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Activity “adverse to the interests of the university”?
March 16, 2011 7:58 AM   Subscribe

Professor Sheila Addison was fired from John F. Kennedy University for performing in a burlesque revue. Steven Stargardter, president of the university, said that her actions brought “public disrespect, contempt and ridicule to the university”, although she never publicized the show on campus, discussed it with students or identified her affiliation with JFK when she performed. Meanwhile, a male colleague in another department was performing at the same time in a one-man show in which he was partially nude, and he publicized his show on campus and invited students and colleagues. He was not disciplined.
posted by kyrademon (132 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite

 
I'm not a lawyer, but I think that college made a big mistake.
posted by empath at 8:01 AM on March 16, 2011 [16 favorites]


He was not disciplined.

I was surprised. Were you surprised? I was surprised!

/Eddie Izzard
posted by lydhre at 8:01 AM on March 16, 2011 [14 favorites]


John F. Kennedy University appears to have brought public disrespect, contempt and ridicule upon itself.
posted by b1tr0t at 8:04 AM on March 16, 2011 [43 favorites]


yup. she definitely has a case.
posted by liza at 8:05 AM on March 16, 2011


Oh, good, I needed more rage today.
posted by Shutter at 8:06 AM on March 16, 2011 [10 favorites]


We will have accomplished something societally when it's generally agreed that the actions of the administration officials engaged in activity adverse to the interests of the university, and when behaviors like that of said officials brings down “public disrespect, contempt and ridicule to the university”.

As a member of the public, I'd like to cast my vote for "disrespect, contempt and ridicule" of the university.

And I need to get down to SF to see the Hubba Hubba Revue more often.
posted by straw at 8:06 AM on March 16, 2011 [3 favorites]


Wow. Burlesque is considered too risque? What an embarassment.
posted by molecicco at 8:07 AM on March 16, 2011 [5 favorites]


This is an outrage! Nothing bearing the name John F. Kennedy should be associated with indulging in sexual activity!
posted by geoff. at 8:07 AM on March 16, 2011 [99 favorites]


She didn't have tenure. Did he?
If so this seems to be more of a labor issue then a gender issue.
posted by Stagger Lee at 8:07 AM on March 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


I guess I would find it more offensive had it been better.
posted by Samizdata at 8:07 AM on March 16, 2011


It's certainly unfair, and I hope she takes legal action. But the most interesting thing about this, to me, is that I learned that there is a John F. Kennedy University.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 8:08 AM on March 16, 2011 [5 favorites]


Guessing their theater department isn't ripe with admissions.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 8:09 AM on March 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


If so this seems to be more of a labor issue then a gender issue.

How so? There seems like plenty of gender-rooted context here.
posted by Think_Long at 8:09 AM on March 16, 2011 [7 favorites]


I learned that there is another act named "Professor Shimmy and Twinkletoes McGee" so I'm going to have to speak to my agent and come up with a new name.
posted by longbaugh at 8:10 AM on March 16, 2011 [2 favorites]






How so? There seems like plenty of gender-rooted context here.


The post frames this as a gender issue.
Man does something and gets away with it. Women does similar thing and is punished!

The presence or lack of tenure is what allows the firing. If she had tenure, she'd also still have a job. It seems to me that a caste system seems to be appearing between the vanishing tenured profs and the all too common contracted ones. And as tenure vanishes, so do all of the cherished protections that come with it.

...but if you still want to get your feminism on, you could compare the numbered of tenured men to tenured women. (I'm not sure what you'd find, but I have my suspicions.)
posted by Stagger Lee at 8:13 AM on March 16, 2011 [7 favorites]


One of the biggest downsides to living in the future, in my opinion, is that nobody gets to have a secret life anymore.
posted by padraigin at 8:14 AM on March 16, 2011 [15 favorites]


Maybe if she used the name Constable Shimmy? "Professor" seems to be playing off her real job.
posted by three blind mice at 8:14 AM on March 16, 2011


RobotVoodooPower: "Guessing their theater department isn't ripe with admissions"

I was thinking that too. I've seen student theater productions at state schools (Pitt and Penn State) with full frontal nudity and no one got upset.
posted by octothorpe at 8:15 AM on March 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


There's probably already a Constable Shimmy, a Judge Shimmy, Dog Catcher Shimmy...
posted by longbaugh at 8:16 AM on March 16, 2011


longbaugh: "There's probably already a Constable Shimmy, a Judge Shimmy, Dog Catcher Shimmy.."

We call it "The Aristocrats".
posted by ShawnStruck at 8:17 AM on March 16, 2011 [15 favorites]


Hope she takes them to the cleaners.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:18 AM on March 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


just for clarification, this is John F. Kennedy University, a private college in Pleasantville, CA and not Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government
posted by Jon_Evil at 8:19 AM on March 16, 2011 [4 favorites]


Samizdata: I guess I would find it more offensive had it been better.

Wait, so since the quality of the show doesn't live up to your subjective standards, you don't really care that she got fired over it? Because she sort of deserved it because it was so bad? That's a really shitty and offensive thing to say.
posted by coraline at 8:22 AM on March 16, 2011 [3 favorites]


Wait, so since the quality of the show doesn't live up to your subjective standards, you don't really care that she got fired over it? Because she sort of deserved it because it was so bad? That's a really shitty and offensive thing to say.

It's a joke. Not everything needs to be super serious all the time.
posted by empath at 8:26 AM on March 16, 2011 [16 favorites]


To add insult to the injury, her performance was done in the character of Marilyn Monroe.
posted by schmod at 8:26 AM on March 16, 2011 [3 favorites]


Oh snap!
posted by stormpooper at 8:29 AM on March 16, 2011


I thought burlesque spelled it "Perfesser."
posted by klangklangston at 8:30 AM on March 16, 2011 [3 favorites]


I seem to recall that you can pretty much be fired for any reason in CA, barring contractual provisions to the contrary (e.g., tenure). So she may have no case to speak of. IANAL / don't live in CA, so YMMV.

Re. the quality of the revue, and the shockingness or lack thereof of burlesque, I'm still sort of stuck in the "wait, this can't be real, she was fired for being in a BURLESQUE review?" loop. That's a bit like being fired for appearing in community theatre. Actually, it's exactly like being fired for being in community theatre, since that's what this was. ('Cept it happened to have boobies. And men acting gay.)
posted by lodurr at 8:32 AM on March 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


Damn. I thought this happened at Harvard.
posted by phaedon at 8:32 AM on March 16, 2011


The presence or lack of tenure is what allows the firing. If she had tenure, she'd also still have a job

You're looking at the "how", not the "why". They're separate issues methinks.
posted by Think_Long at 8:34 AM on March 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


I've never been to a burlesque show because that kind of thing gives me the heebie-jeebies, but what the heck is wrong with her doing that in her off time? I know universities are prone to acting as if the lives of students and staff are theirs to do with as they please, but you would think that even this action might warrant a pause before proceeding.
posted by adipocere at 8:34 AM on March 16, 2011


The presence or lack of tenure is what allows the firing.

