An update to my previous update: The Boulder Daily Camera reports that on Wednesday, CU-Boulder administrators met with faculty in a 70-minute, closed-door meeting to discuss L’Affaire Adler and its broader ramifications for academic freedom, and then spoke to reporters afterwards. At the presser, the arts and sciences dean said—for the first time—that the “main concern” with Adler’s course was that “maybe there are cell phone videos being taken or other kinds of videos that would put students in a position where we didn't have consent on these issues.” He explained that “[w]ith any course involving something unusual, like photographing students, we ask for consent forms to be signed. For example, when we photograph someone in a theater rehearsal, they have to sign consent forms for this.” If so, the administration’s decision to send its Office of Discrimination and Harassment to sit in on Adler’s lecture (the Office found the skit to be a “risk” to the university) and the administration’s subsequent statements about the skit possibly constituting a hostile learning environment seem a bit odd, as does its decision to cancel the course for the spring.
Still, this explanation, if we credit it, partly explains why the skit would be of more concern today (and perhaps in recent years) than it was 20 years ago when Adler began teaching the course. The problem (today, at least) is not so much the “post-Penn State” world as the post-iPhone/Instagram world.
As if to prove the administration’s concerns about the dangers that modern technology poses for privacy, someone in the closed-door meeting leaked an audio of it to the Daily Camera, in which associate sociology professor Leslie Irvine called for the provost to resign for falsely “insinuat[ing] that professor Adler is under investigation for sexual harassment” in his Monday email.
During the same not-so-closed-door meeting, administrators told faculty that, “What we know based on our discussion with sociology is that there have been concerns expressed over the years, and unfortunately these concerns have not been dealt with in an effective manner.” The provost said he had (in the Daily Camera’s words) “concrete evidence of complaints from more than one student,” but would not say how many complaints when pushed by faculty.
Yet, despite this allegation of ineffective handling of student complaints about the course by the sociology department, the dean acknowledged that, the previous day, the administration had “reversed course” on its decision to preclude Adler from teaching the course this spring and had instead decided to leave that decision in the hands of…the sociology department. In order to “abide by the rules of self-governance and allow the sociology department to handle the issue internally,” the administration now says that the course can proceed if Adler agrees to a review of her course “by a group of her peers in sociology or perhaps by her sociology colleagues joined by other faculty colleagues from CU-Boulder.” The sociology department apparently voted to review the course if Adler requests it.
The Daily Camera reports that Adler hasn't yet decided whether to sign her retirement contract (due, she says, by Jan. 6) or allow the sociology department to review her course.