Students at the University of Southern Maine walked out of class after their professor, Christy Hammer, insisted that there are only two sexes. The incident left students feeling offended and attacked, with many demanding that Hammer be replaced for her insensitive and discriminatory comments.
- Everyone in the class felt Hammer’s comments were inappropriate. One non-binary student, Elizabeth Leibiger, said they felt “under personal attack” by Hammer. The comments were made on September 7, when the professor told students that there are only two sexes during a “Creating a Positive Learning Environment” class. The class is required for all students completing an Extended Teacher Education Program.
- Hammer repeated her comments in another class. While Leibiger was absent for the initial session in which the comments were made, they followed up with Hammer during the September 14 session. “I asked [Hammer] how many sexes there were. She said, ‘Two.’ I felt under personal attack,” Leibiger said, per Bangor Daily News. “I let her know I didn’t think she was qualified to teach a class about positive learning environments. It’s the ultimate irony.”
- Students left the class and even wrote to the Department of Education and Human Development. In their letter, they asked authorities to meet with Hammer to confront her about her statements about there only being two sexes. However, Hammer is said to have refused to back down on her statements. Students asked her to be replaced as a result.
- The University of Maine has refused to remove Hammer from her position. However, the school is taking students’ concerns seriously. “We have developed an alternative plan for this class and will be opening a new section of this course for those students who would like to move,” a spokesperson said (via the Daily Mail). “The original section taught by professor Hammer will continue for any student who wishes to remain in that class.”
- Hammer has plenty of supporters, as evidenced by a Change.org petition started by Jennifer Gingrich. It reads: “A university that cannot teach facts because students find them too hard to handle is useless as an educational institution. We the undersigned ask USM President Jacqueline Edmondson, Interim Provost Adam Tuchinsky, and Chair of the Teacher Education Department Flynn Ross to stand firmly behind Professor Hammer and issue a public statement to the effect that she will neither be replaced nor required to stop stating the fact that sex in humans is binary.” The petition currently has more than 3,300 signatures.