifying strategies that improve public health. We are gratified that the National Institutes of Health funds these studies, including the recent grant to Northwestern scientists described in the fall 2015 issue (see “Expanding LGBT Research”).
We believe most Northwestern alumni support HIV and LGBT health research. Readers can learn more about this important research occurring at Northwestern on the websites of the Third Coast Center for AIDS Research and the IMPACT LGBT Health and Development Program. The IMPACT Program is an LGBT youth–focused component of the newly launched Institute for Sexual and Gender Minority Health and Wellbeing at Northwestern. We welcome alumni interest and support of the Third Coast Center and the IMPACT Program.
Brian Mustanski ’99
Associate professor of medical social sciences, Feinberg School of Medicine
Director, Institute for Sexual and Gender Minority Health and Wellbeing
Co-Director, Third Coast Center for AIDS Research
Professor of medicine-infectious diseases, Feinberg School of Medicine
Director, Third Coast Center for AIDS Research
Director, Northwestern HIV Translational Research Center
I'm writing in response to the "Feedback" posting in the winter 2015 Northwestern magazine entitled "LGBT Research."
As an institution that prides itself on its programs in epidemiology, public health, and gender and sexuality studies, Northwestern should be ashamed to be associated with such an inaccurate and offensive letter as Mr. Anderson's.
His statistics are at odds with the CDC's and all other reputable sources. His homophobic rhetoric ("notoriously promiscuous"?) is archaic and hateful. A letter like this has no place in any official Northwestern publication.
"Our obsession with tolerance and acceptance" is not some frivolous mission to overthrow Mr. Anderson and his xenophobic Christian hegemony. It's an acknowledgement that words, especially words from people in positions of social and political power, have significant consequences.
If you tell young queer people that they are doomed to die of AIDS as a natural result of their unavoidably sinful natures, they just might believe you enough to give up and prove your point. If you educate them about responsible sexual behavior without judgment, you'll save lives.
I can only assume that this letter was published in the interest of representing diverse opinions, including those of the grumpy religious right, fearful for their impending irrelevance. In the future, these horribly offensive opinions should be left to rot in the hateful minds that conjure them and not invited into an otherwise supportive environment like the Northwestern alumni community.
Sam Garrott ’15
The letter from Warren Anderson titled "LGBT Research" was closer to hate speech than any kind of reasoned opinion or philosophical argument and does not belong in a Northwestern-affiliated publication. Please issue a retraction and apology.
Karen Zemanick '84, '86 MD
The Feedback section of the winter 2015 issue of Northwestern contained a letter from Warren E. Anderson concerning a recent article about a National Institutes of Health grant to Northwestern to fund research into HIV transmission in the gay community. In it, Mr. Anderson rails against gay people as "notoriously promiscuous" and characterizes society's increasing tolerance of gay people and decreasing tolerance of homophobia as "calling good evil and evil good." He then laments that Northwestern has let "sin" distort its mission of imparting "wisdom" to students which, he assures us, comes only from the Bible.
As an example of anti-gay bigotry, this letter is almost a parody. But it obviously is meant to be taken seriously. Can there be any doubt whether a letter expressing, with similar virulence, anti-black and anti-Semitic attitudes would be printed?
Now, I assume you don't print every letter you get. The editors of Northwestern apparently selected this letter for publication for a reason. I'd like to know what it is — and I hope I'm not the only one.
Michael H. Morris ’70
Los Altos Hills, Calif.
I am disturbed that you printed the letter titled "LGBT Research" from Warren Anderson in the most recent edition of the magazine. In the letter, Anderson claims that few monogamous people have HIV, the LGBT community is promiscuous, and that explains the spread of HIV. While I welcome and encourage meaningful debate and discussion, this letter is simply hateful and dangerous. The letter is empirically false and based on ideas of HIV as a "gay disease" that were inaccurate 30 years ago.
The sole goal of the letter is to spread hate and stigma of LGBT people as the other. As someone who has dedicated his career to addressing this sort of bias, and a proud Northwestern alum, I am disturbed to see Northwestern magazine give a platform to this. If you truly thought that this contributed to a robust public discussion, at a minimum it should have been printed with an editorial response addressing the dangerous factual inaccuracies.
Jeffrey Kosbie ’09 MA, ’15 PhD
As a current PhD student at Northwestern and a person who identifies as queer, I would like to express my frustration and disappointment to the Northwestern magazine editors for allowing the commentary on "Expanding LGBT Research" to be published in the Mailbox section of the winter 2015 edition.
I understand this section is supposed to allow for readers/alumni to submit their personal opinions on articles published in our community's magazine. However, not only is this person spreading information that is empirically false, he is also perpetuating the stigma of the LGBTQ community. I am frankly surprised that the editors allowed this person's commentary to be reflective of the Northwestern community.
I hope that the editors see their error in allowing this piece to get published and that this does not happen again.
Eduardo Europa '14 MA
I read with disappointment your choice to publish the letter "LGBT Research" in the winter 2015 issue. The ridiculous and insulting statement that "those in the LGBT community tend to be notoriously promiscuous" is repeated often enough in right wing news outlets and ignorant society at large, but it should not be repeated in a publication that is purported to showcase the intelligence of the Northwesterm research and alumni community. Are you that desperate for letters?
Bigots have enough pulpits; they don't need our alumni mag.
Mneesha Gellman ’14 PhD
Jamaica Plain, Mass.
