A Chicago art professor resigned from his post earlier this month after a group of Social Justice Warrior students continually accused him of “racism”, “transphobia” and “homophobia.”
Michael Bonesteel has taught at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago as an adjunct for 14 years and is an internationally recognized expert on the 20th-century Chicago artist Henry Darger.
On Dec. 12, when Bonesteel was leading a discussion about Chicago artist Henry Darger, whose artwork often depicted young girls with male genitalia. He mentioned the popular theory that Darger’s work might be the result of childhood sexual abuse — an idea that apparently frustrated one transgender student.
“The student said there was no proof that Darger was sexually abused, and therefore, I was wrong in proposing the theory,” Bonesteel said, noting that he agreed there is no definitive proof, but pointing out that it is a common theory among art scholars.
On the advice of a diversity counselor, Mr. Bonesteel wrote an apology for his “insensitivity” and posted it to a school website, attaching a research article with background on the theory he proposed.
Two days later, the second problem cropped up in a class called “Comic Book: Golden Age to Comics Code when a student went off on a “long diatribe about perceived anti-Semitic attitudes” of Gerard Jones, the author of a book assigned to the class. The student proceeded to complain about the institute’s treatment of transgender and minority students and then accused Bonesteel specifically of “racism and homophobia.”
The student also complained about the lack of a trigger warning during a discussion about an implied rape in “Batman: The Killing Joke,” a comic book by Alan Moore.
“When I said the word ‘rape,’ the complaining student yelled, ‘Hey, where’s the trigger warning?’
In response to a complaint over that incident, the dean of faculty determined “it is more likely than not that your conduct in relation to this student constituted harassment based on gender-identity in violation of the School’s Policy Against Discrimination, Harassment and Retaliation.”
Months later, a second student from the comic book class filed a complaint against Mr. Bonesteel on the basis of having been “troubled by the incident.”
The administration later told Bonesteel that he would no longer be allowed to teach courses on comics or set the curricula for his classes on outsider art. The school also reduced his teaching hours for the next academic year to the point where he would be ineligible for benefits.
In his resignation letter, the longtime art scholar, who called the institute a “toxic environment,” wrote that he believed the entire situation to be “an abuse of Title IX protections.”
Institute spokesperson Bree Witt said that she unable to discuss personnel matters but asserted that it is “simply not the case” that the institute “infringed on academic freedom” with regard to Bonesteel, adding that such behavior would be “anathema to our pedagogy”.