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Professor Hammers Freshman in The D

coffey2.jpgLast Wednesday in The D, freshman columnist Roger Lott offered his views on the College’s famous Orozco murals, most particularly on the political orientation of the artist and how his politics found expression in the artwork. Fair enough. Without the benefit of an extensive background in Art History, Lott made a number of assertions that troubled Professor Mary Coffey of the Art History Department. In a piece in The D, she undertook to set the student straight.

There is no need here to get into the merits of the dispute, but suffice it to say, Professor Coffey decided that graciousness, gentle correctives, and for that matter, education, were to play a secondary role in her column. She had a more pointed goal: humiliating a student who, in his second month at the College, had the temerity to express an opinion different from her own. To wit:

“Mr. Lott’s complaints about Orozco’s cycle are indeed old ones. Had he done research in the library’s archives on the matter…”

“Other than quoting a single line about “controversy” on the library’s website, his editorial demonstrates a shocking ignorance of what is actually visible in the mural itself, or, for those who are not visually literate…”

“First, Mr. Lott make a series of embarrassing factual errors…”

“What is more disturbing is that Mr. Lott’s reading of the mural suggests he didn’t bother looking at it…”

“Finally, the most disturbing feature of Mr. Lott’s reading of the mural is the veiled racial ressentiment that he betrays in his willingness to take up the mantle of what he presumes to be the “white” student’s values…”

“It is in this spirit that I invite Mr. Lott to enroll in or audit my course on Mexican Mural art in the hope that he will demonstrate a genuine attempt to engage with this work of art…”

Of course, this space has occasionally made light of the opinions of others, but one would hope that a professor at the College would express herself in a more patient and respectful fashion than the above in seeking to inform a freshman of deficiencies in his research methods, reasoning, and opinions. Professor Coffey’s tone is especially inexplicable in light of her well-earned reputation as a devoted and hard-working teacher. However, given her obvious anger at Roger Lott, he might hesitate to take up her invitation to attend her class; her credentials as an intimidating bully have now been established, too.

Note: One wonders if Professor Coffey’s vituperation was intended to punish Roger Lott ‘14 for the supposed sins of his father, John Lott Jr., a controversial commentator for Fox News. Beyond being a TV personality, Lott’s Wikipedia entry lists the following regarding his academic credentials and publications:

Lott studied economics at UCLA, receiving his B.A. in 1980, M.A. in 1982, and Ph.D. in 1984. He spent five years as a visiting professor (1994-95) and as a fellow (1995-99) at the University of Chicago. Lott has also held positions at other institutions, including the Yale Law School, Stanford, UCLA, the Wharton Business School, Texas A&M University, and Rice University, and was the chief economist at the United States Sentencing Commission (1988-1989), before taking a position at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI). In 2006, he left AEI. As of 2008, he is a senior research scientist in the University of Maryland Foundation at the University of Maryland, College Park.

Lott has published over ninety articles in academic journals, as well as five books for the general public. In terms of total academic journal output from 1990 to 2000 adjusted for journal quality, John Lott ranks 26th worldwide among economists, and in terms of total academic journal output in journal pages published he was 4th. In terms of citations in the same period, he ranks 86th. Among economics, law, and business researchers, Lott’s research is the sixth most downloaded on the Social Science Research Network.

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