Monday, April 26, 2010

Bye-Bye, BigBabyKenny

Or, Somewhere in California, a Provost Is Sighing

Yes, darlings, it's true --, the indispensable blog about straight male sex tourism in Thailand built by a tenured Econ prof at Cal State Northridge, is no more.

Y'all know the unofficial motto of Roxie's World is Tenure means never having to say you're sorry, but Kenneth Ng apparently said Uncle, giving up his noble defense of free speech and his right to spend his non-work hours advising guys on where to go to find underage girls about a week after the site caught the attention of the LA Daily News. (Here is the story that originally outed the site. Here is the story on its being taken down. Here is Inside Higher Ed's report on the issue. H/T to this post at Student Activism, which first called our attention to the story.)

Under pressure from administrators, who had known about the site for months before it was publicly disclosed, Ng took the site down on Friday, after he and the administration somehow figured out that its existence "tarnished the university's reputation." No, really, fellas? Are you sure about that? I mean, it's not as if he produced it during school hours or using state resources! Can't a guy devote his leisure to helping travelin' dude bros negotiate a price so low that pimps will beat up their prostitutes for agreeing to bargain-basement terms? (No links here, but Angus Johnston has summaries of some of BigBabyKenny's more disgusting posts and links to copies available in Google's cache here. Trigger warning for revolting celebrations of child prostitution and physical abuse of women.)

After the site was taken down, Northridge Provost (and I swear we are not making this up) Harold Hellenbrand issued a statement commending Ng for his belated exercise of good judgment and acknowledging the tensions and conflicts around the case:

I thank [Ng] for his reflection and removal of the site. I thank the University community for their comments.

I understand that some people will be disappointed that we did not force the site’s closure; others already object that university leadership was critical of a university employee’s speech.

We are trying to balance two principles that, in this case, clashed. Our commitment to gender equity compels us to see the site as offensive; our commitment to expression urges us to tolerate words and pictures we find intolerant. As university leaders, we believe open debate is critical to ordering our values and determining our acts. While belief in an absolute right to censor might initially comfort us; “our” and “us” has a way of quickly narrowing to “you” and “me.” Then the danger is that exclusion and exploitation, the acts that initially incited us to censor, become the rules of the day.

Translation: Boy, did we get our a$$es burned on this one! Feminazis dusting off their old copies of "The Traffic in Women," free speechers climbing the flagpoles in defense of the right to be disgusting, reporters sniffing around asking questions about the line between work and leisure in the lives of professors and the conflict between individual freedom and professional responsibility! Yikes, fellas! What's a provost to do?

Seriously, folks, we're curious to hear what you think about this case. Should the Northridge administration have demanded that the site be taken down as soon as it learned of its existence? If so, does that mean we are comfortable with universities censoring employees' off-campus speech? Sure about that? Where do we draw the line? What if Northridge had pressured a faculty member with, say, a blog that was critical of university policies and actions? Hellenbrand has a point about the clash of principles involved here. Tell us where you come down in the vexing conflict between free speech and civility. On your marks, get set, discuss!

(Image Credit:, via)


  1. Ugh and double ugh. See today's post on Tenured Radical about what the eff is up around taking violence against women for granted.

    Thank god for the feminist blogosphere. Paw bump, comrade Roxie

  2. Amen, sister womyn, in re. the feminist blogosphere. Paws up, indeed!

    Y'all run on over and see what TR has to say about what's not OK for women in Oklahoma these days. Triple ugh with a dollop of state-sponsored rape on the side.

  3. State college? Really no use of public funds involved here?

    Maybe we should expect that interests like his feature prominently in staff bios so we can make a more informed decision how to spend our personal (and tax-based) education dollars when looking for an education for our kids.

    And tenure -- I can imagine the conversation just before it was granted: "Are you denying tenure becasue of my personal website?" (this is CA, right?)

  4. You know, here's the thing. I think that this worked out in some ways in exactly the way it should have worked out. In other words, I *don't* think that universities should police their faculty's speech for its appropriateness, but I do think that academic freedom (and a life as an academic and a public intellectual) means that we are accountable for our speech, whether on campus or off. If what we put out there is inappropriate (to put it mildly, in this case), then I feel like the very mechanism that allows that speech (academic freedom) also allows for that offensive speech to be shut down.

    I don't, personally, want university administrations (or legislators) to head off potentially offensive or controversial speech at the pass, because that really hurts people who are doing serious and important work on gender/sexuality (as just one example, but which is a primary concern of mine) - think about that whole kerfuffle last year about that women's studies professor teaching oral sex (oh my!) at Georgia State.

    So. Do I think that this guy's website was reprehensible? Yes indeedy I do. But do I want university administrations making that decision without leaving such things open for public debate? NO. I don't.

    And, I've got to say, I think the whole "taxpayers' money" argument, or the "liberal California is such a problem" implication, is so beside the point here. I don't care if this Ng dude were at a private university, or if he were located in the heartland. This crap would be wrong, and would deserve equal public outcry, and would probably play out in precisely the same way that it has in this instance. The point is so not that bleeding-heart liberals believe in academic freedom and that academic freedom is wrong, nor is it that "my tax money" pays for that guy, and I shouldn't pay for reprehensible fellows with whom I disagree. (I mean, seriously, my tax money funds so much that I would personally disagree with.) The point is that it's disgusting to encourage the traffic in women, wherever a person works. And ultimately, the *best* way to shut that down, I think, is through other people using their academic freedom. Is it unfortunate that this website ever existed, and that it went on for so long? Yes. Totally. But I'm not willing to give up my academic freedom in order to keep such websites off of the internet.

  5. Get real. I've only been an American for a few months, and even *I* know everythig here comes down to $. This guy's habit is funded by parents of the kids he claims he exposes to this stuff in the guise of education. Students rate him highly apparently. Lets hop that's for his economic theory.

  6. Thanks, Dr. C. -- I think you saved us from having to do a follow-up post probing into the very serious issues underlying this story. We decided to go mostly snarky in this post, but those questions we raised at the end are very much in line with the concerns you express here, and we share your strong free-speech position.

    My typist's first response -- Well, after "Ewww, sex trafficking!" -- was a queasy, "Gee, what if my provost decided blogging as a dead dog didn't reflect well on QTU? Would I want him ordering me to shut this joint down? Heck, no!"

    One could argue that the administration at Northridge did exactly the right thing in defending Ng's right to free speech while counting on the pressure of public exposure to shame him into bringing the site down. Indeed, it would be interesting to know who brought the story to the attention of the press. My money is on some female staffer in the provost's office who figured she'd exercise her right to shine a little light on the Ng thing to see if it could, ahem, stand up to scrutiny.

    We're with the ACLU in protecting objectionable speech in the interest of protecting all speech, but we hate it when profs behave badly -- especially on teh Internetz, where there is no place to hide, really. We're glad that BigBabyKenny has been voluntarily consigned to something like oblivion, but we think Prof. Ng's Internet access should be limited to Shakesville for the next six months -- Dude needs some serious reeducation on sex/gender issues, don't you think?

  7. I am so on board with limiting his internet access to Shakesville. Or maybe we could expand it to
    Feministe and Feministing :) That is truly the best medicine for this sort of thing - not administrators shutting it up before the person is forced to reckon with any sort of push-back. (Because, come on: do we really think this guy won't get a new IP address and a pseudonym and keep on with his antics? I mean, seriously.)

  8. Good discussion here, thank you all. I think the points made about the need to defend free speech but also recognize that violence towards women is actually violence, and counts, and that we should get in someone's face about it.


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