Just because she's untenured doesn't mean they can fire her willy-nilly.

I'm not an employment lawyer, but the wikipedia article on just cause lays out these tests:
Daugherty's seven tests are as follows:

* Was the employee forewarned of the consequences of his or her actions?
* Are the employer's rules reasonably related to business efficiency and performance the employer might reasonably expect from the employee?
* Was an effort made before discharge to determine whether the employee was guilty as charged?
* Was the investigation conducted fairly and objectively?
* Did the employer obtain substantial evidence of the employee's guilt?
* Were the rules applied fairly and without discrimination?
* Was the degree of discipline reasonably related to the seriousness of the employee's offense and the employee's past record?
posted by muddgirl at 8:34 AM on March 16, 2011 [9 favorites]


I seem to recall that you can pretty much be fired for any reason in CA, barring contractual provisions to the contrary (e.g., tenure). So she may have no case to speak of. IANAL / don't live in CA, so YMMV.

According to the article her contract stated that they required just cause for termination.
posted by papercrane at 8:35 AM on March 16, 2011 [3 favorites]


The HubbaHubba Revue is great. We've been a few times. Meetup, anyone? We can play "spot your college professor."

Bonus for a certain kind of geek: their SF shows are at the DNA Lounge.
posted by gingerbeer at 8:36 AM on March 16, 2011 [3 favorites]


It's a joke. Not everything needs to be super serious all the time.

It's a joke in bad taste, certainly.
posted by odinsdream at 8:37 AM on March 16, 2011 [3 favorites]


I seem to recall that you can pretty much be fired for any reason in CA, barring contractual provisions to the contrary (e.g., tenure). So she may have no case to speak of. IANAL / don't live in CA, so YMMV.

Luckily for everyone who read the article, they covered this specifically. Perhaps you should read it.
posted by odinsdream at 8:38 AM on March 16, 2011 [6 favorites]



Just because she's untenured doesn't mean they can fire her willy-nilly.

Well barring a lengthy court battle it sort of does, but I think that we can agree that it shouldn't.

I'm not saying that these people shouldn't be taken to task or that they aren't sexist. I'm saying that solving the tenure issue would allow people like her to actually push back against their employers, without having to go through a lengthy court battle or lose their jobs.

Her lack of tenure didn't cause did this to happen, but it certainly did allow this to happen. An empowered worker is harder to fuck around with.
posted by Stagger Lee at 8:39 AM on March 16, 2011


Stagger Lee: "Man does something and gets away with it. Women does similar thing and is punished!"

There are actually a bunch of differences which should theoretically make the punishment in the former case worse: it took place in school facilities on school time and is actually sexually explicit. The latter is none of those things.

But, the differences between the institutions are telling. Northwestern is a traditional liberal arts school steeped in the tradition of academic freedom and, in theory, overseen by a board that has at least some adherence to those ideas. JFK University was founded in 2001 and is oriented primarily to non-traditional students - hence, the company-type ethos is probably much more prominent in their minds, even for a non-profit.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 8:39 AM on March 16, 2011 [4 favorites]


Surely it massively matters what the one-man show the male colleague did actually consisted of? I'm not sure I'd want to get in to a debate about the gender politics/sexual politics of burlesque, but there does seem to be at least the possibility that 'being nearly naked' isn't a single category of behaviour which is exactly the same for all people in all circumstances.

It may well be the case that what the unnamed colleague was doing was easily as 'disrespectful' as a burlesque performance - but without detail, it's impossible to judge, right?
posted by AFII at 8:40 AM on March 16, 2011 [3 favorites]


Luckily for everyone who read the article, they covered this specifically. Perhaps you should read it.

Specifically? No they did not. They used the regionally-dependent and legally-vague term "just cause." So, get off your high-horse and bite me.
posted by lodurr at 8:41 AM on March 16, 2011


...you could compare the numbered of tenured men to tenured women.

Yes, I suppose you could do that.

</derail>
posted by erniepan at 8:41 AM on March 16, 2011


I thought I recognized the name--JFK University (the California one) is currently "affiliated" with National University. I remember when National became affiliated with JFK because it was around the time that the National University Golf Academy began airing ads on televised PGA tournaments.

National University, which considers its peer institutions to include the University of Phoenix. National University, which has a faculty that consists almost entirely of adjuncts (there are a few professors who make it to full time status, but I'm not sure if they have tenure, exactly). National University, which draws most of its students from the military, recent immigrants, and other busy folks (it runs classes year round, and the model is one class "intensively" for a month at a time). National University, which does not treat its employees well as a whole but damn, the headquarters in La Jolla are nice. National University, where the classes are one teetering step above diploma mills.

Now, JFK is not National (though I did hear some rumors at the time that it was brought in to lend some credence to the academic credentials of the NU System, especially as NU is currently going through re-accreditation). But it is affiliated, in some way, with NU.

To say I'm unsurprised that this professor, stuck in the precarious position of contract work, was fired by an NU affiliate is overstating the matter.
posted by librarylis at 8:48 AM on March 16, 2011 [6 favorites]


just for clarification, this is John F. Kennedy University, a private college in Pleasantville, CA and not Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government

It's not Pleasantville. Anyone who's lived in Pleasant Hill would tell you that it's the furthest thing from Pleasantville, either the movie version or otherwise.
posted by blucevalo at 8:48 AM on March 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


I hope the resulting lawsuit is brought to Stargardter's desk with a note saying "Happy Birthday, Mister President."
posted by mhoye at 8:49 AM on March 16, 2011 [12 favorites]


I'd say employment, class, and gender are pretty tightly linked. Yes, she would have been harder to fire if she was tenured. But it's also worth noting that nobody seemed to have any issue at all with the male teacher performing semi-naked. So perhaps there is something to that whole gender question.
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:50 AM on March 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


Oh. Oh Sheila.
posted by Mister_A at 8:52 AM on March 16, 2011


Her lack of tenure didn't cause did this to happen, but it certainly did allow this to happen. An empowered worker is harder to fuck around with.

Any arguments about tenure don't seem to apply to this case, where Addison had only been working as a professor for a few years. Even if she was on a tenure-track, she was still in the period of time where she was not eligible for tenure, and therefore just as vulnerable to getting laid off (or even more vulnerable, as there would be more opportunities to find some cause or another to find fault with her performance). Furthermore, since her employment contract already included a Just Cause statement, it seems to me like tenure wouldn't in general give her more protection.

Yes, it's problematic that more and more universities are creating a two-teir system of contract vs. tenure-track, but it just simply doesn't fit with the stated facts of this case.
posted by muddgirl at 8:54 AM on March 16, 2011


Yeah, but a naked guy professorship is an amusing eccentric. A naked girl professor is an embarrassing slutty whore, amirite?
posted by orthogonality at 8:59 AM on March 16, 2011 [4 favorites]


The presence or lack of tenure is what allows the firing.

