University of Colorado at Boulder: Professor Threatened with Harassment Investigation, Forced Retirement Over Classroom Presentation


University of Colorado Boulder

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Case Overview

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On November 5, 2013, sociology professor Patti Adler presented a lecture on prostitution as part of her "Deviance in U.S. Society" course. A feature of the course for more than 20 years, the lecture included a skit involving volunteer teaching assistants dressed as and portraying prostitutes. In the weeks following that lecture, Adler was notified by Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences Steven Leigh that a former teaching assistant had voiced concern that the content of the presentation might have made some students “uncomfortable,” though no formal complaints about the class had been submitted. After university officials monitored Adler’s class, CU notified Adler that the course would be cancelled, and allegedly pressured her to retire. Amidst significant public outrage, CU then stated that Adler might be allowed to teach the course again in the future, pending a departmental review. After a faculty committee promptly approved Adler’s course for teaching, the university approved Adler’s return. On January 9, 2014, Adler announced that she would teach the course again in the coming semester.