This article originally appeared in the Northwestern Chronicle.
"Judge not, that ye be not judged." --Matthew 7:1 KJV
Bearing those words in mind, I do not seek to dictate morality. I merely desire to promote constructive discourse on a matter that has garnered Northwestern University a great deal of attention recently.
I love liberty. I support an individual's positive liberty to engage in a wide variety of sex acts in the privacy of their own home. I support an individual, if they so desire, to employ power-tools in their pleasure seeking activities. I even support those with exhibitionist aspirations to perform in a strip club or other appropriate venue. What I cannot support, however, is the infringement on the negative liberty of Northwestern University students to not be unduly coerced by a Professor into watching a sex act.
Universities must draw a line as to what is acceptable in the classroom. It goes even further to dictate what Professors are able to "teach" students - be it part of a course, adjunct to a course, or unrelated to that Professor's field of expertise. It is for this reason that Professor Arthur R. Butz does not teach a seminar on Holocaust denial. It is the reason Professor Bernadine Dohrn does not promote a Weather Underground revivalist movement among the Northwestern student body. This line exists because of the coercive power held by Professors.
Professors are authority figures. Not only do they have direct authority over a student's academic success, but they are also regarded as experts in their respective fields. An invitation to a sex show from a Professor has significantly more coercive pull than that same invitation from a non-authority figure. No amount of caveats and warnings can reduce the high esteem in which a student holds a Professor. Not only does this beg the question of whether or not this violated the University's Sexual Harassment Policy (Pg. 46), as it clearly meets the standards of implicit coercion and matters of a sexual nature, but also where the boundaries lie for acceptable material in the classroom.
If this matter transpires without reprimand, the slippery slope leaves no telling what might be done next to "push the envelope." Is a field trip to a strip club educational? How about an optional homework assignment for sexually active students to try a new sex act? Based on the current logic that experience is educational, there would be no reason to prevent those from being adjunct activities to a course. And while we are racking up experience, why not let Professor Butz give a lecture on the Holocaust (or lack thereof as he might say). Sure, it will offend some people - but we'll just warn them in advance.