Stagger Lee, you seem to believe that tenured professors are completely untouchable and above all university policy checks.

The prosecution will (rightly) argue that not so much as a warning, or even an official "tsk, tsk", was given to the male stripper/professor, who intentionally involved the university in his partially nude extracurricular (heh) job.

This unquestionably points a finger at gender discrimination.
posted by IAmBroom at 9:02 AM on March 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


Even discarding all of the legal aspects of the case, publicizing it is good for another reason. We can demonstrate to those responsible that acting in this manner generates vastly more disrespect, contempt, and ridicule for the institution than the private actions of any one professor could ever hope to accomplish.
posted by Mitrovarr at 9:02 AM on March 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


I play in a one-man show in which I am partially nude every time I teach. What the hell does "partially nude" mean? Unless the male prof is covered in rubber or wearing an abaya, he's "partially nude."

Seriously, we can't evaluate the inequity here unless we know more about the nature of HIS act.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 9:05 AM on March 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't think inequity really matters at all. The university fired her for something which didn't even break local obscenity/nudity laws (otherwise it would have been shut down), which she was doing under a stage name, and which she didn't bring into her university employment life at all.

Basically, they fired the schoolteacher because she was seen a'dancin' at the saloon in the next town over.
posted by hippybear at 9:09 AM on March 16, 2011 [5 favorites]


you can pretty much be fired for any reason in CA, barring contractual provisions to the contrary

This is what you said. The article clearly states that she had a contract, rather than being an "at will" employee. They broke the contract by firing her without cause. Of course there's debate about whether there actually was a cause, but it's clear she wasn't an at-will employee.
posted by odinsdream at 9:10 AM on March 16, 2011


Seriously, we can't evaluate the inequity here unless we know more about the nature of HIS act.

The university's actions are ridiculous even without the context of the male prof's actions.
posted by kmz at 9:11 AM on March 16, 2011 [3 favorites]


They broke the contract by firing her without cause. Of course there's debate about whether there actually was a cause, but it's clear she wasn't an at-will employee.

I think what you mean here is they fired her without due process.
posted by hippybear at 9:14 AM on March 16, 2011


Gonna predict a win for the prof on this one.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:15 AM on March 16, 2011


The university's actions are ridiculous even without the context of the male prof's actions.

But the post (and the article) are asking us to make a comparison and draw a conclusion about inequity; not judge the 'ridiculousness' of the unis position.

It probably *is* a case of blatant gender discrimination; but we need more info to say for sure!
posted by AFII at 9:15 AM on March 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


Information about her contract, from the link:
Addison was hired in Sept. 2007 to teach graduate students under a one-year contract as an assistant professor of psychology. The following July she was awarded a two-year contract which stated that she could be fired only for just cause, according to the complaint. The contract also held that she would be deemed to have her contract extended unless it was formally canceled. It was not canceled as she never received negative performance evaluations, the complaint says.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:16 AM on March 16, 2011


Let's be clear, no "at will" contract allows for gender discrimination, which iis prohibited by law. Also, with the just cause standard, they will have to show nexus between her outside activities and the university.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:18 AM on March 16, 2011 [7 favorites]


The university's actions are ridiculous even without the context of the male prof's actions.

I mean seriously, she's in a post-modern burlesque show. The kind where women sometimes put their clothes back on! It's not like she's straight-up stripping at Top Notch (which I also wouldn't have a professional problem with).
posted by muddgirl at 9:19 AM on March 16, 2011 [3 favorites]


I have a lawyer friend who handles cases against local municipalities. He jokes that they refer to the severity of the discrimination charges filed by joking about how big the street in the city is that they'll end up getting renamed for his client.

My immediate reaction to a move as dumb as this was "hmm, wonder what building they'll end up naming after her."
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 9:26 AM on March 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


The following July she was awarded a two-year contract which stated that she could be fired only for just cause, according to the complaint.

If this is true, then she definitely has a case. CA may be an "at-will" state but if you have a contract that requires cause for dismissal, that's enforceable.
posted by chimaera at 9:28 AM on March 16, 2011


It's a joke. Not everything needs to be super serious all the time.

It's a joke in bad taste, certainly.


So, a joke totally fitting for a burlesque revue? ::ba-bum TISH::
posted by FatherDagon at 9:30 AM on March 16, 2011


To say I'm unsurprised that this professor, stuck in the precarious position of contract work, was fired by an NU affiliate is overstating the matter.

Actually, I would think the opposite. A college aimed at working people getting extra education, 99% of whom would not care at all about what their profs got up to after work, seems like an unlikely institution to get all huffy about their moral stature. It's not a church school, after all.

Now an individual or set of them in a given business deciding that a lady prof who does something remotely sexy in public is somehow something they need to have an opinion on and punish--that I can believe.
posted by emjaybee at 9:39 AM on March 16, 2011


Thanks, Puritans. Also, you suck.
posted by Aquaman at 9:44 AM on March 16, 2011 [5 favorites]


"It's not like she's straight-up stripping at Top Notch (which I also wouldn't have a professional problem with)."

All the girls say that they're working through their adjunct professorship, and just need a little outside funding to make sure that they're eligible for matching grants!
posted by klangklangston at 10:13 AM on March 16, 2011 [7 favorites]


Needs more fucksaw.
posted by benzenedream at 10:15 AM on March 16, 2011 [6 favorites]


I seem to recall that you can pretty much be fired for any reason in CA, barring contractual provisions to the contrary

California is an at-will employment state, and an employer may terminate you for any reason that is not unlawful. Gender discrimination is unlawful in California. Hence, her wrongful termination claim. She also sounds like she has a breach of contract claim (that the contract was terminable only for "just cause" but there wasn't any). With any luck, this professor will head into her new job at a real university with a six-figure sum in her bank account.
posted by Hylas at 10:22 AM on March 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


The university is wrong because she wasn't representing them, and they have no business (IMO, not legally, that is a diff issue) poking into her personal affairs if it doesn't intertwine with the university, period.

However, I think the framing of this as a gender issue is not a slam dunk. All nudity is not equal. For example, I've gone to see some very serious woman perform modern dance in nothing but a thong. The majority of people would not consider that in the same vein, respect wise, as a woman in a thong performing in a strip club. So it isn't fair to pit this as man vrs. woman, it may be entirely the context. And I don't think that is a stretch; I suspect if she was doing some kind of "serious" (in the mind of the university) art partially or wholly naked, it would have been a different story. Her keeping it quiet actually kind of aggravates it, really.

The real issue is how far an employer can delve into your personal life if that is not entangled with the employer (as it was not here).
posted by Bovine Love at 10:34 AM on March 16, 2011


Aquaman: "Also, you suck."

Surely no one is still getting fired for doing that...
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 10:44 AM on March 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


At heart, I think this case isn't really about whether she was wrongfully fired. It's about freedom of expression, the nature of Burlesque as an art show and whether her personal, off-campus and outside-the-classroom activities should be considered when a university decides whether a professor's behavior may be problematic.

