National Post

May 10, 2002

Students say they fled professor's class in tears

'Oppressive' views: Henry Makow would invite confrontations, witnesses say at libel trial

Les Perreaux
National Post


Jeff Debooy, Canadian Press
Henry Makow was fired from university.

WINNIPEG - A controversial university professor struck fear into some of his students with his antiquated views, off-hand comments on domestic violence and imposing demeanour, four former students told a court yesterday.

Henry Makow, who is suing a local newspaper for libel, had no patience for opposing arguments and shouted at those who disagreed with him, the students testified.

They said Mr. Makow, a former University of Winnipeg professor who holds many anti-feminist views, asked sexual questions of some students.

One of the students said Mr. Makow is not anti-feminist, but anti-female, because he believes women should forgo careers and remain at home.

"It was oppressive. Only one person was doing the talking, only one view was being brought forth," said Lucy Dean, 57, a third-year sociology student.

Avital Feuer, another student, said she once left the room in tears after Mr. Makow screamed at her. "I was so upset and humiliated," she said. "Two other times I saw classmates leaving in tears. He picked out people in the class and he became extremely confrontational."

This view of Mr. Makow was in stark contrast to the testimony of seven other students, who earlier this week said that while his views were unusual, his class was among the most stimulating at the university.

Mr. Makow, the inventor of the board game Scruples, is suing The Winnipeg Sun over an article that claimed he was unprofessional and that he had bragged in class about beating a woman.

Mr. Makow taught on a one-year contract. It wasn't renewed in 2000.

He is also suing the University of Winnipeg for discrimination in a separate lawsuit, claiming he was not rehired because of his anti-feminist views.

Constance Rooke, the university president, testified yesterday that Mr. Makow was not offered a second contract because too many students complained about him.

"There was just no question of rehiring Mr. Makow. There were no deliberations. It was quite clear to the English department that they did not want to hire Mr. Makow," she said.

At times yesterday, it seemed impossible that Mr. Makow's critics were in the same classroom as his admirers.

Several students testified yesterday that Mr. Makow bragged that he slapped the woman across the face and performed kung fu moves on her. Marie Sampson, 29, said the students responded with a gasp.

During her testimony Ms. Sampson broke into tears, saying that such remarks were particularly offensive to her because she had been abused by a man.

Earlier this week, other students said Mr. Makow only mentioned a fight and that most students were receptive to his point.

In another incident, Mr. Makow was accused by several students of pointedly asking a young woman about the night she lost her innocence, humiliating her.

Several others said it was a rhetorical question to do with the loss of childhood innocence directed at the entire class.

According to Mr. Makow's critics, he made fun of devout Jews and Muslims for the way they dress. According to his supporters, Mr. Makow said religious dress may seem strange, but clothing is part of how devout people consecrate their lives to God.

Several of the women were offended when Mr. Makow said single mothers often produce children who are homosexual because boys in such families do not connect at a young age with men. He also said children of career women are also more prone to homosexuality.

Early in 1999, Mr. Makow was teaching a lesson on A Streetcar Named Desire. Mr. Makow told his students that some 30 years earlier, he had great makeup sex with a former girlfriend after a fight. His point, he testified, was that sometimes violence is a part of passion.

Court heard that many of Mr. Makow's harshest critics ended up with top marks in the class. Ms. Dean was the top-ranked student with an A.

lperreaux@nationalpost.com

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