In reading the Feedback section of the recent edition of your Northwestern magazine, I was appalled to see that you thought it acceptable to publish bigot Warren E. Anderson's letter responding to LGBT research. You, ma'am, should be ashamed of yourself. Judging from Anderson's graduation year, I am comforted by the fact that this bird-brain and other bird-brains like him will hopefully all be dead soon, but you, Stephanie, manage to not only promote Bigot Anderson's brand of misinformation but also to promote his brand of hate by publishing his offensive letter.
Now, I don't know you. You might agree with everything Bigot Anderson says. But I assume that someone in your position at an institution like Northwestern does not agree with what Bigot Anderson says. However, even if you do agree, you should know better than to publish a letter that is riddled with lies and based not at all in truth. Bigot Anderson says that 40 percent of gay and bisexual men will become infected with HIV. That is complete and total, hot, stinking bullshit, and you know it. Why publish what this crazy bigot has to say? You are only perpetuating his dangerous ideology, which serves no purpose other than to further stigmatize an already stigmatized group, a group to which I belong. I have been called a "faggot" out in public going about my day eight times in the past two years. Most of the time, it happened when I was surrounded by groups of strangers and not one of them ever came to my defense. Bigot Anderson's frightening, bonkers opinions only work to make that kind of occurrence more likely and more acceptable, and your publishing of his letter does no better.
Shockingly, Bigot Anderson says one accurate thing in his insane article: "Thus we are overcome in our obsession with tolerance and political correctness." This is something that to which you are contributing. Our culture is strangely obsessed with giving equal airtime to two sides of an argument when one side is based in truth and the other side is total baloney. Just because Bigot Anderson is loud and angry and nuts, that doesn't mean that you should publish his thoughts as if they are valid. The world doesn't become a fairer place when you make false equivalencies. It isn't politically correct to be tolerant of this ultra-religious, gay-hating nutbag. That's not what tolerance means, and you know that.
Shame on you. I am disgusted by your behavior in this edition of your magazine, and you better believe that I will never make a single charitable contribution to the University's alumni organizations ever again. I will also make it my business to encourage all of the alumni I know to do the same. That is, until you apologize for this grave error you have made and refute Bigot Anderson's ridiculous claims in the next edition of your magazine. We live in 2015. Gay people are nothing to be afraid of. Stop publishing things that make it seem like we are. I repeat: you know better.
Aaron Ricciardi ’11, ’11 CERT
New York City
INSPIRED BY ‘FORGIVEN’
Rarely have I been as engaged in or moved by a Northwestern magazine story as I was when reading “Forgiven” [summer 2015], a profile on alumna and public defender Jeanne Bishop. Thank you for bringing this compelling story of faith and forgiveness to light.
Jeanne Bishop inspires me with the way she treats her clients — even the toughest, grittiest ones — with respect and compassion, recognizing that no one is beyond redemption. But, of course, the fact that she was able to do the same with her sister’s killer — to reach out to him, forgive him and form a relationship with him — demonstrates the greatest act of courage and obedience to Christ, truly faith put into action.
My hat goes off to Bishop and to writer Barbara Mahany, who told the story so well. Thank you also, Northwestern, for bringing us a story of how our professional and spiritual lives can intersect and make a difference in a difficult world.
Esther Chapman ’90
Remembering Franklyn Haiman
In the fall 2015 issue of Northwestern magazine, I was saddened to read of the passing of Professor Emeritus Franklyn Haiman (Passings, Alumni Life, page 76). He was a soft-spoken but conscience-driven champion of the First Amendment and freedom of thought and speech. His was one of the influences that sent me with my Medill degree to Northwestern Law School and a life of the law. I shall always be indebted to him.
Ed Bryant ’63, ’67 JD
I was a bit disappointed with your decision to devote a whole page in the magazine to Howard Levy [“Howard Levy: Harmonica Master,” Close-up, Alumni Life, page 62, fall 2015]. My husband and I love his playing (not just on harmonica but also on keyboard), but he brings no acclaim to Northwestern.
Are there so few Northwestern graduates making significant contributions to society that you have to feature a dropout who, by your account, wasn’t inspired to greatness by anything in his educational experience at Northwestern? (That is, unless you were trying to make the case that the Chicago Seven rally gave birth to his style. Was Paul Butterfield performing that day? Or was it just that the oratory was so “overblown”?)
Carolyn Liu Bowden ’77
DAILY (GOOD) NEWS
Editor’s note: After reading the story “Delivering the Daily” [Campus Life, page 6, spring 2015], Holly Williams Madigan ’62 and her husband, John Madigan, made a substantial gift to the Campaign for the Future of the Daily Northwestern. The gift, which includes a $250,000 challenge grant, will help the Daily update its equipment, fund student stipends and scholarships and establish reserves that will allow the paper to remain focused on training and inspiring the next generation of journalists. In gratitude, the Students Publishing Co. announced that the Daily’s newsroom was renamed the Holly and John Madigan Newsroom. Holly is a director and the former chairwoman of the Family Institute at Northwestern University. John, a Northwestern University trustee, is retired chairman and CEO of Tribune Co.
“The Daily Northwestern is one of America’s greatest journalistic training grounds, so this gift is truly intended as an investment in the future of journalism,” said John Madigan. “Holly and I are very excited to be able to give back to a field that is so crucial to society in so many ways.”
The five-year campaign for the Daily, launched with a $1 million goal last October, has received $1.25 million in gifts and commitments from more than 100 donors. Thanks to the Madigans’ gift and challenge grant, the SPC board raised the campaign’s target to $2 million. The Madigans’ gift was donated to the Daily through We Will. The Campaign for Northwestern.