Ethics Quiz: “How You Gonna Keep Her Teaching The Class After It’s Seen Paree?”

horrified students

…..or “It May Not Be The Naked Teacher Principle, But It May Still Be A Problem.”

In the wake of the most recent post here about the Naked Teacher Principle, Ethics Alarms received many inquiries from readers who cited the news item about the hapless teaching assistant at the University of Iowa who somehow managed to send her class not merely sexually provocative photos of herself, not merely nude photos of herself, but something much more kinky. Attached to a message that read “Hi Class, I attach the solutions for number 76 and 78 in this email” were a series of images showing the young woman sans clothes and sans inhibitions having a lively cyber-sexting chat with a partner in which the two were pleasuring themselves in front of video equipment while streaming to each other.

Hmmm. That didn’t come out quite right.

Anyway, the question was: Does this conduct, which goes well beyond the conditions of the Naked Teacher Principle but which occurred at a university rather than a high school or middle school, trigger said principle, regardless of intent?

The answer is no, not regardless of intent. I would think that we all can agree that a college teacher, whether assistant or renowned professor, who intentionally sent this kind of entertainment to 80+ students would have to be disciplined and probably sent far, far away, for a blatant abuse of position and responsibility, unless he or she were teaching “Sexual Practices in a Cyber-Age.” I would hope that we also could agree that a middle-school teacher who  inadvertently sent material like this to her class would have to be relieved of her duties as well (and that one who did it intentionally should be arrested). This incident however,  1) was inadvertent, and 2) involved college students, who are technically adults, and not much younger than the typical teaching assistant. The NTP only applies to secondary school, where teachers are not just teachers but also authority figures.

The closest secondary school equivalent of the University of Iowa episode was probably the escapades of now ex-teacher Carla McKinney ( formerly employed at Overland High School in Aurora, Colorado). Carla, who is an idiot, didn’t see anything improper about a teacher maintaining a public Twitter account with a bio reading,  “Stay sexy. Stay high. Stay drunk. Stay free. Stay trippy.” She regularly posted naked selfies,  some of which appeared to have been taken in the teacher’s rest room during work hours, and also tweeted photos of herself drinking, stripping, smoking (then) prohibited substances, and  semi-nude poses. Carly’s tweets had legends like “Naked. Wet. Stoned,” and “Watching a drug bust go down in the parking lot. It’s funny cuz I have weed in my car in the staff parking lot.” As I said…idiot. Also the subject of one of the least debatable Naked Teacher Principle applications imaginable.

The NTP, which has infinite variations but in essence holds that if a teacher has a naked image of herself or himself, or something similarly sexual in nature, end up before the eyes of her pupils, she has been rendered less able to perform her duties and cannot complain if the school board responds with dismissal. An alternate  version is, “If you want to teach children now or in the future, don’t participate in the creation of any photographs of yourself that would lead to your arrest for corruption of a minor if you handed them to a student of the opposite sex.”

The NTP does not apply to college, but what happened in Iowa is also an extreme case. To say the teaching assistant and the University were embarrassed is an understatement. To say that the incident altered her relationship with the class for the worse would be hard to dispute. The pictures caused a flood of tweets and caused the teacher to become an instant celebrity. “Class with the most famous TA in University of Iowa history starts in an hour and a half. Wish me luck! Should I ask for an autograph?” tweeted one student. Her next class was described as “awkward.” I bet it was.

Now she is a teacher no more. He has been “reassigned” at the University, and  is relegated to non-teaching duties. On the plus side, her social life has picked up. I’m kidding.

Thus comes the Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the weekend, which is this stumper:

“Is a massive sexual embarrassment that is personal and sexual in nature but inadvertent and involves no laws justifiable cause to relieve a college teacher of her duties?”

Or to put it another way, is there a HIOLTWSHPVSHTSP…a Higher Institute Of Learning Teacher Who Sends Home-made Porn Videos Starring Herself To Students Principle?

I will eagerly await your responses.

19 thoughts on “Ethics Quiz: “How You Gonna Keep Her Teaching The Class After It’s Seen Paree?”

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  1. It depends…. here’s an example.

    If he had it to do over again, professor John Michael Bailey says he probably wouldn’t allow a live sex demonstration in his human sexualities class at Northwestern University — but not because he thinks it was inappropriate. A weary-sounding Bailey, reached by phone this afternoon, told me that on principle he stands by his decision to let one guest presenter use a sex toy — rather unsubtly known as the “fucksaw” — to bring another presenter to repeated orgasm in front of his students. But he says it simply wasn’t worth “the fallout,” which has included coverage from every mainstream news outlet from the Associated Press to MSNBC. Following the media pickup, the university’s president, Morton Schapiro, issued a statement criticizing Bailey’s “extremely poor judgment” and announcing an official investigation.

