The victories in the fight to reform higher-ed are often dispiriting because they remind us of the enormity of our challenge. Today, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) announced that it had successfully pressured the University of Colorado to reinstate a course that CU had cancelled on the grounds that the professor, Patti Adler, had engaged in “harassment” during one lecture. Her crime? She’d asked her teaching assistants to depict the living conditions of sex workers by dressing up as prostitutes. Never mind that the dress-up was completely voluntary, or that the faculty who had reviewed the course voiced no objections. CU’s Office of Discrimination and Harassment deemed the lecture a “risk,” and gave the Adler the option of either retiring or staying on but not teaching the course.
Thanks to the efforts of a coalition of free speech groups, including the National Coalition Against Censorship and the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado, Adler is back on campus and plans to teach the course in the upcoming semester. We should we grateful for their hard work. However, it is unfortunate that restoring common sense to our campuses requires as much work as it does.