Hiatus for Sex Course at Northwestern

May 10, 2011

A Northwestern University psychology professor made a lot of people red in the face earlier in the spring after he allowed a man to stimulate a 25-year-old woman with a sex toy during an after-class presentation in a course in human sexuality. Offended parties can now breathe easier: the course will not be offered next year, the university said on Monday.

J. Michael Bailey ran afoul of a finger-wagging public after a “sex tour guide” he had invited to give a non-mandatory talk on sexual diversity used a motorized phallus to repeatedly induce orgasms from his naked fiancée. After initially defending Bailey, the university backpedaled after a public outcry. Morton Schapiro, the university’s president, called the demonstration inappropriate and said allowing it reflected “poor judgment” on Bailey’s part. (Schapiro later discussed the incident with Inside Higher Ed in a podcast.) Bailey apologized, and the university opened a “review” of the course. Mary Jane Twohey, a university spokeswoman, said on Monday that review is still going on and might not be made public when it concludes.

“Northwestern University’s Department of Psychology will not offer a course in human sexuality during the 2011-12 academic year,” the university said in an official statement. “That course was taught previously by Professor J. Michael Bailey, who will have other teaching assignments in the coming year. Courses in human sexuality are offered in a variety of academic departments in other universities, and Northwestern is reviewing how such a course best fits into the University’s curriculum. At Northwestern University, the dean of a college/school has the right and responsibility to determine course assignments.”

Bailey’s human sexuality course reportedly was the most popular course at Northwestern, enrolling 600 students this semester.

The university released the statement after The Daily Northwestern reported on Monday that the course was going to be discontinued. Citing several psychology department sources, the student newspaper reported that the decision had been handed down from above. The university refused to answer any questions from Inside Higher Ed about the statement, including whether “the dean of a college/school” regularly dictates course offerings to departments.

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