Tuesday, December 17, 2013

CU-Boulder Retracts IRB Claim

The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that Mark Miller, the University of Colorado at Boulder spokesman who had earlier suggested that professors should consult the IRB before teaching controversial subjects, has retracted that suggestion.

[Peter Schmidt, “U. of Colorado’s Response to a Gritty Lecture Worries Sociologists,” Chronicle of Higher Education, December 17, 2013. http://chronicle.com/article/U-of-Colorados-Response-to-a/143653/. (gated)]

According to the Chronicle:

Mark K. Miller, a university spokesman, initially responded to questions raised by Ms. Adler's treatment by suggesting that it might have been best for her to run her skit plans by an institutional review board.

He clarified on Monday that Steven R. Leigh, dean of the university's College of Arts and Sciences, had raised the question of whether it might be appropriate for a review board to pass judgment on such an activity, but the university recognizes that such boards are established to oversee human-subjects research, not teaching.

Instead, the university will rely on the claim that the use of offensive words and references to violence in a classroom constitute a hostile work environment:

The skit was performed this fall largely as it had been in past semesters, but the audience was slightly different in that it included representatives of the university's Office of Discrimination and Harassment.

In a December 10 memorandum to Ms. Adler, Llen Pomeroy, that office's manager, pointed out three aspects of the performance that were later discussed with Ms. Adler as problematic: a student playing the role of a straight male streetwalker repeatedly used the term "faggot," a student playing a pimp made joking references to how he beats women, and a student portrayed a Latvian "slave whore" in a manner that might have offended students from that nation or other parts of Eastern Europe.

The letter from Ms. Pomeroy acknowledged that her office had not formally investigated the performance because no one had formally complained about it, and that "this is the first time concerns have been raised to our office about your class or the prostitution skit."

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