    I’m no fan of the man for reasons irrelevant here. But while if I was in charge of the Uni administration, I’d say Are you CRAZY? if asked for permission for this class demonstration, that would only be because society is too uptight here. In this context, and only in this context, a class on human sexuality that is voluntary, for adults, and with prior informed consent – no worse than many experiments that are conducted in sexology. In a sane world, it wouldn’t be a problem. In this one, it most certainly is. (It also gives me the creeps personally, but that’s because I’m rather priggish and hung up on such issues – my failing.)

    So to answer your question – yes it is cause, even though ethically there was no wrongdoing. Her effectiveness as a teacher there is compromised (pardon the pun).

    I hope that whatever brain-fart caused this to happen is a one-off, and that by moving elsewhere, she’d escape enough notoriety to be effective again.

  2. Yes, she should be relieved. It created a situation in which the disruption it caused can’t be mitigated in any real way. Was that Willy Wonka?

  3. The question remains: What school- on ANY level- would allow purveyors of pornography to distribute their “wares” in a classroom? If one wishes to consider young people still in their teens as functional adults, so be it… but that’s not really the point. A school ultimately has to be judged by the merits of its faculty. If its faculty is perverse or allows perversity among its members or the students, then what does that say for the worth of the institution itself? Scholarship and citizenship must be the prime focus of any school, from kindergarten to a university graduate school. And if the school in question is taxpayer supported, this raises the question of whether those citizens who pay should be allowed more say in the apparently ethics-free environment of a number of state college systems.

  4. I’m not sure she would be able to regain a professional level of respect after that, and that would be the reason. These were adults and massively embarrassing, but that can’t be blamed on anyone else. But, unlike the sextoy mentioned above or other things that might have outraged the public, this was an accident and no minors were potentially corrupted. That will carry its own stink for quite some time for both the school and herself, let go or not.

    I’m not sure that an occasional harmless stupidity can’t be forgiven sometimes, so I think she should not be fired. She should lose tenure track for a while, but this shouldn’t be a career ender at the university level. (on the technical level, I know my university had a size cap on emails. I’m surprised this one didn’t.)

  5. Yes, it is grounds for dismissal.

    From what I gather, this TA was multitasking her extremely personal behavior alongside her extremely professional behavior. So apparently while sending openly sexual items to whoever she was involved with, she was also preparing assistance for her students. She was careless and got the two crossed and sent the wrong items to the wrong recipients. I’m sure her paramour responded saying “yeah, I know that the integral of sin(x)dx is -cos(x)+C, but I was hoping to see some hoo-ha”.

    Often times people accidentally cross purposes on email and send the wrong item to the wrong recipient or send an email and forget attachments or send a mass email that was meant to be for one set of eyes. Each of those specific instances show a lack of attentiveness. This scenario suffers from the same lack of attentiveness… unfortunately for the TA, what she chose to do OBLIGATES one of two things: either do one action now and the other later (ie your professional obligations 1st, and the personal ones 2nd) OR if you do insist on multitasking that level of conduct, you are OBLIGATED to pay 100% attention to what the hell you are doing.

    She should be relieved for that reason.

  6. Reminds me of the time in my very early 20s when I was doing a lecture on the Korean War with a group of students not much younger than me. I have a bad habit of scribbling on the chalkboard and my geographic renderings are sometimes beyond horrible. In this case, my Korean Peninsula was probably something SMP might call a “perverted peninsula”. As I drew in the offensives etc…the peninsula became even more perverse and I could hear the snickering start. I thought to myself I can handle this one of two ways 1) let the snickering continue and lose them 2) address the snickering but in then process I would also unwillingly reveal that I KNOW why they are snickering which I didn’t want to do. In the end, I just kept going…I quickly added without looking at them….”I can erase this and we can start all over”. Total silence.

  7. “If you want to teach children now or in the future, don’t participate in the creation of any photographs of yourself that would lead to your arrest for corruption of a minor.”

    Jack, I have debated you on the NTP, but, as the NFL referees say, “after further review,” I can go with that.

    Problem is and remains, nowadays, there are so many more minors who are already more corrupted than their teachers.

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