The impropriety bar is set pretty high for teachers. It's not unusual for those who have naked pictures taken, printed (or posted) of themselves to be fired by their employing schools -- whether or not their work at the school itself was directly involved. Teachers are expected to adhere to a slightly higher moral standard than most other professionals, because they're working with (well, so the theory goes,) impressionable young people. Any instance of a teacher getting naked in public would probably be viewed negatively by the school that employs them. Should her personal life should be off-limits? I believe so. But I can understand why the school that employs her might think otherwise.
posted by zarq at 10:45 AM on March 16, 2011


This thread is useless with pics reasoned discourse.
posted by alby at 10:52 AM on March 16, 2011


because they're working with (well, so the theory goes,) impressionable young people

BZZZZZT. She was teaching courses for graduate students, the majority of which are aged 23 or older. If a 23 year old who can themselves attend a burlesque show or even a strip club is considered an impressionable young person, then that phrase has lost all meaning.
posted by muddgirl at 10:56 AM on March 16, 2011 [5 favorites]


If a 23 year old who can themselves attend a burlesque show or even a strip club is considered an impressionable young person, then that phrase has lost all meaning.

Plus, what if the impression they got was that how people conduct themselves in their private lives should in fact be their own business, and in many cases (such as this) reflects not a whit upon their professional abilities or performance?
posted by BigHeartedGuy at 11:15 AM on March 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


However, I think the framing of this as a gender issue is not a slam dunk. All nudity is not equal

I think it pretty much is. First, let's look at how these cases are proved.

You have two causes of action here, a breach of contract claim and gender discrimination. The breach claim rests on the assumption that the university did not have "just cause" to terminate her and that she was fired for other than just cause.

to prove this you usually use a seven element test:

(1)Was the employee forewarned of the consequences of his or her actions?
(2) Are the employer's rules reasonably related to business efficiency and performance the employer might reasonably expect from the employee?
(3) Was an effort made before discharge to determine whether the employee was guilty as charged?
(4) Was the investigation conducted fairly and objectively?
(5) Did the employer obtain substantial evidence of the employee's guilt?
(6)Were the rules applied fairly and without discrimination?
(7)Was the degree of discipline reasonably related to the seriousness of the employee's offense and the employee's past record?

I suspect there was no warning at all, and a powerful argument can be made that the employer's rules are not reasonably related to efficiency and performance, especially as this was conduct outside the workplace. Prong 6 is also problematic, as the male teacher was not disciplined. Remember, both involved only partial nudity.

For the discrimination case, generally, unless direct evidence is found, a burden-shifting analysis is used. The plaintiff makes out a prima facie case, showing that another, similarly-situated person was not fired for the same conduct. We don't know about the other professor, was he tenured? If so, the employer will argue that tenure made him a non-similarly situated employee. The Plaintiff, on the other hand, will argue that it made no difference because even a tenured employee may be fired, and the University proposed no discipline at all, even short of termination.

Once the prima facie case is made, the defendant has to come out with evidence showing that the firing was not motivated by discriminatory animus. This will be hard, because it will require a bunch of handwaiving to distinguish between burlesque and what ever the other professor was doing. Each side will bring in experts and say the opposite--that burlesque is or is not art on the level of what the other professor was doing. Finally, the Plaintiff can rebut the defendant's showing that the firing was not motivated by discriminatory animums by presenting arguments showing that the university acted on a pretext. These arguments might be based on facts we don't have here, or that are in the pleading, (which I have not read).

Expect a settlement in 18 months.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:20 AM on March 16, 2011 [8 favorites]


Plus, what if the impression they got was that how people conduct themselves in their private lives should in fact be their own business, and in many cases (such as this) reflects not a whit upon their professional abilities or performance?

In that case, they might be infected with a subversive idea.
posted by acb at 11:21 AM on March 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


how people conduct themselves in their private lives should in fact be their own business, and in many cases (such as this) reflects not a whit upon their professional abilities or performance?

Well, let's test that principle. What if a univerity learned that one of its professors:

1. is an active member of the Ku Klux Klan?

2. recently was convicted of sexual assault? or

3. is Charlie Sheen?
posted by brain_drain at 11:26 AM on March 16, 2011


Even if she were an "at will" employee, the university can't just use whatever reason it likes to fire her. You can't terminate someone on the grounds of age, race, sex, ethnicity, etc. You can't fire a woman for doing X when you don't fire men for doing X. Well, you can, but it's going to get ugly for you really quickly if you try.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 11:30 AM on March 16, 2011


I wish I could fire people for being Cubs fans. But this, this is ridiculous.
posted by Mister_A at 11:33 AM on March 16, 2011


The world is besieged by an attack of "teh stupids."

If anyone is retarded enough to not go to a school because one of the assistant professors is performing in burlesque...they probably shouldn't waste money on attempting to extend their education. The burger flippin awaits.

Any ridicule and disrespect garnered by this situation revolves fully around the universities decision to make it an issue. It does not revolve around her betassled nipples. Nobody has ever failed a test due to extracurricular areola viewing...
...not directly anyway. XD
posted by varion at 11:35 AM on March 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


Well, let's test that principle.

Back up: The statement you quoted is not an absolute (NO extracurricular activities affect ability or performance), but rather contains the phrase "many cases". We can make an argument that being involved with the KKK or being convicted of some types of sexual assault may affect collegiate teaching performance (I won't make those arguments because frankly they are irrelevant).

It is up to the school, or in this discussion you, to make the argument that performing in a subversive burlesque show affects Prof. Addison's performance at JFK University. Go ahead, we're listening.
posted by muddgirl at 11:39 AM on March 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


She was teaching courses for graduate students, the majority of which are aged 23 or older. If a 23 year old who can themselves attend a burlesque show or even a strip club is considered an impressionable young person, then that phrase has lost all meaning.

Ah! Quite true.

BZZZZZT.


I realize from your responses in this thread that you're emotionally engaged in this topic, but it would be nice if you'd make an attempt to be less obnoxious to those of us who are responding to the post in good faith.
posted by zarq at 11:43 AM on March 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


Also, italics fail. :)
posted by zarq at 11:43 AM on March 16, 2011


ironmouth: Expect a settlement in 18 months.

Prediction based on experience? (thanks for spelling all that out, BTW.)
posted by lodurr at 12:01 PM on March 16, 2011


Didn't mean to be obnoxious, so my apologies. On the other hand, it seems like maybe you haven't read the article and/or arebringing up irrelevant ethical discussions as a defense of the JFK University administration. This case has nothing to do with defending impressionable youth, and it is an extremely loaded phrase.
posted by muddgirl at 12:01 PM on March 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ironmouth, I explicitly said NOT legal speaking. You make a case for the legal side of it, but that isn't really the point. There are a ton of things which are reprehensible but without liability, and a ton of things which are quite good but can get you successfully sued. Liability does not determine morality or ethics (though it does drive many an ethics policy....)

