A longtime and tenured professor of sociology at University of Colorado Boulder is allegedly being forced to retire due to a lecture on prostitution that she has delivered for more than 20 years without incident.
According to “Help Patti Adler Stay At CU,” a Facebook page set up by CU students, Prof. Patricia Adler’s prostitution lecture — delivered as part of her “Deviance in U.S. Society” class — was reported by a staff member:
As I am sure you have all heard by now, the prostitution skit that she has done for the last 25 years was reported by a staff member. After hearing what happened from a faculty member, there were absolutely no bad intentions involved in what happened, and the person who initiated contact with administration is fighting incredibly hard to stop this as well.
Adler, who called the class “the highlight of the semester in my signature course,” described what goes on during the prostitution lecture to Inside Higher Ed:
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. During the lecture, Adler talks with them (with the assistant teaching assistants in character) about such issues as their backgrounds, “how they got into the business,” how much they charge, the services they perform, and the risks they face of violence, arrest and AIDS. The class is a mix of lecture and discussion, just like most classes, she said.
Many students who attended her current session said that during last Thursday’s lecture, Adler announced that she wouldn’t be coming back to CU-Boulder after winter break, that the current Deviance class would be her last she ever teaches at CU and that it wasn’t by choice, The Boulder Daily Camera reported.
However CU spokesman Mark Miller told the Daily Camera that Adler is still a “tenured faculty member at CU-Boulder and, as long as she remains at the university, we expect that she’ll teach along with her other duties.” Miller also stressed to Inside Higher Ed that “no one is forced to retire” at the University of Colorado.
Adler characterized the situation differently in an interview with Inside Higher Ed:
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.
Concerned students have set up an online petition demanding that CU-Boulder keep Adler on as a professor.
“Patti Adler is a professor in the Sociology Department at CU Boulder who teaches Deviance,” the petition reads. “In her lecture, she presented a skit about prostitution as an interactive learning activity. The university saw this as ‘inappropriate’ and decided to force a buyout upon her. The lecture was attempting to make a lesson about a deviant activity more interesting (considering that the class is indeed entitled ‘Deviance’). This petition will assist in presenting to the school’s administrators how important she is to the student body here, and how much of a poor decision we think this is by the school.”
Students supportive of Adler have also planned a protest for Jan. 3, 2014.