We recently covered the story of Olga Perez Stable Cox, a teacher of Human Sexuality at Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa, California, who got her fifteen minutes of fame back in December when a videotape of one her classroom rants was posted online. The subject of the rant was Donald Trump, whom she called a “white supremacist,” whose election she described as an act of terrorism, and whose supporters, including some of her own students, she had done her best to try to humiliate, calling on Trump voters in the classroom “to stand up and show the rest of the class who to watch out for and protect yourself from.” Several of Cox’s students later told the media that such rants on her part were a frequent occurrence, and that her goal was plainly not to engage students in constructive dialogue but to “bash” and “belittle” Trump supporters and paint every one of them as “an LGBT community hating white supremacist.”
After the video went viral, the university administration and faculty snapped into action. No, they didn’t punish Cox – they went after freshman Caleb O’Neil, who had taken the video. The teacher’s union threatened to sue him; the school threatened to suspend him. (In fact, he was suspended, although, thanks probably to the international media attention, his suspension was later rescinded.) For her part, Cox, far from expressing any remorse or showing any sign of self-reflection, took her ranting public, insisting that she was the victim her, that she was the one who was being bullied, and that the students who were complaining about her classroom behavior were “part of a national campaign to intimidate liberal professors.”
Well, guess what? There’s more news from the Cox front. On March 28, Peter Holley reported in the Washington Post that Cox has now been named Orange Coast College’s Faculty Member of the Year.
Holley’s own account of the videotape episode was outrageously slanted, implicitly affirming Cox’s own view of herself as a victim of a conservative conspiracy. Cox, he wrote, “had come to embody everything that many conservatives despise about higher education”: she was “openly gay” and “pushed conventional boundaries” in her sexuality classes. Sorry, but in today’s academy there’s nothing surprising about an openly gay professor talking frankly about sexuality, especially when the subject of the class is Sexuality Studies. (To be sure, Holley also mentioned that Cox had called Trump’s election an “act of terrorism,” but this seemed a mere footnote: as Holley framed it, Cox had been a thorn in many reactionaries’ sides for a long time, simply because she was gay and talked about sex.)
Holley, who actually described Cox as a “beloved professor,” also accepted as factual her unsubstantiated claim that she had been “forced to flee her home in December after her provocative comments about Trump’s election went viral, unleashing a flood of hate-filled emails that included violent threats.” (Note that Holley doesn’t describe Cox’s own remarks about her Trump-supporting students as “hate-filled.”) Holley quoted some epithets from the emails Cox had received: they included “libtard,” “Marxist,” “nut case,” “vile leftist filth” and a “satanic cult member.” The implication here is that such language was out of line; it doesn’t seem to occur to Holley that when you call an election an “act of terrorism” and a president a “white supremacist” you have to expect to get as good as you give. Holley quotes Rob Schneiderman, head of the local teachers’ union (which is apparently largely responsible for her award), as calling Cox “a dynamic and inspirational professor” and echoing Cox’s line that she, not pro-Trump students, was the victim of “bullying and intolerance and scapegoating.” But although Holley mentions Caleb O’Neil in passing, he omits to recount the vicious effort by Cox’s union and the school administration to destroy the student’s academic career.
Wrote Holley toward the end of his article: “Schneiderman said the Faculty Member of the Year award is meant to highlight Cox’s dedicated approach to her students and their well-being.” The unintended irony would be funny if it weren’t so thoroughly appalling.