Students at the University of Southern Maine are demanding that a professor be fired after she allegedly said there are only two sexes.
Christy Hammer is an associate professor of education at the University of Southern Maine. Hammer – who earned her Ph.D. in sociology from the University of New Hampshire – teaches the “Creating Positive Learning Environments.” The course is required to be completed for the graduate-level Extended Teacher Education Program and is necessary to become a certified teacher in Maine. The course is intended to prepare college students for teaching K-12 pupils.
The course “emphasizes creating, building, and sustaining a positive classroom environment as a foundation for learning.”
During Hammer’s class on Sept. 7, the atmosphere allegedly became explosive after the professor said there were only two sexes, according to students.
“During the session at Bailey Hall on the Gorham campus, a free-for-all discussion erupted over both social gender and biological sex identifications, with one student and Hammer saying they believed only male and female biological sexes exist,” the Bangor Daily News reported. “The rest of the class maintained both biological sexes and social genders are on a spectrum.”
The heated argument reportedly continued into the next class on Sept. 14, which resulted in 22 of 23 students walking out of the class as a boycott over the professor’s statement.
Elizabeth Leibiger – a “non-binary” student in the class – allegedly reignited the controversy during the class.
“I asked [Hammer] how many sexes there were,” Leibiger told the Bangor Daily News. “She said, ‘Two.’ I felt under personal attack.”
“I let her know I didn’t think she was qualified to teach a class about positive learning environments,” Leibiger added. “It’s the ultimate irony.”
Leibiger allegedly led the walkout.
The 22 students demanded a facilitated restorative justice meeting with Hammer. At Wednesday’s meeting, the professor maintained that there are only two sexes, while the students argued that gender is on a spectrum.
Following the meeting, the students demanded that Hammer be fired for not agreeing with them that there are more than two sexes. The students vowed not to return to class until the professor was removed.
Leibiger – who plans to be a high school English teacher after graduation – said, “It’s our job as educators to grow and change, address our biases, and above all else, protect every one of our students.”
Leibiger said of Hammer, “I want her to do some diversity training at least — or just retire.”
According to Hammer’s profile on the University of Southern Maine’s website, the professor was previously awarded the New Hampshire state award for anti-racism in schools in 2000 and an award for prejudice reduction in schools in 1997.
Despite the supposed controversy, University of Southern Maine administrators have not yet fully bent the knee to the outrage mob.
Interim Provost Adam Tuchinsky said, “We are aware of this situation and are taking steps to provide students the support they need.”
University of Southern Maine spokesperson Gina Marie Guadagnino said, “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. The original section taught by professor Hammer will continue for any student who wishes to remain in that class.”
“A university that cannot teach facts because students find them too hard to handle is useless as an educational institution,” Gingrich wrote. “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 has reached over 2,300 signatures at the time of publication.