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Phyllis Schlafly Hon. Degree Sparks Wash U Spat, Law Prof Protest

Posted May 16, 2008 11:06 AM CDT
By Martha Neil

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Ever the conservative gadfly, attorney and political activist Phyllis Schlafly, didn't hesitate to say what she thought when law professors, among others, complained about a planned award of an honorary degree to her today by Washington University in St. Louis.

Her critics are "a bunch of losers," says Schlafly, 83, who is perhaps best known for her decades-old campaign that helped defeat the proposed Equal Rights Amendment, according to the Associated Press.

Although students and faculty have protested, urging Wash U not to award the honorary degree to Schlafly after all, Chancellor Mark Wrighton says in a letter to the university community that it is intended not as a validation of her views but as recognition of the broad impact her work has had on American life. Schlafly earned her bachelor's and law degrees from Wash U, and holds a master's degree from Harvard University.

Among those who have protested the planned degree award are 14 Wash U law professors, who complain in a letter that Schlafly's career demonstrates "anti-intellectualism in pursuit of a political agenda," the AP writes.

"She has led a campaign to undermine judicial independence. She promotes the teaching of creationism and intelligent design and calls those who believe in evolution 'atheists,' " one law prof, Laura Rosenbury, tells the news agency. "She labels people who don't agree with her as 'whiny feminists' instead of engaging in debate. She speaks in stereotypes and gross generalizations."

Schlafly has promoted her conservative political agenda through the Eagle Forum, speaking engagements and 20 books that she has authored.

She is to receive a doctorate of humane letters from the university, according to a press release.

Additional coverage:

The Platform (St. Louis Post-Dispatch): "Wash U. Law School dean defends his faculty"

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