Timothy P. Farage, a professor in UTD’s computer science department, prompted the backlash with his string of controversial tweets.
In a post about a monkeypox outbreak in New York, he suggested trying to “find a cure for homosexuality.” (Twitter later removed the tweet for violating the site's rules.) Farage attempted to clarify his position the following day after facing pushback.
“I don’t think homosexuality is wrong,” he tweeted Saturday. “I think it is a medical disorder.”
Now, many UTD students are calling for Farage’s ouster.
Psychology major Chase Mueller, president of Pride at UTD, said he felt “disgust and horror” when he first learned of Farage’s initial tweet.
“The idea that a cure for homosexuality is something to be researched … is homophobic. It is proven false,” he said. “So, the fact that it was being promoted by a professor at the university I attend was something that just hit like a ton of bricks. It was startling.”
Mueller said although he never had Farage as a professor, he knows of many LGBTQ+ students who left Farage's class feeling uncomfortable. Others didn’t want to attend at all.
UTD’s controversy comes as politicians nationwide have ramped up attacks on LGBTQ+ rights.
I don't think homosexuality is wrong. I think it is a medical disorder.— Timothy P Farage (@TimFarage) July 16, 2022
Transgender athletes in Texas can no longer play on the school sports team that aligns with their gender. Meanwhile, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz said on a recent podcast that the Supreme Court was wrong to legalize gay marriage.
The American Psychiatric Association (APA) revised its stance on homosexuality in 1973, concluding that it’s neither a sickness nor a mental illness. A doctor who spearheaded the change told The Washington Post at the time that homosexuality is not a medical disorder because it isn’t “associated with subjective distress” or “general impairment of social functioning.”
The APA has also condemned conversion therapy, which aims to force gay people to become heterosexual.
The UTD Rainbow Coalition, which is composed of several pro-LGBTQ+ campus groups, issued a statement denouncing Farage and demanding university action.
“He has been known to discuss controversial political positions and promote personal social media accounts during lectures, which goes against university guidelines for professor’s conduct,” they wrote. “While this most recent post is a striking example of homophobia and misinformation, it only exemplifies a portion of the hostility experienced by LGBTQ+ students in his classroom.”
Statement from PRIDE @ UTD and our friends in the UTD Rainbow Coalition on the recent statements made by CS Professor Farage and the University of Texas at Dallas response. We call upon the university administration to take immediate action on this issue. pic.twitter.com/7EFFpGUNMY— PRIDE @ UTDallas (@prideutdallas) July 17, 2022
On Farage’s Rate My Professors page, some students said he would often discuss irrelevant topics like gender, sex, time travel, abortion and his doubts about climate change.
"UTD needs to show that this kind of hostility should not and will not be tolerated." – Chase Mueller, Pride at UTD president
Monkeypox is primarily spreading among men who have sex with men, although experts say it's not an STD. In an email to the Observer, Farage further explained why he suggested "looking for a cure."
1. There's only a small fraction of the available population that a homosexual can have a sexual relationship with. [Editor's note: the Human Rights Campaign Foundation estimates that at least 20 million adults in the U.S., nearly 8% of the population, are LGBTQ+.]
2. Our bodies are obviously made to have sex with someone of the opposite sex. [Editor's note: Homosexuality also naturally occurs in the animal kingdom.]
3. A same-sex couple cannot have their own biological children. But there is a strong desire built into most of us to want our own biological children.
4. Men who have homosexual sex have a much higher incidence of sexually transmitted diseases than those who have heterosexual sex. Many of these are the result of breaking the blood-skin barrier that can happen during certain kinds of sex. (Although lesbians have fewer sexually transmitted diseases than heterosexual women). [Editor's note: Why is the focus on "curing" homosexuality and not monkeypox?)
Farage continued that he doesn’t care about students’ sexuality or religion. He also pushed back on critics’ claims that he is bigoted or homophobic. “I am none of these things, and nothing I have written shows that I am,” he said.
Replying to UT Dallas’ The Mercury student paper, Farage said he was “being compassionate” by inquiring about a “cure” to homosexuality. He also claimed to have several gay friends who wished they were straight.
When contacted for comment, a UTD spokesperson pointed to a written statement that explains the engineering and computer science school will offer additional sections in the fall. The classes will include “at least one other professor” so students can have more options.
UTD added that it “[takes] this matter seriously” and that “statements by this individual do not reflect the core values of our institution.”
But in a phone call with the Observer Monday afternoon, Farage said UTD has yet to contact him and that his sections are all still full.
Farage has worked full-time at UTD since 2000, per his personal page on the school’s website. His biography states that he’s earned multiple accolades, such as the President’s Outstanding Teacher Award.
His bio also noted that he’s a Christian who believes there is scientific evidence to prove the existence of God. “I truly wish to assist in the United States becoming 'One Nation under God,’” the bio continued.
Pride at UTD's Mueller hopes that the university will fire Farage but said he’ll respect whatever decision the review board makes. He sees the latest incident as part of a broader pattern of negative behavior in Farage’s classroom.
Learning more about Farage’s views, Mueller added, was “incredibly disappointing, especially since UT Dallas prides itself on being one of the best colleges in the country for LGBTQ+ students.”
“There is work that needs to be done in making sure that students feel welcome,” he said later, “and UTD needs to show that this kind of hostility should not and will not be tolerated.”
The Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE), an advocacy group focused on First Amendment issues, called on UTD to drop its investigation.
"Public institutions violate faculty’s First Amendment rights when they investigate or punish them for their protected expression," Sabrina Conza, FIRE's program office, told the Observer by email.
"Based on public reports, the University of Texas, Dallas, is investigating Professor Farage for his tweets, which may have offended some but are clearly protected by the First Amendment," Conza added. "UTD must immediately end its investigation into Farage and publicly reaffirm its commitment to protect and sustain faculty First Amendment rights."
Editor's note, 7/20/22: This article has been updated to include comment from the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE).