The Daily Californian The Daily Californian, the official U.C. Berkeley student newspaper, reported today that the University of Califiornia at Berkeley (UCB) may shut down it's popular sex-for-credit courses.

Below is an article that appeared on Page 1 of the Daily Californian on February 15, 2002:

Extracurricular Activities Put Courses in Jeopardy

Writing papers about sexual fantasies. Visiting strip clubs. Watching an instructor have sex. And all the while earning units toward graduation at UC Berkeley.

That is what some students hoped to do this semester while taking the Male Sexuality and Female Sexuality sections of Women's Studies 98/198. But now the future of these student-run courses is in jeopardy, as the faculty sponsor of the classes has threatened "to pull the plug" on them because of questions raised by The Daily Californian.

Caren Kaplan, chair of the Women's Studies Department - responsible for overseeing the classes - sent an e-mail to some of the student instructors, telling them the classes may be shut down. She was scheduled to meet with the instructors this morning.

As a part of the policy for the student-run classes, known as de-cals, a faculty member at the university must sponsor the course. According to de-cal policy, the professor of the course is "responsible for the content" of the class.

A party organized for the male sexuality class was held in the home of some of the course's instructors after the class's year-end outing to a strip club last semester. There, some of the students engaged in sexual activity.

Kaplan said that though she does offer advice to the student instructors on teaching, she does not interfere with the curriculum of the classes overall.

"I don't police the content," Kaplan said.

The de-cal program, an acronym for democratic education at Cal, offers classes initiated and taught by UC Berkeley students.

De-cal classes, though not funded by UC, are given free use of campus facilities and do count for between one and four units toward graduation.

Though some of the instructors consider the content of the male sexuality class controversial, both the female and male sexuality courses teach students about safer sex and allow them to discuss their emotions openly.

Though people may tend to focus on some of the "hard-core" elements of the class, students are given the chance to discuss issues about sexuality that they feel are important, said Morgan Janssen, a student instructor of Male Sexuality.

"The majority of the class is just talking," said Ian Bach, another student instructor. "The class is superemotional."

Bach said one of his favorite parts of the class is the week when the class discusses violence in relationships because it gives students the chance to talk about times when they were hurt.

"People share things which are emotionally ingrained in them, and to rehash it is very empowering and not something that most people get to do," he said.

In the female sexuality course, students make presentations about negative portrayals of women in the media and discuss stereotypes placed upon different groups of women.

In contrast to the male sexuality course, the female counterpart is both older, more structured and has fewer males than females. The male sexuality classes tend to have an equal mix of males and females.

The female class is "highly structured," said Kim Brodsky, who is an instructor of one of the courses and a recent UC Berkeley graduate doing research on campus.

"It is important to get the word across about female sexuality," Brodsky said. "There is so much that we want to get out there."

Similar to the male sexuality de-cal, the female sexuality class also takes a trip to a strip club and teaches a section on pornography and erotica.

The purpose of teaching pornography in the class is to tell students that it is OK to watch porn, said Brodsky.

Nina Hartley, a famous porn star who acted in the film "Boogie Nights," may speak at one of the female sexuality courses later this semester, if they are allowed to continue.

Hartley is also among one of the many guest lecturers slated to speak at the male sexuality class. Other speakers will include people from an anti-circumcision organization and a person from Good Vibrations, a Bay Area sex shop.

Both classes have assignments and projects the students must complete to earn credit for the class. Students write anonymous papers about personal sexual fantasies and when they lost their virginity.

Last semester, a group of students in the male sexuality class chose to do their final project on a trip to a gay strip club.

"It got kinda crazy, and one of the (strippers) ended up getting fired," said Jessica McMahon, a UC Berkeley freshman.

Although she was glad she took the class, she said it may not be for everyone.

Watching instructors strip or have sex at clubs like Sex Exchange in San Francisco are among activities that may deter some students.

State Sen. Dick Ackerman, R-Fullerton, a UC Berkeley alumnus, said the class seems inappropriate and that the faculty may need to re-evaluate the course.

The female sexuality de-cal has been taught by students for over 10 years at UC Berkeley. The male sexuality class has been taught for roughly five years.

Student instructors of the male sexuality class welcome the controversy and conflict that may surround their courses.

"In the class we don't say anything is right or wrong," said Janssen. Rather than provide answers for students, he said the class provides a forum for discussion.


FOLLOW UP: On February 17, 2002: the Sacramento Bee newspaper reported that the University of California at Berkeley suspended it's male sexuality class after the student instructors of the class failed to attend a meeting with university officials on Friday (February 15) to answer allegations that students participated in orgies as part of the course, said Marie Felde, a spokeswoman for the university.

"It appears that the students in this class attended and partipicated in orgies at a San Francisco sex club for "non-academic" reasons." said a university official.

"Those sorts of activities are not part of the approved course curriculum," Felde said. A female sexuality course has also been suspended indefinitely.


ANOTHER FOLLOW UP: March 1, 2002. The San Francisco Chronicle reports today that the U.C. Berkeley has resumed it's de-cal sex courses, on the condition that there are no field trips or "hands-on demonstrations." (That sounds like an interesting term, when describing a sex ed class.)

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