Mark Tschaepe says he didn't realize anything was wrong until he was called into his department chair's office at Indiana Institute of Technology and found her with the director of human resources.
They told him that he had recently offended two students in his ethics course by distributing his master's thesis -- a philosophy essay on pornography -- as part of a discussion of pornography. Tschaepe, an adjunct popular with students and faculty colleagues alike, was told that he had to apologize to his class, and subsequently all of his future assignments disappeared, he says, even though it was clear to him that none of the people making these decisions had even read the thesis.
"I think that what this shows is that adjuncts really have no rights whatsoever," said Tschaepe, who will start a Ph.D. program in philosophy this fall at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale.
The incident happened in one of the five-week sessions that Indiana Tech offers for older students. After that session, during February and March, Tschaepe was supposed to have taught several such courses during the next five-week period, starting now, and he has been dropped from them.
Faculty members at the institute are worried about what happened to him. Matthew Hendryx, an associate professor of economics and chair of the Committee of Academics (a faculty senate equivalent), said that the case is being viewed as one of "academic freedom and censorship."
Hendryx said that many faculty members at the institute, himself included, started off as adjuncts, so they take this case seriously. A faculty grievance committee is currently reviewing the case, but any recommendation it makes (which would not be binding on the administration) would come after the courses Tschaepe was to have taught have been assigned to others.
Chris Black, the head of human resources at the institute, said that no administrators would comment on the incident.
Tschaepe said that he thinks the students and administrators overreacted to his thesis because it dealt in part with Deep Throat, comparing the porn classic to more contemporary examples of the genre. But Tschaepe stressed that the thesis featured no illustrations, had scenes described "in a clinical almost biological way," and was focused on ideas, not sex.
"We're talking about Lacanian psychoanalysis," he said, "not porn."