Jammie Price, a tenured professor of sociology at Appalachian State University, was suspended last month after showing a documentary about pornography in her introductory sociology class. She’s fighting the charges, saying the university is attempting to punish her for exercising her right to free speech in the classroom....It was an anti-porn documentary. But the students were not warned that these sequences were part of the movie. And there were other charges against Price.
Price said the film, which she checked out from the university library, was graphic at times but academically relevant to that week’s topic of gender and sexuality. A Wheelock College professor who helped make the movie said it was “ludicrous” to discipline an instructor for showing the documentary, noting that interviews with gender studies scholars figure prominently in the film, which is critical of the porn industry but also includes brief explicit scenes of porn.
According to the disciplinary letter, she "'made disparaging, inaccurate remarks about student athletes,' strayed from her syllabus, forced her political views on students, said she didn’t like working at the university and criticized the college for having an old white coal miner as its mascot."
Price, a tenured full professor, said she had originally planned a lecture for that day but decided to show the film instead after a student complained earlier in the week that Price was hostile toward athletes. That allegation, which was included in Price’s disciplinary letter, centered on a classroom discussion about sexual assault accusations leveled against Appalachian State athletes and a resulting campus protest....It sounds as though the film was experienced by the students as a form of retaliation for the students' resisting what they felt was political indoctrination. But so what? Are students entitled to feel comfortable?
Price said she feared the athlete who complained would think her lecture on gender and sexuality was a form of retaliation, so instead she decided to screen the film.
But it's usually the left side of the faculty that pushes for university rules and policies that protect the students from free expression that makes them feel bad. It's an interesting turnabout when a faculty member is suddenly confronting the students with shocking, sexually demeaning images. What happens to all the usual worries about sexual harassment then? And what if the professor really does feel hostile to the students, hostile to them because of their political viewpoint — specifically on the subject of the sexual subordination of women?
Gail Dines, a professor of sociology and women’s studies at Wheelock College, was a senior consultant for “The Price of Pleasure” and was interviewed in the film...Talking about.... Are images different?
While she said professors should warn students about the content of the film and tell them they can leave without any repercussions (something Price didn’t do), she can’t understand why Appalachian State is taking action against Price. “This is what education is,” Dines said. “You expose them to the reality of the world they live in and you use that exposure to develop a critical scholarly discussion in class, which is exactly what she did.”...
“Sometimes students are going to be uncomfortable,” Price said. “The material they learn isn’t always going to be rosy. They talk about racism, they talk about sexism. Nowhere does it say we’re supposed to make them feel good all the time. Talking about pornography is one of those examples.”
Let's flip the politics and try this hypothetical:
A law professor is conservative, and the students tip leftward. The subject has been abortion, and the students have manifested a staunch commitment to abortion rights and seem to reflexively reject any efforts to explore the rights or interests of the unborn entity. So the professor puts together the next day's Power Point slide show, beginning, in typical fashion, with case names and key quotes from cases. "At the heart of liberty is the right to define one's own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life."
Without warning, the next slide is a highly detailed picture of a delicate fetus sucking its thumb, with a quick click forward to the most gruesome dead-fetus photo the professor could find on the internet. The lecture continues, and the professor starts calling on students, requiring them to participate in Socratic dialogue — which counts for part of their grade. As individual students are speaking, trying to articulate the rationale in the abortion rights cases, the professor from time to time clicks back to a grisly or charming fetus photos.
The students go to the dean and complain. Questioned, the professor says: Students might like to feel comfortable, but this subject isn't rosy. Nowhere does it say we’re supposed to make them feel good all the time. Talking about abortion is one of those examples.
Discuss. Be consistent!