July 6, 2012

Did this "Human Sexuality" class amount to sexual harassment of the "hostile environment" kind?

A new lawsuit by a 60-year-old student, who dropped the class that required the students to write weekly journal entries about their sexual thoughts and practices.
According to the complaint, during the fourth week of class, the journal entry of student sitting next to Royce was discussed in detail....

The complaint contains plenty of other instances of such classroom occurrences (including Kubistant requiring students to masturbate “twice as often” and to journal about it).
The teacher had students sign a waiver at the beginning of the course, and Royce signed, but we're not seeing the text of the waiver. How far would you go in allowing teachers to use waivers to avoid liability in situations like this? Aside from the waiver, do you think what this teacher did should be dealt with through a lawsuit? Would you like to see this teacher stopped from teaching the class as he does (through some means other than a lawsuit)? Do you accept this approach to teaching the class as within the teacher's academic freedom? Do you want to know more about the facts, such as the tone of voice and the inflection that the teacher used when reading the students' journal entries out loud?

I got to that link via Above The Law, which makes much of the waiver and takes a flippant attitude toward the not-young woman:  "It’s kind of sad that she’s evidently made it all the way to 60 without reading the stuff she signs." If that's sad, you must be really, really sad. I'll bet you clicked yes without reading to at least 10 things in the last year, trusting the source — e.g., your school — and figuring that other people are making sure that there's nothing bizarre in it and that if there were anything bizarre, it would never be enforced.

62 comments:

Michael K said...

The instructor sounds weird. Assuming the class was not required, why not quit the first week when he locked the door and introduced some of the strange things he planned to do?

Comanche Voter said...

The instructor is a jerk--off

prairie wind said...

When did I begin early exploration of my genitals?
Describe any sexual abuse;
How did I lose my virginity?
Did I experience a homosexual outing or phase, and what challenges were associated with that?
Describe personal promiscuity behaviors;
Do I cheat and how do I feel about it?
How do I become sexually aroused?
What kind of foreplay arouses me?
Describe my climax patterns;
Describe my climax challenges;
What are my masturbation habits?
List all my sexual partners and describe the differences;
Have I ever had sexually-transmitted diseases?
Have I been raped or experienced any sexual coercion?
What kind of fetishes do I have?
What do I need to become more sexually satisfied?


This guy is sick. He should not be allowed to teach this class or any other.

Those questions in a therapy session are tough enough; in a classroom setting, abusive. I don't think it matters at all what his tone is or whether a waiver was signed. These questions are not questions a teacher asks a student.

Pogo said...

I want to know why college credit is offered for a totally useless class in a a completely useless topic.

More, I want to know why government-backed student loans pay the school and this teacher for a subject that is merely prurience and of no utility for employment outside of the university setting.

It is fraud on the US taxpayers.

Chip S. said...

Judging by his pic, this is the only avenue open to him to get women talking about sex.

MadisonMan said...

When I first read about this a couple days ago, the age of the student was left out, and I admit it colors my reaction.

I am so glad I do not work in the Social "Sciences" -- this professor seems very abnormal to me. How could anyone work with him? I wonder what rate my professor says about him.

Matthew Sablan said...

Can you even sign a waiver that says: "If you create a hostile work environment, I won't sue." I thought that there was a specific protection in contract law that meant that contracts that forced you to waive certain rights were unenforceable or something. For example, could I, as part of a contract for working under me, force people to waive their right to sue for sexual harassment? I don't think so. Is it different since the student isn't an employee?

bagoh20 said...

If it'a private room, they are adults and all want to be there, and they can leave anytime they want, what is there to sue about?

I would rule for her to win damages of $500,000 that she must pay to herself, and I want proof that the payment was made.

Thorley Winston said...

I agree with Pogo and would just add that it’s likely that those taking this course will expect forgiveness of their student “loans” when they discover that it’s unlikely to increase their employment prospects.

bagoh20 said...

Mathew, what about porn actors?

Bryan C said...

So basically a early-Internet Purity Test disguised as a college-level course. Yeah, that's useful.

