Tenured Colorado Sociologist Forced to Retire For Lecture on Prostitution?

Reports are coming in that a tenured sociologist at Colorado University – Boulder is being forced to stop teaching because of concerns about a lecture/skit about prostitution for a class on the sociology of deviance. Here’s one description of Professor Adler’s lesson:

The prostitution lecture is given as a skit in which many of Adler’s teaching assistants dress up as various types of prostitutes. The teaching assistants portrayed prostitutes ranging from sex slaves to escorts, and described their lifestyles and what led them to become prostitutes.

Senior Caitlin McCluskey, who was an assistant for Adler’s sociology class, performed as a prostitute during the skit earlier this semester.

She said all assistants were given the option of participating, and no one was forced to act in the skit. McCluskey said she was tasked with portraying an “upper-class bar whore” and wore a dress she already owned as a costume.

“I never felt pressured in any way,” McCluskey said. “I never felt uncomfortable. (The skit) was one of the main reasons I wanted to be come an (assistant) in the first place. It seemed like a lot of fun.”

As bad as the idea that a professor was forced to retire for a reasonably innocuous skit is, the rationale that Adler claims the University offered is even worse:

Adler told her students she tried to negotiate with the administration about leaving the skit off the syllabus. Administrators allegedly told Adler that in the era of sex scandals at schools like Penn State University, they couldn’t let her keep teaching.

So, because a university was grossly negligent in its duties to investigate allegations of sexual assault by coaches, a sociologist who finds engaging ways to teach about deviance is losing her job? Seriously? Is there anyone who rationally believes that such lessons would increase the possibility that a university will find itself involved in some kind of horrific sex scandal?

Grr. Argh.

Students have organized a petition in support of Professor Adler; it can be found here.



  1. mcmil

     /  December 15, 2013

    I believe CU Boulder is also the school that fired Ward Churchill, despite tenure, allegedly in response to comments he made on the 9/11 attacks. In that case, I believe that CU Boulder at least alleged an unrelated, serious-enough-to-pierce-tenure violation, which doesn’t seem to be happening here. Clearly unrelated incidents, but it bears mention that this is the second time in a decade that a professor has accused the U of inappropriate meddling. (Apologies if two versions of this comment get posted; WordPress is odd this morning)

  2. What the Fuck ?

  3. Do we know how CU is “forcing” her to retire? In the first story I read a day or so ago, a CU official said that he expected her to keep teaching.

    • There is definitely something weird going on here and I’m hoping we’ll see a follow-up story next week that clarifies the details. My sense is that something like this did actually happen, but I really don’t know what ‘forced to retire’ means in the context of a tenured professor. In the linked story, the statements of Prof. Adler (that this would be her last class) and of the admin (that she would continue teaching) seemed to directly contradict.

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