Tufts University reacts to psychiatrist’s comments on Chaz Bono

Chaz Bono, left, and his partner Lacey Schwimmer perform on the celebrity dance competition series, "Dancing with the Stars," Monday, Sept. 26, 2011 in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/ABC, Adam Taylor)
Chaz Bono, left, and his partner Lacey Schwimmer perform on the celebrity dance competition series, "Dancing with the Stars," Monday, Sept. 26, 2011 in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/ABC, Adam Taylor)Credit: AP

Dr. Keith Ablow stirred up controversy in recent weeks by saying, in a Fox.com column and during television appearances, that parents should keep their children from watching Chaz Bono’s performance on the popular television show Dancing with the Stars because Bono is transgender and may influence girls and boys to change genders as well.

By association, that controversy has spread to Tufts University, where Ablow is listed as an assistant clinical professor at the School of Medicine. In a letter to the school community e-mailed yesterday, university leaders emphasized that Ablow is not a paid Tufts employee. They affirmed the school’s commitment to inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students, and they defended Ablow’s right to speak his mind.

The reaction to Ablow’s comments at Tufts has been strong. Students last week painted the iconic campus cannon in protest, the university hosted a forum for students and faculty to share their thoughts, and the Tufts Daily has addressed the topic several times.

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The e-mailed letter, titled “Supporting the transgender members of the Tufts community” and signed by Tufts University President Tony Monaco, interim Dean of Tufts School of Medicine Harris Berman, and the school’s psychiatry chairman Paul Summergrad, said Ablow’s role at Tufts has been limited.

Ablow is listed in the faculty directory and he uses the Tufts title on his website. But, according to the administrators’ message, Ablow is one of 4,000 people with an unpaid appointment at the medical school. While he has hosted continuing medical education discussions about forensic psychiatry in the past, he has not lectured there in the past five years and never about gender identity.

“Dr. Ablow’s comments reflect his own personal views and should not be attributed to Tufts University or Tufts University School of Medicine,” the school leaders wrote. “But as an institution of higher learning, Tufts supports the freedom to express and test ideas through vigorous debate and criticism. Such freedom is fundamental not only to academic institutions but to our society as a whole, and it is especially around speech we may not like that our commitment gets tested and proved.”

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