UC's orgy of mindlessness

Debra J. Saunders

2/26/2002 12:00:00 AM - Debra J. Saunders
Apparently, the people who run the University of California at Berkeley won't be satisfied until they have run its reputation into the ground. Now you know why UC President Richard Atkinson is ready to throw out SAT scores as a factor in UC admissions. There's no need for academic entrance exams at a school that has given credit for classes like "Male Sexuality'' and "Female Sexuality,'' which include such activities as taking students to a strip joint. UC Berkeley suspended "Male Sexuality'' after the Daily Californian student newspaper reported that class activities included an outing to a nudie bar (featuring class participation) followed by a post-class party at which some students engaged in group sex. Class coordinator Drew Navarro wrote to the Daily Cal, "At these parties, we play games that would go under the category of icebreakers.'' One such game, the paper reported, had students snap Polaroid pictures of their genitalia in the bathroom so that partygoers could then try to match the snapshot with the person. How could UC let this happen? Easy. First, no professor teaches these courses. "Male Sexuality,'' "Female Sexuality'' and "The Erotic as Power'' are "DE-Cal'' classes. DE-Cal stands for Democratic Education at Cal, a program where students lead the classes. As Navarro explained, "We are not instructors,'' but rather "facilitators/coordinators and also students as much as anyone else in the class.'' At least the "coordinators'' are too honest to call what they do teaching; but the university, which doesn't fund the DE-Cal classes, nonetheless awards up to four college credits to participating students. That goes for "Body Dissatisfaction'': "Whether you have a diagnosed eating disorder or just hate your body,'' the course description explains, "we will deconstruct our feelings and come to the root of the problem.'' Then, there's "Copwatch ... learn how to safely and effectively assert your rights when interacting with the police.'' And there's "Dialogue,'' which attempts "to create a collectively conscious group of people that can explore the world creatively together without antagonism. All disciplines welcome. No exams.'' Said UC political science professor Jack Citrin, "The whole process is symptomatic of a decline of standards, political correctness and we-can't-say-no-to-our-students mentality that defines the university these days.'' The university says it never approved the strip club jaunts. But UC also did not say "no" -- or even "whoa'' -- until the Daily Cal blew the whistle. A faculty adviser is supposed to approve and supervise the class; a department head is also supposed to sign off on it. In this case, Caren Kaplan, chair of the Women's Studies Department, served poorly in both capacities. "I don't police the content,'' she told the Daily Cal. After course activities were exposed, Kaplan called in the coordinators for a meeting. The Male Sex crew didn't show, so she suspended the class. Still, according to UC Berkeley spokesperson Janet Gilmore, Kaplan is reviewing both the male and female sex classes. (Coordinator Kim Brodsky told the Daily Cal that Fem Sex also includes a strip joint visit and a pornography section to tell students that it is OK to watch porn.) Farewell to scholarship. Au revoir to academia. Say goodbye to the concept of study, the mastery of a subject and regard for research. Many DE-Cal classes are all about feelings, with not even a nod to scholarship. The men's sex course has no academic pretense; its description says it aims "to create a greater community of men and women who are empathetic, understanding and supportive of each other's sexuality.'' What next? A new major called Me. Or: Self. Or Me Me Me, with a minor in libido. Now you know why K-12 schools encourage students to explore their feelings and to work in groups. They're not trying to dumb down classes; they just want to prepare children for the day they get into UC Berkeley.