This Is Why UNH Can't Have Nice Things

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The story made Campus Reform: UNH prof gloats about disrupting conservative speaker. Just when UNH was patting itself on the back about its top rating for free speech, we get reminded that not everyone at the University Near Here feels that way about constitutional rights.

A disruptive heckler who was filmed harassing Dave Rubin during a speech at the University of Hampshire on May 1 turns out to be a Senior Lecturer in Women's Studies at UNH.

The Senior Lecturer is one Joëlle Ruby Ryan. Sometimes the umlaut is over that first e, sometimes it's not. But, umlaut or not, Joëlle is unrepentant about recent anti-free-speech activities:

Granite Grok's Steve MacDonald comments:

When the UNH Bias-Free Langauge Guide controversy broke, and UNH disappeared it, they said a lot of the right things afterward but left the entire Social Justice Curriculum that spawned it in place. I pointed out that the goal of free speech on campus cannot be realized until the University addressed the source of the intolerance.

I note (here, and at a comment at Granite Grok) that UNH's Code of Conduct is explicit that behavior like Joëlle's is over the line.

Disruption or obstructing teaching, research, administration, disciplinary proceedings, other University activities, including public service functions on or off campus, or other authorized non-University activities

Pretty clearly, the Rubin event was a "University activity", an event put on by a recognized student organization, the campus chapter of Turning Point USA. And the activists, including Joëlle, seem to have both disrupted and obstructed.

But careful: that's the code for students. As a legal matter, it's unclear to me whether a senior lecturer, like Joëlle, might be held to a looser standard. But, as I noted at Granite Grok, I bet Joëlle would have been in a lot more trouble had she they lit up a cigarette at the venue. As it was, she was they were only trying to deny the civil rights of the invited speaker and whatever portion of the audience who wanted to hear what he wanted to say.

Even rudimentary Googling will reveal Joëlle lives a heavily self-publicized life. I have mixed feelings about linking to the results; they do not fill me with glee. Mainly, I'm sad for both Joëlle and UNH.

Because Joëlle's entire academic life is near-completely about Joëlle.

As you might note, our Amazon Product du Jour is Joëlle's 2005 book of poetry, Gender Quake; it will set you back $15.50, and Pun Salad will get a cut if you decide to go that way. Amazon's "Look Inside" feature may help you decide. Here's the first part of "The First Poem":

why so long 
to put pen to paper? 
years gone by, and pages left dusty and 
pens jammed full of ink. 
it is almost summer now 
an easier time perhaps 
buried chest deep in snow 
I needed to write a poem 
gloom casting lingering shadows over me 
fleeing, tedious 
heart-pounding maneuvers 
but still no escape. 
words offer little respite 
spoken aloud they seem to 
scatter and dissipate 
as easily 
as snowflakes. 
written down, recorded on paper 
they freeze into icicles 
and I am trying hard to make sure 
they do not shatter onto 
OK. Your call on quality. But it's clear that, like Whitman, Joëlle celebrates Joëlle, and sings Joëlle.

Continuing that theme, Joëlle also has an IMDB credit for a 41-minute documentary film, TransAmazon: A Gender Queer Journey made in 2003, about … Joëlle. The (single) review is kind:

Joelle Ruby Ryan puts her life as it is, up front and honest, on film. A combination of video diary-style and other techniques help to capture the authenticity of her inner pain as she [sic]grapples with a society (containing individuals) hostile to transgender people, or anyone whose gender expression pushes the boundaries of how gender is perceived. If that sounds confusing, see the film. It explains everything about gender simply and honestly. Some viewers might object to some of the language used in the film--but all of it is an authentic expression of this life, and the challenges she [sic] has faced. A great film! Very informative!

But that was just Joëlle's first! Other non-IMDB autobiographical works are on YouTube, both uploaded by "UNH Health & Wellness". There's A Transgender Path:

And Transilience:

… in which Joëlle claims to have "coined" the word "transilience", which is shorthand for "transgender resilience". (Which will come as news to the dictionary folks.)

You can also check out Joëlle's bio at the UNH Lecturers United site. Why I've been careful [but still not careful enough] about pronouns:

Dr. Joëlle Ruby Ryan is currently a Senior Lecturer in Women’s Studies at UNH. Joëlle identifies as a queer, asexual, non-binary transgender woman and uses They/Them/Their pronouns. They earned their BA in Women’s Studies from UNH in 1996 and their MA in English Literature from UNH in 2002. They completed their Ph.D. at Bowling Green State University in 2009 in American Culture Studies, writing their dissertation on images of transgender people in film and media.