I was discussing the framing of this as being "unfair" because it was based on gender. I postulate that it wasn't based on gender, it was based on the perceived differences between 'art' (one man show) and 'smut' (burlesque), not the genders of those involved. Do you think the case would have been identical if the man was stripping in a gay bar?

Law aside (it doesn't determine fairness or morality), I'd to see you support that nudity is without context in society.
posted by Bovine Love at 12:03 PM on March 16, 2011


muddgirl, you and I almost certainly agree that the case has nothing actually to do with defending impressionable youth. But I for one am quite certain that many people will have as almost a first response that it is all about defending impressionable youth.
posted by lodurr at 12:03 PM on March 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


I postulate that it wasn't based on gender, it was based on the perceived differences between 'art' (one man show) and 'smut' (burlesque), not the genders of those involved.
I'd postulate that things involving women's bodies are much more likely to get labeled "smut" in the first place.
posted by Karmakaze at 12:05 PM on March 16, 2011 [4 favorites]


Or slightly differently: The two cases are presented as being the same because they both have nudity, but I claim it is false equivalency, since she was fired for embarrassing the university, not for being nude. Just being nude in public does not make the cases equivalent. Again, not speaking from the point of whether or not anyone can get sued successfully.
posted by Bovine Love at 12:06 PM on March 16, 2011


many people will have as almost a first response that it is all about defending impressionable youth.

Many people think that grad students are impressionable youth? I am honestly amazed, being married to a 27-year-old grad student myself.

I will grant that many people read only the headline of an article and may be confused as to the actual nature of this case, which is why I want to ban headlines.
posted by muddgirl at 12:09 PM on March 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


bovine love, you may be right, but my response would be: under the social rules as they are commonly stated, one would be quite justified in believing that the two cases were equivalent.

so from a moral standpoint, it's a big bait & switch. I think that's what a lot of discrimination issues boil down to (race, gender, sexual orientation, cultural expression, you name it): we're told there's a certain set of rules, but the real rules are hidden, and when we get judged on those the people judging us are shocked, shocked they say, that we could have ever misunderstood them in the first place.
posted by lodurr at 12:13 PM on March 16, 2011


muddgirl, there are two parts to my response:

First, I'm talking about how people see the issue. They see it as being about impressionable youth. That means that the issue is about that, because how people see the issue determines what the issue is, in a case like this. (Public realities are comprised at least in part of public perceptions of reality.)

Second, even if people move beyond that, there's the question of power relations. My wife has been teaching at the college level for over 10 years, most of that as an adjunct like Professor Addison, and she's always been concerned about inappropriate relationships between her and her students, because of the power relationship involved: She's their instructor, she has power over them, and it's not appropriate in her mind for her to place them into situations where they feel compromised.

I haven't mentioned this particular case to her, so I can't be sure what she'd say, but I'm guessing she'd simultaneously think it would be unwise of Professor Addison to make her connection to the college public while doing Burlesque, but at the same time (given the geographic distance and Addison's statement that she hasn't encouraged students to attend) it's not likely the 'kids' are going to be affected one way or the other. (Unless Addison were tying attendance to grades, which it sounds like was NOT happening.)

Personally, I think it's her own damn business and that any college that gets upset about burlesque is, as I said, literally getting upset about someone doing community theatre. But that's my opinion, and I'm quite certain that others involved in this case will see this as literally being about protecting students and the university from harm. Is that what it's "really" about? Well, a) no, and b) what would that even mean? It's "really" about whatever people think it's "realy" about. I suspect, given her statements about Burlesque as performance art, Prof. Addison would have to agree with that, at least to some extent.
posted by lodurr at 12:24 PM on March 16, 2011


To those (Ironmouth, muddgirl, others?) talking about the seven tests (from Daugherty, etc): Those are the guidelines for arbitrators deciding a case under a collective bargaining agreement. They are guidelines, not laws. The results of the tests are not definitive or decisive. For example, if you kill a coworker, you don't have to have been forewarned that this was against the rules. Similarly, maybe the investigation wasn't totally fair but the offense was so egregious that the discipline stands. These tests are NOT the law of any state, nor could they be because they often yield inconsistent results.

At-will employees (which the woman in this case was not) can be fired at any time for any reason, or no reason at all EXCEPT for being a member of a protected category. So Mister_A can fire the Cubs fans.

Many employers try to stick to firing people only for cause, so they can save on unemployment insurance. However, they are welcome to fire people for no reason at all, they'll just have to pay the unemployment.
posted by cushie at 12:24 PM on March 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


"At-will employees (which the woman in this case was not) can be fired at any time for any reason, or no reason at all EXCEPT for being a member of a protected category. So Mister_A can fire the Cubs fans."

Depends on state law. Here in California, the concept of "fair dealing" applies even in at-will employment.
posted by klangklangston at 12:27 PM on March 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


So Mister_A can fire the Cubs fans.

I'm reminded of a widely-reported case during the 2004 presidential election where an employee of an advertising firm was fired for wearing a Kerry button. (He said 'fine, advertising was too stressful anyway, I'm going back to being a trauma nurse.' Which made him something like the 4th person I'm personally aware of who went back to trauma care because advertising was too stressful.)
posted by lodurr at 12:29 PM on March 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


Klangklangston- you're totally right about "fair dealing" in 11 states, including California. However, this leaves it up to the courts so outcomes are a bit unclear (and wouldn't necessarily adhere to the seven tests). So it's OK to fire the Cubs fan in Illinois, but not in CA.
posted by cushie at 12:31 PM on March 16, 2011


I claim it is false equivalency, since she was fired for embarrassing the university

That just side-steps the question. Why was what she did embarassing to the university when what the other professor did was not? Particularly when what she did was done on her own time and what the other professor did was on university grounds?

(I'm not firing you because you are black. I'm firing you because you can't do the job. The job requires working with me. And I'm a bigot).
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 12:49 PM on March 16, 2011


Didn't mean to be obnoxious, so my apologies.

Thank you.

On the other hand, it seems like maybe you haven't read the article and/or are bringing up irrelevant ethical discussions as a defense of the JFK University administration.

I read the article. I missed a key point. It does happen occasionally.

My wife used to be a teacher (first graders, not grad students). We spoke at length about this case over lunch, and one of the things she mentioned was that considering the justification used to fire Addison, the University may still attempt to defend their actions by saying she was committing some sort of moral offense. Teachers will still be expected to hold themselves to a higher moral standard as an example to their students, even if those students are adults. I don't know if that expectation is entirely reasonable. I also don't think it should apply here.

This case has nothing to do with defending impressionable youth, and it is an extremely loaded phrase.

In this case, it's an inaccurate phrase, I agree.

posted by zarq at 12:52 PM on March 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


First, I'm talking about how people see the issue. They see it as being about impressionable youth. That means that the issue is about that, because how people see the issue determines what the issue is, in a case like this.

I'd like to think that the law determines what the issue is.

She's their instructor, she has power over them, and it's not appropriate in her mind for her to place them into situations where they feel compromised.

