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University of Colorado students got college credit for dressing up like hookers and pimps

December 18, 2013

Why didn’t they have a course like this when I was in college?

During the lecture, many of [UC-Boulder sociology professor Betti] Adler’s [undergraduate] teaching assistants portrayed prostitutes ranging from sex slaves to escorts, and described for the class their lifestyles.


During the skit, one of the actors playing a prostitute spoke in an Eastern European accent and said she’d been sold into sex slavery, Adler said.

Also during the skit, an actor portraying a male prostitute used the word “faggot,” Adler said, and the actor pretending to be a pimp said that “the bottom of his shoes would make a bitch’s face look like a wavy Lay’s potato chip.”

I’d want to play the sex slave with the Eastern European accent: “And zen zey chained me to ze bed….”

Indeed, Adler’s course, titled “Deviance in U.S. Society,” has been one of the most popular offerings on the UC-Boulder campus. But the fun ended on Dec. 16 when university officials announced that they were suspending Adler from teaching the course for a semester. The hookers-and-pimps skit apparently violated UC-Boulder’s sexual-harassment guidelines.

“In this case, university administrators heard from a number of concerned students about Professor Adler’s ‘prostitution’ skit, the way it was presented and the environment it created for both students in the class and for teaching assistants,” CU Provost Russell Moore wrote in an email to students, faculty and staff on Monday. “Student assistants made it clear to administrators that they felt there would be negative consequences for anyone who refused to participate in the skit. None of them wished to be publicly identified.”


According to Adler, one of her teaching assistants went to [Joanne] Belknap, the chair of the sociology department, earlier this fall about plans to present the prostitution lecture as a skit.

The teaching assistant worried that the undergraduates who portray prostitutes in the skit might feel uncomfortable talking to Adler if they didn’t want to perform. Those undergraduates are assistant teaching assistants, or ATAs, and receive credit for helping with lectures, administrative tasks and grading exams.

Belknap then went to CU’s Office of Discrimination and Harassment, Adler said, and two investigators from the office attended the Nov. 5 lecture on prostitution.

Adler, age 62, says that the university offered her an alternative to suspension from the course: a buyout in which it would pay two years of salary over five years if she took early retirement. The university denied any effort to force her into retirement–and on Dec. 17, it backed off from the suspension a bit, agreeing to let Adler teach “Deviance and U.S. Society” this coming spring if she revamped her prostitution lecture so as to pass a review before the semester begins.

My question is: What was asking students to dress up as prostitutes doing as part of a college curriculum in the first place? Why not just assign the students to listen to this?

Posted by Charlotte Allen


From → Uncategorized

One Comment
  1. Gene Lyons permalink

    This reminds me of the time Lynn Ryerson and Dayle Buckner wore saris, played sitar music, and served the pineapple slices and rose petals as part of their project on India. Mine was Ireland. I think I passed around a picture of a shamrock. It was 1957. We were in the eighth grade.

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