By: Matt Tomaselli
A number of students sat down with Mr. Larry Malkus, among other faculty members, after lunch Tuesday to voice and discuss disagreements with his assembly announcement that morning. The discussion came about after students raised complaints to Mr. Rob Heubeck in the lunchroom regarding the announcement, to which Mr. Heubeck challenged them to discuss the issue with Mr. Malkus directly.
Some of the students then agreed to sit down in the Lumen Center with Mr. Malkus. Mrs. Beth Knapp, Mrs. Linda Trapp, and Mr. Heubeck joined them. Alex Bauman ‘17 and Mac Realo ‘17 were among the students who raised questions and dissenting opinions while a number of students accompanied them to hear the discussion.
Mr. Malkus addressed the student body about a comment Mr. Paul Assaiante, a guest speaker in assembly Friday, made during his remarks. When describing a number of people on the field with him as he threw out the first pitch at a Boston Red Sox game, Assainte mentioned Curt Schilling's wife, and said, “she’s hot,” after discussing a number of the Red Sox’s players and characterizing them by their abilities, stature, muscles, and height.
Mr. Malkus asked the student body to recognize the manner in which, he believes, Mr. Assaiante objectified women in this remark. He believes that using Mrs. Schilling’s attractiveness to identify her in the context of how Mr. Assaiante described the men before promotes an attitude that women are sexual objects for men.
Mr. Malkus admitted his own guilt in having objectified women before and noted that he does not believe Mr. Assaiante made his remark maliciously.
“I have objectified women myself more than all of you, I’m sure,” Mr. Malkus said later to the group of students at the discussion.
The discussion kicked off with Alex Bauman discussing how he believed the comment was made as a joke and that he was comfortable in the all-boys environment. Bauman appreciated the comment as a joke and said that the student body generally enjoyed having a speaker who was “less filtered” than usual.
“It was refreshing to hear a speaker who wasn’t so painfully politically correct,” said Bauman.
The group then discussed the notion of an all-boys environment, how the situation may have differed in a female environment, and the objectification of men as well. The group at one point did agree that men, as the dominant gender in society, have historically objectified women.
Mr. Malkus said that he “felt uncomfortable for the women in the room at that moment” when Mr. Assaiante made his comment because it fostered an environment where, he believes, women are judged by their physical appearances. Ms. Knapp added that she personally felt uncomfortable.
Mac Realo asked Mr. Malkus whether he believes that he would have raised the issue had the comment been made about a man, by a female speaker, at an all-girls school. Mr. Malkus said he thinks that he would have, and recognized that objectification can be inflicted upon both genders.
Mrs. Knapp feels that both sides “didn’t really come to a consensus” per se, but she valued and appreciated the discussion.
“I think that’s something that we don’t do a lot in our world right now. We don’t talk to people who disagree with us,” said Mrs. Knapp.
Both sides agreed that the opinions on either end were heard, respected, and considered.
“Both parties definitely learned something,” said Realo. “I enjoyed that we got to do a forum like that, and if there’s another controversial topic that comes up, we should do another forum like that.”
Bauman thinks that the school should have a wider discussion about this issue, so that the entire school can consider the objectification of women. He urged Mrs. Knapp, as the faculty chair to the One Love Organization, to organize some sort of broader discussion.
“Mr. Malkus and Mrs. Knapp especially did a terrific job of listening to all opinions and giving respectful and insightful responses to all students,” said Bauman.
He continued that he believes this could be a model for future discussion of controversial issues, saying that “we don’t have enough forums like this for students.”
Mr. Heubeck was also pleased.
“I think we had a nice turnout for something that was impromptu. It was charged, it was cordial, and it was just how you should talk to people that you disagree with,” said Mr. Heubeck.