The university admits that they did not give her a warning or ask her to quit before firing her, because in their mind their reputation had already been tarnished.
According to letters from the administration that are cited in the complaint, Addison needed to be fired because a mere warning and change of behavior would not suffice. “The damage had already occurred,” she was told. Administrators also cited concerns that word of her performances had spread among students, who had lost respect for her and were “shocked and dismayed.”
Wouldn't the prudent and legal course of action be to ask her to quit performing and apologize to her students? How am I, as a hypothetical contract employee, to know whether or not my hobby of collective nude basket-weaving is considered inapropriate without a warning?
posted by muddgirl at 1:02 PM on March 16, 2011


A court will determine what the legal issues are, sure, if it gets that far. But we have to all decide for ourselves what "the" issues are. There is no objective platonic "issue" in this case, there are only the issues relative to something else: to the accuracy of the school's claims, the accuracy of her claims, and the lawfulness of the schools actions. Call me a cynic, but from what I've seen in recent years I'm not optimistic on Prof. Addison's behalf.
posted by lodurr at 1:10 PM on March 16, 2011


BTW, not sure what the relationship is between the second quote and your response to it. But I personally agree that the more prudent and reasonable course would have been do seek remediation of Professor Addison's "offensive" behavior.

Nevertheless, the passage you quote does illustrate pretty well why they didn't regard that as a useful option.

I've spent fair chunks of my life in university or college settings, and one of the things that never ceases to amaze me is how worked up people can get about petty things. The inspiration for railroading Sheila Addison may have been prurient puritan prudishness, but that ceases to matter once the abuse is a legal fact. What matters is whether it's actionable.
posted by lodurr at 1:14 PM on March 16, 2011


Nevertheless, the passage you quote does illustrate pretty well why they didn't regard that as a useful option.

I still don't see it (I mean yes, I recognize that they tried to lay out a specific reason why they couldn't follow their contract, but it seems like a non sequitor to me). Is there something about the specific act of burlesque that taints a person forever? Is it just the fact that you can see her underboobs? If she wore an itsy-bitsy bikini to the beach, would that be just cause, in the minds of JFK administrators, to fire her?

I appreciate what you're saying lodurr, but I just don't understand what is specifically objectionable about a burlesque show, compared to, say, a performance of Chicago.
posted by muddgirl at 1:21 PM on March 16, 2011


Klang,

Best I can find on "Good Cause" in context of California employment litigation is Cotran v. Rollins Hudig Hall Intern., Inc., 69 Cal.Rptr.2d 900, 17 Cal.4th 93 (Cal., 1998)
"In Walker v. Blue Cross of California (1992) 4 Cal.App.4th 985, 6 Cal.Rptr.2d 184, the court described "good cause" as "relative. Whether good cause exists is dependent upon the particular circumstances of each case. [Citation.] [p] In deciding whether good cause exists, there must be a balance between the employer's interest in operating its business efficiently and profitably and the employee's interest in continued employment. [Citations.] Care must be exercised so as not to interfere with the employer's legitimate exercise of managerial discretion. [Citation.] While the scope of such discretion is substantial, it is not unrestricted." (Id. at p. 994, 6 Cal.Rptr.2d 184; see also Crosier v. United Parcel Service, Inc. (1983) 150 Cal.App.3d 1132, 1139-1140, 198 Cal.Rptr. 361, disapproved on another point by Foley v. Interactive Data Corp. (1988) 47 Cal.3d 654, 700, fn. 42, 254 Cal.Rptr. 211, 765 P.2d 373; Moore v. May Department Stores Co. (1990) 222 Cal.App.3d 836, 839-840, 271 Cal.Rptr. 841; Malmstrom v. Kaiser Aluminum & Chemical Corp. (1986) 187 Cal.App.3d 299, 321, 231 Cal.Rptr. 820; Clutterham v. Coachmen Industries, Inc. (1985) 169 Cal.App.3d 1223, 1227, 215 Cal.Rptr. 795.)"
No link, sorry.

There's a lot on jury instructions I just don't have time to go into, but they generally mirror Daughtry's list, and focus on the "good faith" aspect of the particular case.

Calling Claudia Center!
posted by Ironmouth at 1:39 PM on March 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


I appreciate what you're saying lodurr, but I just don't understand what is specifically objectionable about a burlesque show, compared to, say, a performance of Chicago.

Well, nothing, and that particular example makes it even weirder.

Notch it up yet again: Suppose she played Gypsy Rose Lee on stage.

My personal view is that there's very, very little, short of actually harming people, that you should be able to do in your personal time that gets you fired, male or female. I think when you take apart people's reasons for getting hinky it does have a lot to do with them being lady underboobs rather than mans's. It's all hidden crap, is what I would say. And I'm not even saying we have to expose the hidden crap, necessarily, but we do have to stop bait & switching people over it.
posted by lodurr at 1:50 PM on March 16, 2011


The chair of my graduate department was widely known to have been in porn, and no one cared. Really, with a generation of academics who came of age in the 60s, 70s, and 80s, I'm surprised this isn't more common--and, more, surprised that anyone would care.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 2:03 PM on March 16, 2011


The chair of my graduate department was widely known to have been in porn, and no one cared. Really, with a generation of academics who came of age in the 60s, 70s, and 80s, I'm surprised this isn't more common--and, more, surprised that anyone would care.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 5:03 PM on March 16 [+] [!] No other comments.


yeah, but that's one of the 5 largest universities in the US (wait - assuming you mean you went to UF), first of all, and second of all, individual colleges within the uni are each a world of their own. Some are a lot more conservative than others. And don't try that in town, outside the actual university community - Gainesville might be the most liberal city in Alachua County, but that's not saying a whole lot. The South is the South.

Though OTOH it sounds weird that A) I think she was in psychology which god knows should be one of the more morally laid-back specialties and B) it's not like it was the JFK University of Dixie County.
posted by toodleydoodley at 4:00 PM on March 16, 2011


Yeah, I went to UF. But honestly I figured it mostly had to do with academia being full of people who do women's studies and feminist studies in various fields. I genuinely doubt it would have been an issue at my small, east coast undergrad school, either, which was a similar hotbed of feminism and Marxism.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 4:10 PM on March 16, 2011


Administrators also cited concerns that word of her performances had spread among students, who had lost respect for her and were “shocked and dismayed.”

I would bet a lot of money that few of none of her students were "shocked and dismayed." Most of them have probably seen porn that would make a burlesque show look like vespers at a Carmelite nunnery. In fact, aside from Steven Stargardter, is anybody shocked at the site of a woman in pasties and a g-string anymore?
posted by steambadger at 7:10 PM on March 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


I've seen real, live, professional burlesque. It's art, don't even doubt it for a moment. Yes, there were the moments of tassels twirling and pasties pasting, but that was just part of the traditional burlesque, like the baggy pants comedy.