The woman should be given her money back, at most. There was no harassment here. The class is still a dumb idea. If this dude wants to teach such a thing then he's perfectly free to do so without the college's involvement.

chickelit said...

According to the complaint, during the fourth week of class, the journal entry of a student sitting next to Royce was discussed in detail with it expanding into a discussion about anal sex – the journal entry disclosed an obsession with licking her boyfriend’s rectum.

Such learned behavior could explain the brown-stained teeth in the linked photo of the "teacher."

Chip S. said...

What if this class is a requirement for some degree program; say, counseling? It's easy to imagine a course with the exact same title that wouldn't involve writing about your own sexual experiences.

This class is obvious shit, but that doesn't necessarily mean that the students signed up for it looking to get freaky deaky.

Matthew Sablan said...

"Mathew, what about porn actors?"

-- I think it's different from the acting part and the creepy make-up guy copping a feel.

edutcher said...

If somebody wants you to sign something, run it past your lawyer.

Always.

bagoh20 said...

Why would we consider talk about sexuality to be harassment and discussion of the holocaust or war atrocity not harassing.

It's similar to drugs being fine to use to relive pain, but totally wrong is used to product pleasure. Isn't this just some ancient puritan response.

Palladian said...

the journal entry disclosed an obsession with licking her boyfriend’s rectum.

Given the anatomical position of the human rectum, that chick must have a long and strong tongue.

Tank said...

edutcher said...
If somebody wants you to sign something, run it past your lawyer.

Always.


May I never be behind you in the car rental line at the airport.

Matthew Sablan said...

Though, I guess, four weeks, was it? She could've walked away earlier with no skin off her nose. It seems silly to sue over; but I think the waiver is probably not even enforceable anyway. Maybe? I don't know. It could've been solved by just walking away or complaining to the dean that the class was... awkward. Suing really should be a solution of last resort. Like violence.

Chip S. said...

Why would we consider talk about sexuality to be harassment and discussion of the holocaust or war atrocity not harassing.

Look at the list of questions in prairie wind's 8:40 comment. Being compelled to write and talk about every aspect of your personal sex life is a tiny subset of "talk about sexuality".

And if an instructor in a class about the law of warfare forced a holocaust survivor to discuss every single aspect of her life in Auschwitz when she did not want to, that would be wrong.

Palladian said...

I think it would be fun for commenters at Althouse to answer that list of questions!

Pogo said...

1. Some University level classes should not be able to be paid for by student loans because they are frivolous, useless, or destructive. This is one such class.

2. A teacher has power over students, whether or not they are adults. This teacher is abusing that power.

3. The leftist view of human sexuality is that the absence of shame is liberating, so there is no reason to avoid discussion of all your behaviors. Wanting privacy is considered deviant.

4. Doubtless this has been raised before, but ignored. Do you think parents footing some of these bills might want to know what they are paying for?

AJ Lynch said...

Society has become rather loose in using the term "professor" to describe some college instructors.

This guy has a website that claims he is a sports psychologist. The site uses a pic of him that is about 20 years old. And now he is teaching a sex course as a part-time instructor and the media calls him "professor". Althouse should be bothered by that.

Marshal said...

"How far would you go in allowing teachers to use waivers to avoid liability in situations like this?"

Nowhere at all. But the class still isn't a hostile environment. I couldn't reach the lawsuit behind the article, so I'm not clear on what remedy the student is seeking. But she dropped the class, presumably she was refunded. That should be the end of the story.

This narrative pushes the sexually obsessed professor angle, but I suspect that's just the presentation. I took a similar class and the purpose was expressly political: day one the activist lecturer stated her purpose was to expand our understanding of "normal". It was largely an attack on anyone who believes sexuality is personal in the service of gay-norming. It's political activism masquerading as academia, which essentially means this class is no different from the rest of university social science classes (excluding economics).

Compare these types of classes to football. Both are distractions from what academics believe are the core missions of universities. Yet one is attacked relentlessly while the other is promoted and fetishized. The reason for the disparate treatment is that football creates a non-leftist rallying point in the university while sexuality creates an opportunity for activist academia to break student links to their non-academic culture.

fleetusa said...

