Archive for Thursday, March 27, 2003

Lawmakers attack sex class at KU

March 27, 2003


— The state Senate on Wednesday jumped into the curriculum of a Kansas University human sexuality class, blasting the instruction of award-winning professor Dennis Dailey and passing an amendment aimed at possibly cutting funds to KU's School of Social Welfare.

State Sen. Susan Wagle, a Wichita Republican, said she had been investigating complaints from several students who alleged Dailey showed pornographic images during the course Human Sexuality in Everyday Life and made vulgar and inappropriate comments to female students.

"What has happened is so far out there and so obscene," Wagle said.

She said she was told Dailey showed photographs of the genitals of naked children, as well as videos of men and women masturbating.

She said when one student walked out of the class, Dailey "gave her the finger." When the student told him she was going to the restroom, he said it was better to masturbate on an empty bladder, Wagle said.

Contacted by the Journal-World, Dailey declined to respond to the allegations. He said he might have a comment today. KU spokesman Todd Cohen denied the allegations and defended Dailey.

"The university doesn't support or condone the use of pornographic material. There isn't any" used in Dailey's classroom, Cohen said. He added that Dailey was one of the most popular professors on campus and that his course on sexuality was always full.

Wagle's measure -- an amendment to the Senate's budget bill for next year -- targets the purchase of "obscene" videos as defined by Kansas statute.

The statute provides that material is obscene if an average person applying "community standards" would find it obscene, if it shows certain sexual acts and if it lacks "serious literary, artistic, educational, political or scientific value."

Wagle said Dailey could not be charged with a crime because Kansas law allowed educators to show obscene material in an educational setting.

"Anyone else downloading pictures of the genitals of children would be prosecuted," she said.

Controversial course

Some state senators seemed ready to accept the allegations as fact.

"This is out of step with Kansas values," said Sen. Nancey Harrington, R-Goddard. "This entire description makes me sick to my stomach."

Wagle pushed for passage of an amendment to the state budget that would terminate funds to any university department that used videos that were found to be obscene under state law. The School of Social Welfare has a budget of about $3 million per year and about 485 students.

Several senators urged Wagle to contact KU to try to resolve the situation with the administration, but others said they routinely got the run-around from regents universities and that the amendment was needed to send a message. The measure passed 24-13; Sen. Mark Buhler, R-Lawrence, was among those who voted against the amendment.

Dailey's course is offered at KU in the fall and spring as an elective and as a noncredit seminar for Ecumenical Christian Ministries and several other campus groups.

Wagle said students also are subjected to sexual harassment, swearing and crude comments. Some students in the class said Dailey did not harass students and was funny. However, his lecture Wednesday was peppered with vulgarities.

Dailey's class Wednesday morning included a lively discussion of homosexuality and homophobia. Before students left, Dailey told them that Monday's lesson would include a video of homosexual acts.

A course description states: "An introductory course which focuses on assisting students to understand their own and others' sexual development and expression, as found in attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors."

The course description includes a warning about the use of explicit audio and visual materials.

Some discontent

Despite the warning, one student who contacted Wagle said the material went too far.

The woman, who declined to identify herself, told the Journal-World she thought the class would offer frank discussions on birth control and sexuality. But after seeing slides in class that focused on genitals, she said, "I was embarrassed. I wanted to be like an ostrich and stick my head in the sand."

The student said she was afraid to say anything because of the incident in which she said Dailey "belittled" a student who left the class.

The student said she didn't complain to school officials because she feared retribution and knew Dailey enjoyed an excellent reputation. KU pointed out that Dailey, who has been at the school since 1969, has received numerous awards including being named an outstanding educator last year by KU's chapter of Mortar Board. He has written 10 books on human sexuality.

Other students similarly defended the photos and videos that Dailey uses. Teresa Scalise, a senior psychology major who is Dailey's teaching assistant, said the nature of the class was well-known on campus.

"Pictures go along with his course," said Scalise, 21. "You would have to change the approach to the class if there were no pictures."

Tara Johnson, a St. Louis senior, praised Dailey for his honesty with his students and for encouraging them to ask questions. "It's an incredibly worthwhile class because it's the first time college students get an actual honest and true sex education without having it sugar-coated," Johnson said. "The videos we watch show individuals expressing themselves sexually. He always talks about how he wants to portray sexuality honestly and that is sex in everyday life."

Cohen said that without a formal complaint, the university was not going to investigate the allegations made against Dailey. He said there were numerous ways for students to lodge complaints and shouldn't feel intimidated to do so.

Students with complaints about the university or instructors may contact the university ombudsman, Robert Shelton, at 104 Smith Hall, 864-4665. The ombudsman hears concerns and complaints, conducts investigations when appropriate and helps to reach resolutions.

Emily Johnson, a journalism student at Kansas University, contributed to this report.

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