I saw the video here. My best description would be to call that a burlesque of burlesque. If that is somehow a reason to fire a professor, then no one is safe from any such claim, and everyone should go on strike until the bullshit reduces to civilized levels.
posted by Goofyy at 5:53 AM on March 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


I would bet a lot of money that few of none of her students were "shocked and dismayed." Most of them have probably seen porn that would make a burlesque show look like vespers at a Carmelite nunnery.

Depends where they were from. If the school served a lot of international students from more conservative societies, this may not be the case. (They may well have furtively seen a lot of porn, but their social norms would dictate that they act outraged in the name of honour, much in the way that Victorian social norms dictated that well-bred ladies fainted a lot.)
posted by acb at 6:08 AM on March 17, 2011


I would bet a lot of money that few of none of her students were "shocked and dismayed." Most of them have probably seen porn that would make a burlesque show look like vespers at a Carmelite nunnery

Sure, but if you had seen your professor in such a porn, you might be less respectful of their authority, or pay less attention as they're trying to teach you because you are imagining them, well, you know. And this would have a negative effect on your education.

I haven't had a chance to look at the video, but assume that there's *some* partial nudity here, and a little bit of a sexual aspect to the burlesque. Depending on the background of the students at JFK, there's a chance that even a grown adult grad student would have the same sort of negative effect after seeing their prof in a burlesque show. Or, worse, after HEARING that their prof is in a burlesque show, but not actually seeing how tame it is.

As far as the male prof who wasn't disciplined in any way, I think the nature of his show *does* have to be factored in to some extent. Was his some sexualized show where he was whipping it out and dangling it in people's faces? Or was it Equus? Context matters. But again, I have yet to have a chance to look at her show, so maybe it's not as sexualized as many burlesque shows are.
posted by antifuse at 7:35 AM on March 17, 2011


or pay less attention as they're trying to teach you because you are imagining them, well, you know

Does that mean that a university administration can choose to staff all-male professors for all-male classes (I don't think that they legally can)? It seems to me that the concerns about distraction are similar.

but assume that there's *some* partial nudity here, and a little bit of a sexual aspect to the burlesque

Again, there's partial nudity and a huge sexual aspect to a community theater performance of Chicago or Cabaret - shall we forbid professors from participating in community theater? Or shall we fire them without warning if we happen to see a playbill with their name in it?

so maybe it's not as sexualized as many burlesque shows are

I take issue with the fact that the minute someone performs in a sexualized show, they are automatically "tainted" with sexuality, and aren't fit for normal human interactions.
posted by muddgirl at 7:48 AM on March 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


Referring to the woman's show:
"I haven't had a chance to look at the video, but assume that there's *some* partial nudity here, and a little bit of a sexual aspect to the burlesque. Depending on the background of the students at JFK, there's a chance that even a grown adult grad student would have the same sort of negative effect after seeing their prof in a burlesque show. Or, worse, after HEARING that their prof is in a burlesque show, but not actually seeing how tame it is."

Referring to the man's show:
"As far as the male prof who wasn't disciplined in any way, I think the nature of his show *does* have to be factored in to some extent. Was his some sexualized show where he was whipping it out and dangling it in people's faces? Or was it Equus? Context matters."


Does anyone else note a slight difference in approach by antifuse, depending on the gender of the person being discussed?
posted by IAmBroom at 8:06 AM on March 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


...or pay less attention as they're trying to teach you because you are imagining them, well, you know.

Let's be completely honest here and recognize that there is literally nothing to prevent students, male or female, from fantasizing about teachers or anybody else, for that matter, during class. It's practically a tradition.
posted by odinsdream at 8:09 AM on March 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


You conclude it is because of the gender, but you supply no basis for it. There is a different approach, but I don't see why necessarily it is based on gender. The genders are different, but that does mean it is what makes the difference between the two shows. If the male prof was performing in the same burlesque show (or at least *a* burlesque show), we would have more basis to say "oh, it is just because of gender".

Most of you here seem to act as if most of society would consider a man who did some kind of striptease act to be perfectly respectable. I have no idea what society you live in, but I can assure you in my world it is not considered remotely acceptable. Yes, I know that the burlesque show in question here was very art-y, but people make judgments based on its image, not its actuality. The employer makes judgments on those peoples judgments (this is the nature of "image").

So I am still failing to see how it is because she was a woman. I see that is because the university unfairly meddles in their employees private affairs.
posted by Bovine Love at 8:15 AM on March 17, 2011


Bovine Love, I certainly can't speak for anyone else, but I'm at a loss why anyone seeing any kind of burlesque show (which is mostly comedy) would find it offensive that anyone performed in one. I find one person show performance art a lot closer to "offensive", for what it's worth. I am also aware that there are a godawful lot of puritans who get super-exercised whenever women do anything they deem inappropriate; it's just different when it concerns heterosexual men.

So, yes, we're making assumptions. For my own part, I'm making those assumptions based on a lifetime in American society. I've also spent ... [thinking] ... about 9 or 10 years altogether (depending on what I choose to count) working in academic environments, and I know that the puritanism, paradoxically, can get ratcheted up even higher there than elsewhere. ('When the stakes get small, the fightin' gets mean', as they like to say in academe.)
posted by lodurr at 8:42 AM on March 17, 2011


I don't think that in this society, we can so easily separate gender from everything else in a situation (much as I'd like to). It's naive to think that anyone can be gender-blind (or race-blind or what-have-you). Women's bodies are automatically sexualized in a way that men's bodies are not (something that Addison's burlesque performance plays around with). The fact that Equus is listed as a "art performance" that is NOT sexualized is a great example of this.
posted by muddgirl at 8:55 AM on March 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


lodurr, I am quite sure that those offended by burlesque are those which have not seen it. If we take the firing at face value (it was over her being an embarrassment), then it is the perception that matters and the perception of a good swath of society is that burlesque is bad. That same swath would never attend to find our for themselves. Are those people fair, educated or reasonable? It doesn't matter to the employer. They care what the perception of the populace is, not what the professor actually did. They didn't fire her for getting naked on stage the fired her for doing it in a manner that (in their opinion) a sufficient portion of society would find unbeseeming and offensive.

muddgirl, I do not deny there are serious gender issues. That does not mean that this case is based on gender.
posted by Bovine Love at 9:23 AM on March 17, 2011


No, of course. JFK University administrators are the only people in the entire world who can treat women and men equally when it comes to performance of their sexuality. A logical deduction.
posted by muddgirl at 9:26 AM on March 17, 2011


Huh, where does that come from? I never said no one else could be gender blind. Nor am I even saying that JFK admins are gender blind. I'm saying that just because there are gender issues doesn't make this case about gender, and that there is not necessarily equivalence between the two cases. They are not actually all that similar.

Not every case where you compare a man and a woman's case are about them being a man and a woman. Sometimes it is incidental.
posted by Bovine Love at 9:39 AM on March 17, 2011


Sometimes it is incidental.

