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Boise State alumna and a tenured professor react to Scott Yenor's controversial statements

The political science professor's comments on women being "more medicated, meddlesome, and quarrelsome than women need to be," have sparked continued outrage.

BOISE, Idaho — The backlash to the controversial comments and the subsequent doubling down on them by a Boise State University professor is continuing to spark outrage not only in the Treasure Valley but at the heart of campus.

Last month, political science professor Scott Yenor spoke at the National Conservatism Conference in Orlando and said things like, "our independent women seek their purpose in life in mid-level bureaucratic jobs," and "they are more medicated, meddlesome, and quarrelsome than women need to be," and "more successful men will mean more happy citizenry and a stronger nation."

For about 15 minutes, Yenor expressed his beliefs that women have been more damaged by wanting to have a career, in lieu of or in addition to a family.

"If we want a great nation, we should be preparing young women to become mothers, not finding every reason for young women to delay motherhood until they are established in a career or sufficiently independent," he said.

On Wednesday, The 208 spoke with Doctor Joann Lightly, who graduated with a chemical engineering degree in 1982 and is now the dean of the College of Engineering at Boise State. She is also a wife and mother.

To hear from inside Yenor's own department, The 208 spoke with Doctor Stephen Utych, another tenured professor, on Thursday after he spoke out about Yenor's views on Twitter.

"These comments are deeply offensive to me personally, and I truly feel for all of the Boise State students, especially women and those from traditionally marginalized groups, who have had to deal with this," Utych tweeted, in part.

When the political science professor, who joined the university in 2018, spoke with The 208, he said he's heard rumors of Yenor's behavior for years and should have spoken out sooner. 

"I've heard things from that people have noticed that women are treated differently in his class, right? I've heard suggestions, small things but still kind of offensive things like he calls women sweetie in class and things like that," he said.

Utych added that he would support the university investigating and bringing some sort of disciplinary action against Yenor.

"You can make those connections there that maybe this is influencing his behavior, if you don't think they should be in the workforce why would you think they should be in college, right?" he said.

He said he's speaking out now because he's now in a position where there will be fewer consequences for doing so.

"We need a university and a culture here at Boise State where everyone feels welcome," Utych said. "We're in a situation where I don't want any faculty members comments to make certain groups of people, whether its women, people of color, people based on their religion, sexual orientation or anything like that to feel uncomfortable attending school here because that's not the type of place where I'd want to work, that's not a community I want to be a part of is one that's not inclusive."

He explained that Yenor's comments should be treated more than just words because he is in a position of power over women in the classroom who are trying to get into the workforce and have successful careers, something he has made clear he doesn't support.

"He's absolutely in a position of power," Utych said. "He's not just in a position of power over women who are students. He's a tenured faculty member and we have women on our faculty who aren't tenured and by default, he's in a position of power over them too and it's kind of like, looking through this, these are women with successful, strong careers and he's saying these things and the question becomes how can he evaluate people who work for the university, or how can he evaluate his students fairly when he believes that."

Utych added that he can't imagine what it would be like to be a student of Yenor's if they were a woman of any age. 

To get that perspective, The 208 also spoke with Kristin Jackson on Thursday.

Jackson currently works for Boise State Public Radio, the city's NPR station, and has worked for the university since 2004. Back in 2009, while working full-time, she was pursuing a political science degree as a full-time student. 

With a full plate and schedule, she had to take evening classes, including one that was instructed by Professor Yenor.

Going into the course, she knew it was going to be a challenge and she did learn a lot about political theory, but she said that's about all of the nice things she can say about the class. Jackson added that what has in the last week doesn't shock her.

"He was just awful as a professor," she recalled. "I remember the very first day of class and he went around the room and he purposefully called all the women Mrs. whatever and he'd pick a last name, but he wouldn't say your last name. So my last name is Jackson, so instead of calling me Mrs. Jackson, he would call me Mrs. Johnson, and if I corrected him, he would tell me it didn't matter because it wasn't really my last name anyway, it was my husband's."

Jackson explained that Yenor would always call male students by their first name and would call female students "sweetie" or "honey." She went on to add that he made it clear women and mothers would have a difficult time in his course.

"In that same first class, he said anyone who works full time raise your hand, so it was a night class, almost everybody raised their hand and he said you're all going to fail," she said. "Okay, then he said, now tell me who has kids? And everyone raised their hand and he said now if you're the dad, put your hand down, and the men all put their hands down. He goes, 'The rest of you are going to fail this class.'"

She said Yenor told students that his "class was so rigorous that you couldn't possibly be a mother and pass the class, and those were his exact words."  But he didn't feel the same way towards the fathers in his class.

"The dads did not matter because it's not the dad's job to raise the children. It's the mom's job to raise the children," Jackson said. "he made it very clear even back then that woman's place was not at a university, especially if you're a mother."

Jackson said being a mother is very important to her and Yenor's comments make her feel terrible.

"Being a mother is really important to me," she said. "It's something that I always wanted to be but that doesn't mean I don't get to be other things. I'm also a very successful professional woman. I have two college degrees, I pride myself on that. but I also pride myself on being a good mother. I don't think they are mutually exclusive."

For why she didn't report it or file a formal complaint, Jackson said she was young and didn't know who to go to and her adviser didn't know either because of Yenor's tenure. Now, as a university employee and alumna, she thinks the university's statement was "pathetic."

"It's obviously a pattern. I could see if this was a one-time thing, them taking the tact they are, but this is not a one-time thing and he is directly attacking half the student body at Boise State," Jackson explained. "How can they keep someone there who honestly and truly believes that women don't belong there. How can our female president want somebody working for her that doesn't think she should be in the role she's in?"

Jackson said the university's statement felt like an attack on her as a woman, "because they are not really supporting us. They aren't supporting the women at the university. If they were, they'd be taking action. Maybe they can't fire him, but he needs to be disciplined, something needs to be done to make it clear that this isn't an acceptable way for people at the university to behave. We have value statements that we agree to to be employees there and it seems like he's not being held to the same standards that literally everyone else is being held to."

The 208 contacted Boise State University to find out if there was any investigation or formal complaints against Yenor, but the university said, 

"Boise State takes allegations of policy violations seriously and investigates them under the appropriate policy. The university will not comment on personnel matters."

On Friday afternoon, Dr. Scott Yenor tweeted at KTVB and Brian Holmes:

Editor's note: Brian Holmes reached out to Dr. Yenor twice over two days. The invitation still stands.

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