Assuming a student participated fully the information provided about the student's sex life, would the information be protected from discovery in a subsequent legal proceeding - criminal, marital, civil, etc.?

Chip S. said...

Has she ever said she was bothered by the media calling Obama a "professor"?

God, An Original A-hole said...

Okay, so this was at Western Nevada College, which until five years ago was a community college.

And it apparently was a credit course for some sort of "social science" degree... There's no mention of this particular course being mandatory with respect to that credential, so I assume it wasn't.

What if, instead, the course were being taught on the weekend, for personal "enlightenment" only, at some non-degree-granting New Age "educational institution"?

I don't think anyone would consider it to be sexual harassment in that setting. In fact, it would be difficult to find anything at all wrong with the "course"... you might not like it, but then you probably won't head off to New Age Land for the weekend.

It's the credential and the implicit expected professionalism that gives the claim any credence at all.

Chuck66 said...

Ladies and gentlemen. You tax dollars at work. And I had to borrow $36,000 to get my MBA so schools could subsidize stupid-ass courses like this.

edutcher said...

Tank said...

If somebody wants you to sign something, run it past your lawyer.

Always.


May I never be behind you in the car rental line at the airport.


Bet I have fewer legal problems.

bagoh20 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Chuck66 said...

This instructor reminds me a bit of a neighbor of mine. A fine lady..divorced, about 50 years old. But when the neighbors get together to socialize, she occassional asks very personal sexual questions.

"Hey, lets go around the table and each talk about how we lost our virginity". "Lets each describe the crazyest place we have had sex".

She is kind of the female version of the dirty old man.

Triangle Man said...

@Chuck66

What makes you think your tuition dollars went to support another program? Business schools pay high salaries to their faculty, staff, and administrators. They also tend to have expensive modern high-tech facilities. They also charge out the wazoo because suckers like you will pay it. MBA tuition is demand driven. Unless, of course, you are getting good value out of you degree and do not regret the decision to borrow money to get it. In which case, your original point is moot.

bagoh20 said...

"If somebody wants you to sign something, run it past your lawyer."

From my experience, the result would include referrals to other lawyers , a four figure bill, and the eventual recommendation along the lines of: "Well, you could sign it or not , but you just have to accept the risks". Lawyers are the most unsatisfying service providers I ever used for anything.

I put them just below strippers in in this regard. You pay for something you hope to get, you never get it, and you walk away without it. Strippers are cheaper, and there's beer.

In this way, law school is perfect training for being a lawyer. The university gives exactly the same experience to their students.

In fairness, the problem is not so much that the lawyers plan to rip you off, it's just that they believe and imply they can do things they can't, i.e. protect you from other lawyers and their documents, and taking the risks of signing them.

traditionalguy said...

The Teacher in this case is an evil manipulative son of a bitch that deserves to be fired and banned from teaching anyone again...except maybe at Penn State's adolescent summer camp where he would be a step in the right direction.

Sexual morality may be a nuisance that can be used wrongly, but it has a necessary place in a civil society that is based upon self restraint. But he is trying to remove all self restraint in sexual matters which then loses people's restraint in most other matters.

Palladian said...

Some University level classes should not be able to be paid for by student loans because they are frivolous, useless, or destructive.

And who will make those determinations?

Sounds like a good reason for the creation of another Federal agency, eh Pogo?

Chuck66 said...

Triangle, my point is that subsidy dollars should go more towards hard sciences, including business. Less towards "studies" departments.

At my school, a 3 hour and 20 minutes class session took in about $19,000 in tuition. (60 students, $105 an hour, 3 hours 20). Ever look at a catalogue of classes and degrees at a large (or small) university?

MadisonMan said...

And who will make those determinations?

A whole slew of administrators, of course!

An Assistant Provost will be helped by assistant deans in each College, and those deans will have secretaries and support personnel as well.

How else are you gonna employ Sociology or Ed. Psych. PhDs?

Tank said...

Ed

Would be an interesting comparison.

I suspect you're wrong. As a lawyer myself, I have very few legal problems. I pretty much know how to work things out, if it's possible. I am a "legal problem" avoider.

