Homework sometimes pushes students past their comfort zones, making public speaking or conducting interviews mandatory. But one student, who claims a college instructor ordered students to expose their masturbation habits to pass his class, said that crossed the line.
Karen Royce, a former Western Nevada College at Carson City student, filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Nevada against the school and course teacher claiming the teacher violated ethical and professional standards by requiring coursework that could constitute harassment.
Royce, of Zephyr Cove, Nev., also is suing the instructor's direct supervisor, Robert Morin, the psychology department head, and Carol A. Lucey, WNC's president.
A college student aspiring to take on a second career as a social worker, Royce, 60, enrolled in part-time instructor Tom Kubistant's Human Sexuality course last fall; according to the lawsuit, she felt "gaining knowledge as to psychological theories of human sexuality" would be "pertinent and necessary" to her chosen career path.
The lawsuit says the course was not as advertised, and instead Kubistant deviated from the 100-level course's syllabus with assignments that made her feel uncomfortable, even "forcing [her] to her bed crying" at night.
On the first day of class, the lawsuit says Kubistant informed students that "he will increase their sexual urges to such a height that they won't be able to think about anything other than sex."
The lawsuit said he assigned students to write "three journal entries of 250 words each before the next class disclosing their personal sexual thoughts" and explained that their final project for the class would be an assignment titled "A Sexual Case Study...You!"
That final assignment explicitly asked students to write about topics including, "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, phase, and what challenges were associated with that? Describe personal promiscuity behaviors. Do I cheat, and how do I feel about it? ..."
The lawsuit also says students were told to masturbate twice as much as they typically would in a week. When Royce told Kubistant that she did not masturbate, the lawsuit says Kubistant told her students must pleasure themselves and write about the experience in order to pass.
Royce is a victim of sexual abuse, and took issue with disclosing information about it. The lawsuit states:
[A]s a sexual abuse survivor, Plaintiff was horrified at the thought of reliving the sexual abuse endured as a child. Although Plaintiff knew sexual abuse would be discussed, and was ready for such topic and emotional response, Plaintiff had no awareness that she would be required to discuss her own abuse and experiences.
Royce's attorney, Ken McKenna, told The Huffington Post that his client did not complete the course, opting out during the semester because "she believed what the professor was doing was wrong and shocking."
McKenna said he hoped the trial and its investigation would reveal if Kubistant had perverted motives for asking students about their sexual ideas.
In an official statement sent to HuffPost, WNC said after receiving a complaint in October 2011 from Royce alleging "she was sexually harassed as a result of the course content and homework assignments in a Human Sexuality course," the college initiated an investigation. An investigator interviewed more than 20 students taking the course.
"The investigator found no evidence to support the student's complaint of sexual harassment. In fact, the investigator found that the instructor was considered to be an excellent and caring professor, who, with the exception of the student, appeared to be universally admired by other students who had taken the course," a statement from the college said.
"The investigator found that course content and class assignments could not be considered to be unwelcome in light of the fact that the class was an elective (not required), that all students were fully informed regarding the nature of the class, and all students had signed a waiver after they were fully informed about the course content."
The statement further adds that Royce voluntarily withdrew from the course after the fourth class, attending only a third of the classes.
WNC's Vice President for Human Resources and General Counsel Mark Ghan told HuffPost that Kubistant was a part-time teacher at WNC for seven years. During that period he taught the sexuality course about 20 times and never received a complaint about his professionalism, said Ghan.
"[The 20 interviewed] students disputed the allegations [Royce] made," he said. "What did the students dispute? As we understand, there was no requirement that students engage in masturbation for the course."
Kubistant's required the text "Human Sexuality," by Roger R. Hock, which Ghan said is used in a number of similar courses at other schools.
Debi Ridgeway, a former student of Kubistant and current WNC student, said on the phone Friday, she thinks the lawsuit is a "shame." "His class was a life-changing class," Ridgeway said, calling Kubistant a "great professor."
The college's statement also says it was informed that Royce filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights. The OCR received paperwork from WNC regarding the course materials and its investigation's findings.
The OCR, according to the statement, found the college's investigation into the matter to be "consistent with OCR's investigative and legal standards." That statement added that WNC's Curriculum Committee also reviewed and approved of the course's content.
The lawsuit seeks $75,000 or more in special damages, plus the same in general damages. According to McKenna, the trial will likely be about 12-18 months from now. The school stated it will seek to have the complaint dismissed.
