Monday, December 16, 2013

Leiter "Another academic freedom catastrophe at the University of Colorado, Boulder"
If this description is accurate, then Dean Leigh, who is a biological anthropologist by academic training, is the one who should be summarily fired from his post as Dean. 
It is perhaps worth noting that Colorado is a state where Republican politicans have repeatedly pressured the University on a variety of issues; the consequences are now clear: administrators are doing the "dirty work" before it rises to the level of political controversy. What a disgrace.
Everyone involved is a disgrace.
Patricia Adler stunned her students in a popular course on deviance Thursday by announcing that she would be leaving her tenured position teaching sociology at the University of Colorado at Boulder.

...Adler said that the lecture in question has been part of her course for years, without incident. "It's the highlight of the semester in my signature course," she said.

She uses prostitution, she said, to illustrate that status stratification occurs in various groups considered deviant by society. She seeks volunteers from among assistant teaching assistants (who are undergraduates) to dress up as various kinds of prostitutes -- she named as categories "slave whores, crack whores, bar whores, streetwalkers, brothel workers and escort services." They work with Adler on scripts in which they describe their lives as these types of prostitutes.

...She said that Leigh told her that there was "too much risk" in having such a lecture in the "post-Penn State environment," alluding to the Jerry Sandusky scandal. Adler said that she was given the choice of accepting a buyout now, or staying but not teaching the course, and not giving the prostitution lecture, and to be aware that she could be fired and lose her retirement benefits if anyone complained about her teaching in the future.

The ultimatum stunned her, Adler said. She said it was a violation of her academic freedom to be told that she couldn't teach the lecture or the course. But she said she feared the impact of losing her retirement benefits if she stayed and got fired later. "This is health insurance my family depends on," she said.
Adler said that the incident showed that if a lecture makes anyone uncomfortable, the university will ignore common sense and worry more about "the risk" someone might be offended than whether this is information professors have a right to teach, and students have a right to learn.

"It's a culture of fear. It's the bureaucratization of the university," she said.
My one comment
Acting class as sociology and sociology as acting class; the students are the subjects of their own experiments. Does Boulder have a theater department?  Did the professor send any of her students out to talk to prostitutes? I hope at least they read transcripts of interviews. Acting students would do both. I knew a few who'd turn tricks as part of their research for a role. 
Academic "freedom" is a misnomer. It's not freedom if you wouldn't get the job. There were no academic classes in deviance in 1923.  
Academic independence means that once you're in, it's very hard to get rid of you just for being stupid. It's an important part of the academy, and necessary for any democracy.  But reading posts like this what I sense more than anything is the anger of an elite whose titles allow them permission to indulge in silliness. The academy is a bourgeoise institution. "Deviant studies" seems to imply I can't be a member in good standing of the demimonde without a graduate degree in decadence. I can't be a leftist without a Ph.D.  Adler may want to condemn "the bureaucratization of the university" but her career documents the academic bureaucratization of life.

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