Lyssa said...

We really need a cause of action for "educational malpractice." I'm leaning towards the opinion that hostile environment isn't right here, but so-called education providers need to be held responsible for teaching dreck.

edutcher said...

Yes, but I'm a civilian.

bagoh20 said...

Why don't they just keep the journals anonymous. It would be just as instructive without all the creepiness.

Wally Kalbacken said...

One of my favorite Georgia Supreme Court decisions from about 20 years ago, in a contract setting, contained this gem: "Those with the ability to read, have the duty to read."

The Unknown Pundit said...

From the linked article:

According to the complaint, Kubistant then informed the class that he will increase their sexual urges to such a height that they won’t be able to think about anything other than sex.

I already think about sex too often as it is, so it would be imprudent for me to take the course. I would end up missing meals, parties, christenings and funerals, etc. never getting anything done otherwise.

But seriously.....

While I assume the purpose of this course to learn about human sexuality, I'm not sure asking students to keep journals or write about their own sexual histories is truly helpful in that cause.

With that said, I can understand the discomfort of this woman, but I'm not convinced she was harrassed.

Besides we've got enough goddamned social workers anyway.

edutcher said...

bagoh20 said...

Why don't they just keep the journals anonymous. It would be just as instructive without all the creepiness.

Yes, but that would eliminate the fun of humiliating people.

Triangle Man said...

At my school, a 3 hour and 20 minutes class session took in about $19,000 in tuition. (60 students, $105 an hour, 3 hours 20). Ever look at a catalogue of classes and degrees at a large (or small) university?

Are you mainly concerned about the federal subsidy of student loans that pay the tuition? Do you think the government should exert more control over the types of majors and classes that students take if they accept subsidized loans? Sounds like a nightmare to me. Maybe I misunderstand.

Feds seem to be moving in the opposite direction, cutting targeted funding for foreign language training programs, and the State cutting education funding in general.

Triangle Man said...

Why don't they just keep the journals anonymous. It would be just as instructive without all the creepiness.

I agree. Reminds me of a photography class I took where the prof only gave As for nude self-portraits from female students. Everything else was "trite".

Titus said...

One of the students wrote about licking her boyfriend's ass.

That poor boyfriend, how embarrassing.

It sounds like he gets off on reading this stuff.

It's sad when people can't have sex and instead have to resort to this kind of shit.

tits.

Pogo said...

"And who will make those determinations?"

I'd do it for free.
It'd take maybe 5 minutes.

Saint Croix said...

What would be hilarious is if Catherine MacKinnon got sued for shit like this.

Or the Vagina Monologuers! Let's all sue the Vagina Monologuers for harrassing us with their vulgarities.

I can see Anita Hill, all tearful and upset after a Vagina Monologue performance. "Pubic hair! She said pubic hair!" And all the Senators say "poor baby."

By God this tort can bite me. Can you imagine Anita Hill in medical school? She would run screaming from the building. "Pubic hair! I saw a pubic hair!"

Quit the fucking class, you don't like the class. That's what I did. Are you trapped? Are you chained down? And why the fuck are you suing the university instead of the professor? How weird that you skip over the perv and sue the people with money. Almost like it's a bullshit tort and you just want money for nothing.

Why the fuck should the tuition of every other student go up so that we can give money to you? Drop the fucking class! It's self-correcting!

Titus said...

I don't care or want to hear about others sexcapades.

They should be private and personal.

tits

AJ Lynch said...

Palladian:

I don't see Pogo's proposal as a problem.

We could establish a Middle Class Task Force [like Obama did] but this time we actually fill it with people from the middle class like cops, firemen, teachers, college profs, cab drivers etc.

They could weigh the sensibility of some of these courses. Afterall, they are the ones who will be getting the tuition bills for their kids.

Donna B. said...

Titus! Best comment ever.

AJ Lynch said...

And while we are at it, downsize Fed's Dept of Education by limiting its role to setting standardized test standards and gathering and publishing good, solid data on student achievement on those standardized tests.

Marshal said...

"AJ Lynch said...
We could establish a Middle Class Task Force [like Obama did] but this time we actually fill it with people from the middle class like cops, firemen, teachers, college profs, cab drivers etc.