Again, I think this is naive. It may not be important, but it's never incidental.
posted by muddgirl at 9:46 AM on March 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


They are not actually all that similar

on what basis do you say that?
posted by Ironmouth at 9:48 AM on March 17, 2011


I could see arguing that we don't know how similar they are. but based on what we do know, theylook pretty darn similar to me.
posted by lodurr at 9:51 AM on March 17, 2011


Ok, fair enough, we don't know how similar they are. Other then they are "shows" and have "partial nudity" we don't know if they are equivalent at all. So I'll give you that it is an unknown.

I'd disagree that they look similar from that scant information. Again, the core here is that she was in a burlesque show, a very loaded term. Perhaps not loaded for all you lovely cosmopolitan people here, but this is very much a bubble. If I told my [upstanding christian] parents that I went to a show at the theater that had partial nudity, they'd just shake their head. If I said I went to burlesque, they ask what my wife thought of it, question my morality and generally be outraged. Sensible? No. A concern to a university? Well, it shouldn't be, but it is. Still doesn't make it about gender.
posted by Bovine Love at 10:06 AM on March 17, 2011


I'd disagree that they look similar from that scant information. Again, the core here is that she was in a burlesque show, a very loaded term. Perhaps not loaded for all you lovely cosmopolitan people here, but this is very much a bubble. If I told my [upstanding christian] parents that I went to a show at the theater that had partial nudity, they'd just shake their head. If I said I went to burlesque, they ask what my wife thought of it, question my morality and generally be outraged. Sensible? No. A concern to a university? Well, it shouldn't be, but it is.

This. "Burlesque show", to a LARGE proportion of the population, will equate to "sexy time on stage" in some way. "One man show, which contains partial nudity", to those same people, will likely be equated to "not my cup of tea, but you know those artists". That's the problem with words, is that people can assign whatever meaning they want to them. And unfortunately, the university's donors are probably going to fall into the category of folks who don't think that burlesque is just harmless comedy. And FTA: 'Her contract as a Core Faculty Member specified that she could not participate in any activity that “may be adverse to the interests of the university.”' - could the university successfully argue that scaring away donors is adverse to the interests of the university? I think so.

Having finally looked at the video, it's *at best* an attempt at an arty comedic take on typical gender roles... I guess. And who knows, maybe the male prof's "one man show" is him jerking off on stage. The problem is, the only person who is telling us that they are equivalent is the woman who was fired, and she isn't exactly an impartial observer. So is it an unjust firing? Maybe. Did the university get calls from donors after word got out? Is it gender inequality? Could be. We just don't know, and that's the problem. I'd rather focus on the more interesting discussion of whether or not it really *is* a just firing. Who gets to decide what is "adverse to the interests of the university" other than the university? I guess the courts do, once it gets that far.
posted by antifuse at 10:17 AM on March 17, 2011


"Sure, but if you had seen your professor in such a porn, you might be less respectful of their authority, or pay less attention as they're trying to teach you because you are imagining them, well, you know. And this would have a negative effect on your education."

This is not the instructor's problem. That's the student's problem. Being in a burlesque (or even stripping) is irrelevant for adults in a class, and even undergrads are adults. While I'm generally a fan of this extended adolescence in America, if you can't buck up and respect a teacher because they're an expert on their topic, you shouldn't be in college. No one is required to go to college.

"If I told my [upstanding christian] parents that I went to a show at the theater that had partial nudity, they'd just shake their head. If I said I went to burlesque, they ask what my wife thought of it, question my morality and generally be outraged."

And, of course, their upstanding Christian morality has nothing to do with gender roles. Just like it's OK to see men's nipples but not women's nipples for reasons that have nothing to do with gender.

Dude, you're bending over backwards to make the gender question here disappear, when it's pretty clear that the assumptions that underpin your argument are based on gender. Why is it worse to go to a burlesque? Because there's raunchy comedy? Raunchy comedy is an aesthetic concern, not a moral one, and if your parents would claim otherwise, they're wrong. Further, this isn't the '20s, when "burlesque" is a stand-in for pinch-theater at a bagnio. That men are allowed to be open with their sexuality and nudity and women aren't is a double standard.

Finally, arguing based on what the most conservative objections might be is absurd — you might as well argue that your folks would be offended if you went to see a play with gay men kissing. That it offends some people is no reason to make an employment judgment based on that, especially with regard to a minority and protected class.
posted by klangklangston at 10:17 AM on March 17, 2011 [4 favorites]


What??? You think it would be more acceptable if I went to a male oriented burlesque show??? How is what I said gender based? I never said "show at the theater that had partial male nudity", I said nudity. If I said it was male, that would be less acceptable.

I totally agree that offense is not a reason to make an employment judgement. I don't agree with your "especially" clause (I think it is universal; its not ok to make such judgement on non-minorities either). I am arguing exactly that. I think such a bunch of uptight jerks would fire a un-tenured man just as quickly if they though that some moderately significant portion of the populace took offence. Say, maybe he defended Islam or something.

If the discussion were about the wrongness of the firing based on the grounds of non-interference, I'd be on-board. But a lot of the discussion claims it is only because she was a woman; this implies that firing a man just-because-they-didn't-approve would be ok.

Is it ok?

posted by Bovine Love at 10:40 AM on March 17, 2011


If I told my [upstanding christian] parents that I .... went to burlesque...

Maybe it's an age thing, but my parents knew what burlesque was when there was still real, original burlesque. Their first reaction would probably be "wait, there's still burlesque?" Their second reaction would probably be that it's more wholesome than that pinko-weirdo stuff called 'performance art.' (Re. burlesque, my mom would probably be more scandalized about the jokes than the nudity.*)

--
*My mom really, really hates low humor. By which I mean puns, primarily, but also risque jokes. Which has provided some difficulty in their marriage over the years....
posted by lodurr at 1:00 PM on March 17, 2011


I wonder if Prof. Addison can dragoon Alan Alda into making an expert witness appearance for her. "Yes, your honor, I was raised in a burlesque house, and it didn't affect me....affect me....affect me...."
posted by lodurr at 1:02 PM on March 17, 2011


I could do without the "It's burlesque! It's culturally subversive!" arguments. It'd be just as shitty if she had been fired for working a regular old unhip stripping job.
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 1:34 PM on March 17, 2011 [4 favorites]


It'd be just as shitty if she had been fired for working a regular old unhip stripping job.

Maybe it would - again, it would come down to the whole "adverse to the interests of the university" clause in her contract, and how the university applied that rule. But would you compare an unhip stripping job to a one man show that contained partial nudity?
posted by antifuse at 1:47 PM on March 17, 2011


If we take the firing at face value (it was over her being an embarrassment), then it is the perception that matters and the perception of a good swath of society is that burlesque is bad... Are those people fair, educated or reasonable? It doesn't matter to the employer.

It's also the perception of a good swath of society that evolution is bad. The same could be said for homosexuality, political activism, biblical criticism, and the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics. Some of these might lead to borderline cases if a Burger King used them as reasons for dismissal. A university is supposed to different.
posted by steambadger at 8:42 AM on March 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


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