Tenured Colorado Professor Pushed Out After Giving Lecture on Prostitution

"It was in no way offensive.... It was real,” said one student.

The campus of CU-Boulder.
Photo Credit: Wally Gobetz/Flickr

A tenured professor at the University of Colorado, Boulder, is being pushed out of her position after she delivered a lecture on prostitution.

The scholar, sociology professor Patricia Adler, had been giving the lecture to her class on deviance annually, Inside Higher Ed’s Scott Jaschik reports.  “It's the highlight of the semester in my signature course,” Adler told the publication, explaining that she uses the lecture to “illustrate that status stratification occurs in various groups considered deviant by society.” Different types of prostitutes--"slave whores,” “escorts,” and more--are employed to make the point.

But now the school is expressing its disapproval in a big way. A dean at the school told Adler that if she didn’t take the buyout the school was offering the tenured professor, she could be fired later and have her benefits terminated.  If she stayed, she would not be able to teach the course or the lecture on prostitution.

The dean, Steven Leigh, raised concerns that some students might be uncomfortable with the lecture.  But Adler says that no students have ever complained. Leigh told her that the lecture could not be given in a “post-Penn State environment,” a reference to the sexual abuse scandal involving football coach Jerry Sandusky.

A spokesman for the school hinted that Adler’s lecture should have been approved by a review board. But Adler says the board is used to approve research projects, not teaching.

Students of Adler’s, a beloved professor, are now mobilizing in opposition to the school’s decision.  “Patti Adler's deviance class was the best class I have ever taken. In particular, the interactive prostitution lecture was the most memorable and informative lecture I have ever experienced. It was in no way offensive.... It was real,” one student wrote on a petition meant to convince the Boulder school to keep her there.


Alex Kane is former World editor at AlterNet. His work has appeared in Mondoweiss, Salon, VICE, the Los Angeles Review of Books and more. Follow him on Twitter @alexbkane.

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