They could weigh the sensibility of some of these courses. Afterall, they are the ones who will be getting the tuition bills for their kids."

We should emancipate the universities from the states and place the net funding in the hands of the students and parents. Those who want to spend extra to go to activist universities would certainly be able to do so. Those who prefer education to indoctrination would be able to find that also.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

George Will once wrote that certain jobs ought to be off-limits to people eager to take them. Like "Sex Educator." And "Ambassador to the United Nations."

karrde said...

@Marshall
But she dropped the class, presumably she was refunded. That should be the end of the story.

Various colleges and Universities have tightened the window on drop-with-full-refund lately. The University I attended (1998-2003) shortened that term from 3 weeks to 1 week during my attendance.

As in, if the class was not dropped within the first week, less than half the tuition was refunded. After the third week, no refund was offered for dropped classes.

I don't know if this particular University did that; but I suspect that most Universities don't give any refund for dropped classes after week 4.

Marshal said...

karrde,

I still don't think it supports a lawsuit. Presumably the information about when she needed to drop the class to get a refund was available. Nothing in the accusations shows she was targeted. She just wasn't comfortable with the subject matter. She should have understood her boundaries better.

I do agree nothing like this class should ever be required for any degree program. But as long as there's no material consequence for dropping (I consider eliminating someone's chosen career path to violate this tenet) don't complain about your decision to stay.

William said...

I think his asking the male students to masturbate twice as much shows a flawed understanding of the dynamics of male masturbation......I would be interested in conducting that survey with Victoria Secret models. With other people much less so. Lenny Bruce talked about older houswives who wore housedresses that you could see through that you didn't really want to see through them. This kind of transparency rarely reveals titillating information.....Ok, it's kind of interesting that someone would like to talk about her fixation with licking assholes to a group of relative strangers. I think this woman does not need to be freed from her inhibitions, but instead needs to develop some boundaries. There should be a course in Prissy Thinking for such people.

Synova said...

A person always has the right to say "no" about sex stuff even after they said "yes" and even if they signed something that said "yes."

And I really can not imagine a teacher getting away with what is described except with kids right out of high school that don't know any better.

Synova said...

Didn't some middle aged guy get expelled from school for writing in his required stream-of-consciousness journal something or other about the teacher's attractiveness?

Synova said...

It doesn't say what the waver said.

I had a class last fall that started every lecture with a disclaimer... today's lecture involves graphic sex and violence. The first two classes of the semester the professor explained and asked anyone who had a problem with it to drop the class. But she still had the warning, every time.

So... what does that *mean* that there will be discussions and pictures of graphic sex and violence? And there certainly *was*. What it meant was discussions of the symbolism involved in the size of Zeus's penis, pictures of phallic statues, and drawings of satyrs, as well as all the sexual motivation of the gods, Zeus Juice, Aphrodite springing to life from the semen of Cronus's severed penis, etc., etc.,

The warnings were appropriate, as was the actual class material.

Anyone taking a human sexuality class would reasonably expect to discuss sex in detail and explicitly. They might even expect it to get personal, who can say? Discussions are discussions and can go anywhere.

But unless the waver said... this class will require you to publicly share the details of your sexual abuse with the class or you won't get an A... it lied.

And I doubt even a 18 year old just out of high school would agree to that, if they were informed up front that was going to happen.

Go along with it, as the whole class seems to go along with it, because it is *implicitly* acceptable to everyone? That's a different sort of story because by then you've got some pretty strong social pressure involved not to be the one who stands out by objecting.

Gmama said...

I wonder what would happen if a devout Muslim woman was in the class. I would guess the study of Human Sexuality (which I don't consider this course to be) would be needed for gynecology and other disciplines. This class was an exercise in biographical pornography. Why aren't liberal faculty interested in protecting this woman, after all, sexual assault is a huge topic on campus, and weren't these students forced to participate in sexual activity (masturbation) at the will of the professor? Is this not the ultimate power differential?

How about an economics class which forces students to get a job and turn their earnings over to the professor along with a journal about the work experience.