Max Reinhart, a 65-year-old professor of Germanic and Slavic studies at the University of Georgia, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/08/max-reinhart-prostitution-charge_n_1582120.html" target="_hplink">was arrested and charged</a> with prostituting himself for $60 and for allegedly running a prostitution house. Reinhart allegedly posed as a woman named "Sasha" in the transexual escort services section of Backpage.com, a well-known classifieds website targeted by activists and law enforcement alike for its featured advertisements.
Firefighters <a href="http://www.nbcphiladelphia.com/news/local/Child-Porn-House-Fire-Ocean-County-137641883.html" target="_hplink">discovered child pornography</a> while putting out a fire at the waterfront home of 76-year-old Gamal El-Zoghby in New Jersey in January 2012. The <a href="http://www.foxnews.com/us/2012/01/19/fire-at-nj-professors-home-yields-cache-child-pornography/" target="_hplink">AP reported</a> that the firefighters were checking for hidden pockets of flame behind the walls by pulling down panels of sheet rock when a single magazine from the 1970s with pornographic images of pre-pubescent girls fell from behind one of the panels. The firefighters <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/23/gamal-el-zoghby-pratt-arc_n_1223593.html" target="_hplink">also found </a>60 to 70 vintage Playboy and Hustler magazines.
On the Friday after Thanksgiving, Stanford Professor Bill Burnett and his wife Cynthia <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/12/08/dad-arrested-underage-drinking_n_1137185.html" target="_hplink">hosted a party for their son and his friends</a> -- 16 and 17-year-olds -- to celebrate a football win. They bought chips and soda, but were clear about one rule: no alcohol allowed. Cops arrived, responding to a noise complaint and allegations that there was underaged drinking. Though the Burnetts insisted that there was no drinking, the police found alcohol that, they say, the teens snuck in. Burnett was arrested and charged with 44 counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor -- one for each teen at the party. Because of social host laws, parents are liable when underage kids drink on their property -- even if they're unaware that it's happening.
J. Wesley Boyd
J. Wesley Boyd, a psychiatrist who teaches at Harvard Medical School, and his wife, Theonia, a pathologist who also teaches at the medical school, were <a href="http://www.boston.com/news/local/breaking_news/2010/06/harvard_doctor.html" target="_hplink"> arrested at a party after </a>police alleged that underage drinking was happening. Boyd said he and his wife had told the students that there would be no drugs or alcohol allowed at the party. He also said he and his wife and another couple had monitored the party without seeing any alcohol. But several of the students admitted that they had been hiding the drinking from him.
In March, Wheaton College professor Donald Ratcliff <a href="http://www.christianpost.com/news/wheaton-college-professor-arrested-child-porn-handguns-found-70827/" target="_hplink">was arrested for allegedly </a>possessing child pornography and two unlicensed handguns. Ratcliff <a href="http://chicago.cbslocal.com/2012/03/01/wheaton-college-professor-faces-child-porn-charges/" target="_hplink">was charged with</a> two counts of Aggravated Child Pornography and was placed on administrative leave. He taught Christian education and child spirituality.
Mey Akashah, an instructor at the Harvard School of Public Health, pleaded guilty in Bermuda court on counts that she allegedly attempted to transport six grams of marijuana into the British territory by concealing it in her underwear. Drug-sniffing dogs alerted customs officials in the Bermuda airport that Akashah was carrying marijuana, <a href="http://www.thecrimson.com/article/2012/5/1/marijuana-harvard-instructor-bermuda/" target="_hplink">the Harvard <em>Crimson </em>reported</a>. Akashah said her doctor in California prescribed the cannabis for medical purposes following an operation.
Protests aren't just for students. In a demonstration protesting Gov. Andrew Cuomo's cuts to CUNY's senior and community campuses, 33 members of CUNY's Professional Staff Congress <a href="http://gothamist.com/2011/03/24/cuny_faculty_activists_arrested_out.php" target="_hplink">union were arrested </a>, in acts of civil disobedience.
Princeton University professor Cornell West was a big supporter of Occupy Wall Street and traveled to a few of the movement's camps. West was arrested in an act of civil disobedience with 18 others on the <a href="http://rt.com/usa/news/professor-cornel-west-people-037/" target="_hplink">steps of the U.S. Supreme Court </a>building in a demonstration against the <em>Citizens United</em> decision.
California State University economics professor Kenneth Ng openly admitted to being the scribe behind BigBabyKenny.com, a site that guides tourists through Thailand's sex trade. Ng <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/04/22/kenneth-ng-cal-state-prof_n_547516.html" target="_hplink">defended his blogging</a> on the site as "free speech."