Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Analysis: Sex for credit

UW-Madison offers human anatomy classes, a course entitled “Couple Relationships” and Human Sexuality 103 — one of the most popular classes in UW’s sociology department.

But UW’s sexual education can’t compare to UC-Berkeley in offering hands-on experience.

Two days ago, a Berkeley class was suspended after allegations of students visiting strip clubs and witnessing their professor having sex. Needless to say, the curriculum of the male sexuality sections of Women’s Studies 198 is being evaluated. But it is unclear how the university will be able to regulate the course, one that does not receive university funding.

Berkeley has launched an investigation into the official content of the two-credit course since reports in the school’s independent student newspaper detailed an end-of-the-year outing to the Garden of Eden strip club, followed by a party at the home of an instructor last semester. “There, some of the students engaged in sexual activity,” an article in the Daily Californian reported.

Berkeley’s administration was not happy.

“Those sorts of activities are not part of the approved course curriculum,” Marie Felde, a university spokeswoman, said. “We need to find out what the situation is.”

The female sexuality version of the course is also under review. These courses are offered as part of Berkeley’s “democratic education” program, which the university sponsors, but does not fund. Student instructors are allowed to develop their own curriculum for the courses, which are offered for credit toward graduation.

How responsible is Berkeley for classes the school does not fund? If the school authorizes instructors to independently craft their section’s content, what do they expect from courses like “Blackjack” (in which students learn to count cards) and “Copwatch” (a course designed to teach students to “effectively assert their rights when interacting with police”)?

These courses spark students’ interest and are only general elective credits for Berkeley students. Although UW’s admissions office was unavailable for comment, it is worth considering if and how these credits would transfer to UW.

News articles published in the Daily Californian and Sacramento Bee do not mention the trip to the Berkeley strip club being mandatory.

UW women’s studies and sociology lecturer Sue Pastor said though she would never require her students to attend a strip club, she would allow — and even encourage — a student to attend one as part of an “ethnography of an unfamiliar place” observation assignment.

“If a student went to a strip club and was indeed just observing, they would fall into my class’ requirements,” she said.

Berkeley student Jessica McMahon told the Daily Californian that a group of students in the male sexuality class chose as their final project a trip to a gay strip club. Students watched instructors strip and have sex, the newspaper reported.

But this was not part of the course description, requirement or grade.

“It was just a fun, harmless get-together,” Christy Kovacs, one student involved, said. “Anything weird that did go on was kind of behind closed doors, and no one really knew about it.”

UW sociology professors say they carefully monitor in-class curriculum because anytime the course covers sexual material, people can be offended — both on the basis of morality or explicit content.

Likewise, UW officials do not regulate course content by “potential for offensiveness.” Free speech is given priority.

“There are lots of courses here that people could be offended by,” Pastor said. “Yes, people have taken issue with classes I teach.”

It does not appear that Berkeley students were offended by their voluntary participation in an orgy. On what basis can Berkeley regulate this class in the future? Certainly not on the grounds of upholding free speech.

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