Thursday, July 21, 2011

Dr. Rekers' Bogus Claims to Cure the Gay: Questions for the Southern Association of Colleges and Universities

Back in June, when the story of Kirk Murphy and Dr. George Rekers' obscene, soul-wrenching "therapeutic" intervention into Kirk's psyche when Kirk was a boy hit the news, I wrote to note that Rekers enjoys all the rights and privileges of an emeritus professor at the University of South Carolina.  He is ensconced at a university fully accredited by the distinguished academic accrediting body, the Southern Association of Colleges and Universities (SACS).

SACS tells the public, in its accrediting guidelines, that its choice to accredit a university or remove accreditation from it depends on whether a school's academic life displays “integrity, thoughtful and principled judgment, rigorous application of requirements, and a context of trust.”

We have learned that Dr. Rekers was wildly wrong in his claims that his therapeutic intervention into the soul of young Kirk Murphy worked, and that he "cured" Murphy of his homosexuality.  Murphy, in fact, committed suicide as an adult.  But Rekers has built a distinguished career around the claim that he cured Murphy.

And to the best of my knowledge, the university at which he is now an emeritus professor--the University of South Carolina--remains fully accredited by and in the good graces of its accrediting overlord, SACS.  

And as I think about that fact, about how SACS claims to make integrity the lodestar of the academic accreditation process (along with thoughtful and principled judgment, rigorous application of requirements, etc.), I wonder precisely what integrity can mean for any academic accrediting body that permits one of its universities to give safe haven to a quack psychotherapist who promotes bogus "ex-gay" therapy that actively harms people.

And I keep asking myself this question, as Box Turtle Bulletin publishes one important story after another about Rekers' other claims of "cures"--the stories of "Wayne" and "Carl" and "Joan" and "Paul."  Reading these stories is stomach-churning: the cavalier lack of concern for the psychic integrity of these children, who were subjected to cruel reward-punishment mechanisms within their families and at schools, at Rekers' urging, to try to force the children to conform to his ideas of proper masculine or feminine behavior . . . .

Box Turtle is asking what happened to Wayne, Carl, Joan, and Paul, and whether Rekers' claims about "cures" in their cases have proven as wildly wrong as his claim about Kirk Murphy proved.  And for my part, as someone who has worked in several universities accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Universities, and who has seen that academic accrediting body persistently protect and defend institutions it accredits when anyone tried to expose the homophobia of these institutions, I intend to keep asking: 

How can SACS claim to be all about integrity when it accredits institutions that harbor scholars who promote dangerous homophobic claims about gay "conversion" therapy  that are widely discounted by all credible professional bodies in the medical and psychiatric fields?  If the Southern Association of Colleges and Universities really cares about integrity, academic or otherwise, shouldn't it be calling its member institutions to accountability when they sponsor scholars whose scholarly work has been proven to be based on misinformation if not outright lies, and which militates against SACS' fundamental principle of integrity?

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