The Art of Darkness

ASU art professor Joe Young has spent four years telling the world he's the victim of institutional homophobia. But he's no victim. He's the incredibly persistent aggressor in a long, vicious game of smear-the-boss.

Joe Young was born and raised in Los Angeles. He can't recall a time when he didn't want to be an artist; his mother drew, and, he says, everyone in his family was artistic. He received his master's degree in art history from the University of California-Los Angeles, and worked for 15 years at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art as an assistant curator of drawings.

In the late '70s, Young accepted an offer to teach the history of art criticism at ASU. He bought the little brick house in central Scottsdale, where he still lives, and settled in to teach, write and paint.

The first 13 years of Young's time at ASU were uneventful, he says. He was granted tenure under then-art-school director Leonard Lehrer, eventually rising to the position of associate professor. Young was also named director of the Harry Wood Art Gallery.

In the late 1980s and early '90s, Young wrote art criticism for the Scottsdale Progress, until the paper's publisher refused to print a review critical of a show at Scottsdale Center for the Arts. (The publisher at the time was a member of the board of the Scottsdale Cultural Council, which oversees funding and operations of the Center for the Arts.)

Since the early '90s, however, Young hasn't had time to write art criticism. He has been busy writing grievances against Julie Codell and other ASU administrators.

On a recent morning, Young sips cappuccino in a downtown Scottsdale cafe and relates the story of those grievances. Initially, he is gracious and genteel, a 57-year-old man with wire-rimmed glasses, a bushy white mustache and thinning, silver hair combed carefully across his head. He smiles pleasantly, makes idle chitchat as papers are arranged and iced tea is stirred. He seems eager to make a new friend.

But as Young tells his story, anger spreads across his face, and the cadence of his speech quickens. After a while, he is spitting his words across the table.

His conversation, like his writing, is hard to follow.
But most of his complaints appear to center on what Young claims are the three major examples of homophobia in the ASU School of Art:

* The 1992 meeting in which, Young claims, Codell told him he was to be terminated. In university memorandums, Codell has repeatedly explained that she was misunderstood. She was, she insists, trying to give Young advance warning of possible budget cuts--advance warning that she was not required to give and that many "on the bubble" employees would appreciate receiving.

* The denial of tenure to Diana Hulick.
Hulick, a photography professor, was denied tenure in 1991. She and Young have claimed the decision was based on her sexual orientation--she is a lesbian--noting that she has been published extensively in her field and is regarded as a very good professor. Hulick sued ASU and settled out of court for an undisclosed sum. As part of the settlement, she is prohibited from speaking about her case, and she declined an interview request from New Times. ASU officials also declined to comment.

The public record does not include a finding that the tenure decision was based on her sexual orientation.

* The case of a former sculpture student in the School of Art who was brutally beaten in 1992. His assailant, a fellow art student, was also a karate teacher. A Tempe Police Department report details the fight: The two men, who were friends, drank a bottle of whiskey and a six-pack of beer each. Once intoxicated, they began practicing karate moves and the inexperienced student was severely injured.

Neither man could be reached for comment.
In his correspondence, circulated to literally hundreds of people, Young has repeatedly made the assertion that one student is bisexual, and the other beat him up because he is homophobic. There is no suggestion of such a motivation in the police report. Young's other documentation does not support the assertion, either. Yet Young insists that Codell and ASU have been negligent in their duties because they allowed the winner of the fight to remain at the university.

The remainder of Young's complaints focus on his own situation. And since the original discussion of his possible budget-related termination--which did not come to pass--Young's complaints have gone from the grand to the picayune. It is as though he must search harder and harder to find any shred of evidence that might be twisted to support his theory that he is a victim of discrimination.

In 1994, Young filed a grievance regarding an "unsatisfactory" performance review he had received. The grievance went all the way up the chain of command to ASU President Lattie Coor. Coor concurred with the grievance committee's conclusion: Young was not being discriminated against based on his sexual orientation. In the end, the review was re-evaluated, but the determination was the same: unsatisfactory performance.

The following year, Young filed another grievance, even though his performance had been officially rated "satisfactory." He believed he deserved a "high merit" rating. That complaint is still working its way through the university grievance system.

Young has complained about other things, too.
He says that, because he is gay, he was denied a research assistant at the Harry Wood Gallery.

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