The Breast-Feeding Professor

“Uh, Captain? Captain? We really need you up in the plane, now—we’re under attack…”

This story reads as if it were invented just to cause arguments on Ethics Alarms.

Adrienne Pine, a professor at American University, was faced with a choice: stay home and care for her baby, who had a fever, or take the child to class. She chose to take the infant to the first meeting of her “Sex, Gender and Culture” course, where the child spent her lecture alternately on her mother’s back or crawling around the room, or, at one point, being breast-fed by the professor. Pine’s Full Mommy breast-feeding act was commented upon by the school newspaper, and Prof. Pine responded to inquiries by a student reporter with a dismissive, “…the baby got hungry, so I had to feed it during the lecture. End of story,” and a defensive and defiant  blog entry. She sees nothing wrong with her conduct, and regards the controversy as proof that ” a feminist anthropology course is necessary at AU.”

That’s playing the ol’ Mommy Card with gusto, Professor Pine.

She is dead wrong, as a matter of professional ethics. As a college professor,Pine has limited demands on her time, and the one thing that she is required to do is to devote full attention to her students in class. With an infant, an ill infant at that, in her care, she could not do that. She had a pure and unresolvable conflict of interest, and it was a breach of her duty to her child (at one point a student had to tell her that the baby had a paper clip in her mouth) and a breach of duty to her students (if they were watching the baby, and later that breast-feeding exhibition, they were not able to give full attention to her lecture). She had a choice to make: do one job or the other, because it is impossible to do them both at the same time. Continue reading