It's probably just me, but appropriating that third-person plural can make for confusing reading at times. [Also writing: I had to go back and fix a number of inadvertent "she"s in this post.]

Lest you worry that Joëlle's personal ideology might seep into "their" classroom teaching… well, there's not a whole lot of doubt about that:

Joelle’s teaching philosophy is based in social justice and contemplative pedagogy. Teaching is not the mere transfer of information between one person and another. Nor is it one “all-knowing” expert who deigns to teach the ignorant and uninitiated the “Truth.” For Joelle, teaching is a dynamic and active exchange, whereby knowledge is a tool circulated amongst a community of active learners with the ultimate goal of improving the world in which all people live. Teaching can often be characterized by ever-changing challenges, frustrations, disappointments and missed opportunities. In some respects, teaching is a continual trail-by-fire [sic] with few fail-safe outcomes. However, despite these concerns, Joelle wholeheartedly believes that teaching can transform minds and rejuvenate spirits. As Gandhi famously said: “You must be the change you want to see in the world.” Through their teaching, they hope to model values of integrity, perseverance and critical thinking to entice their students to learn more and act more. Imagining and actively creating a more livable world must go hand-in-hand. Teaching is an inherently messy process, particularly when one is teaching about controversial issues such as race, class, gender, and sexuality. However, to Joelle the rewards are worth the struggle as they see students genuinely challenge their core assumptions and consider ways to achieve a new and improved social order. Teaching is a noble profession not because of how learned one becomes, but because of the degree to which one takes that knowledge and gives of it freely to improve the lives of students. The greatest gift of teaching for Joelle is to rouse students to, as Audre Lorde said, engage in the “transformation of silence into language and action,” actions which can give birth to a more just, equitable and peaceful world.

Apparently, for Joëlle, a "just, equitable and peaceful world" is one in which Joëlle can shut people up if Joëlle doesn't like what they have to say.

There's also a blog: Concepts Queered. And this is where it gets really sad. Because the woes therein are mental:

Remeron. Cymbalta. Paxil. Zoloft. Klonopin. Valium. Ativan. Nuvigil. Adderall. Vyvanse. Gabapentin. Effexor. Lexapro. Celexa. Buspar. Trazodone. Lamictal. Risperidone. Lithium. Hydroxyzine.

The preceding 20 medications are all psych meds that I am either currently taking or have taken at one time or another. They are the ones that I remember; there are more.[…]


I wish I could say I have had better experiences as a crip* in higher education. In actuality, it has been very difficult. Ableism, the hatred and discrimination directed against disabled people, is found throughout society in every cultural institution. The education system is no exception, nor are colleges and universities in particular. I am a person from a working-class family, a first-generation college student, a transgender person, an asexual person, and a person of size. Despite all these challenges and forms of discrimination, none of them prepared me for being a crip. While I don’t like to rank forms of oppression, there is an existential nature to being disabled that is very unique in its vastness.

And Fiscal:

I really don’t want to write about debt. To say it is a sore point it is the understatement of the year. Debt is weight. I know that is a clichéd way of writing about debt, but it really is. It weight you down and for some there is no end in sight. I will likely be paying off debt for the rest of my natural born life. And that weight makes me feel absolutely crushed.

So why did I do it to myself? Well, in most cases I didn’t. The bulk of my 200k debt is from student loans. I come from a working-class family and I am a first-generation student. In order to earn my 4 degrees, I had to take out the maximum in student loans to survive. I never got any lessons in financial literacy. I didn’t know what I was doing but saw the loans as free money. I never, ever thought about the time when they would come due and I would have to pay the piper. […]

And what's to blame? Capitalism!

I have long believed capitalism to be a wicked, nefarious, rotten system. I have long seen it as a system based upon brutality. I have long seen it as a system based on greed and callousness.

Capitalism is defined as “an economic and political system in which a country’s trade and industry are controlled by private owners for profit, rather than by the state.” “Private owners for profit” is the key phrase there. And it could not be more obvious that this profit is not equally shared by the masses. It is owned by the 1% and other economic elites.

UNH and Joëlle have a … complex relationship. As you might have noticed, UNH enthusiastically published Joëlle's videos. They've kept Joëlle on as a (non-tenure-track) lecturer for over a couple decades. She's been on a lot of commissions, joined a lot of groups. There couldn't possibly be a "safer space" than UNH for Joëlle.

And yet, she's they are miserable. And the thanks she gives they give to UNH is to emblemize every negative stereotype of the University-based Social Justice Warrior.

Why couldn't we have gotten Deirdre McClosky instead?

Last Modified 2018-12-27 10:00 AM EDT