Hot Docs: Student sues over professor collecting, reading students’ sexual journals

July 5, 2012

Couple in bedBased on its name, one can assume that the college psychology course “Human Sexuality” would cover some fairly risqué and controversial topics.

According to a new lawsuit, however, one such course at Western Nevada College went well beyond any reasonable expectations.

The suit, filed by Karen Royce, a 60-year-old student returning to school to become a social worker, claims that the Human Sexuality class that Royce took in the fall of 2011 was offensive to the point that it created a hostile work environment.

According to the complaint, this environment was so hostile that Royce had to drop the course after only four weeks.

At this point, many of you are probably very curious about exactly what went on in this class.

You’re in luck: the complaint isn’t short on specifics about what happened.

First, the course instructor, Tom Kubistant, locked the door to the classroom at the beginning of each week’s class, informing the students that there would be no late attendance, and that “If you don’t like it, leave right now.”

According to the complaint, Kubistant then informed the class that he will increase their sexual urges to such a height that they won’t be able to think about anything other than sex.

He then had the students compile lists all the different kinds of sex and sexual positions, which he then proceeded to read aloud to the class.

Kubistant then discussed penis myths and told a sex joke.

So far, this conduct seems a bit unprofessional, but nothing rising to the level of creating a hostile work environment.

However, things start to get a little creepier with Kubistant’s description of the end of semester assignment: “A Sexual Case Study…You!”

Hot Doc: Royce v. W. Nevada College

Source: Thomson Reuters News & Insight – National Litigation

As you could likely already surmise, the term paper was about the student’s own sexual experiences.

Moreover, according to the complaint, Kubistant was very specific about exactly what topics and points were required to be covered by the assignment.

Some of the topics allegedly included:

  • When did I begin early exploration of my genitals?
  • Describe any sexual abuse;
  • How did I lose my virginity?
  • Did I experience a homosexual outing or phase, and what challenges were associated with that?
  • Describe personal promiscuity behaviors;
  • Do I cheat and how do I feel about it?
  • How do I become sexually aroused?
  • What kind of foreplay arouses me?
  • Describe my climax patterns;
  • Describe my climax challenges;
  • What are my masturbation habits?
  • List all my sexual partners and describe the differences;
  • Have I ever had sexually-transmitted diseases?
  • Have I been raped or experienced any sexual coercion?
  • What kind of fetishes do I have?
  • What do I need to become more sexually satisfied?
Tom Kubistant

Tom Kubistant

According to the complaint, failure to discuss any of these points would result in points being deducted from the assignment’s final score and, consequently, in a lower course grade (this was particularly troubling for Royce because she had been the victim of sexual abuse).

Kubistant also didn’t wait until the end of the course to collect such personal information from his students, though.

The homework assigned for each week’s class was to write 3 journal entries of 250 words each before the next class disclosing their personal sexual thoughts.

Unfortunately, these entries were not kept private.

According to the complaint, during the fourth week of class, the journal entry of a student sitting next to Royce was discussed in detail with it expanding into a discussion about anal sex – the journal entry disclosed an obsession with licking her boyfriend’s rectum.

The complaint contains plenty of other instances of such classroom occurrences (including Kubistant requiring students to masturbate “twice as often” and to journal about it).

This all should more than legally suffice for the purposes of creating a hostile work environment…except for one minor detail.

On the first day of class, Kubistant handed out waivers entitled “Acknowledgement for Human Sexuality Class” for the students to sign.

Royce signed this waiver, but admitted that she didn’t read through it before doing so.

The complaint doesn’t tell us what’s on the waiver, but school administrators and the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights seem to believe that Royce’s complaints lacked merit, probably in large part because of this waiver.

Fortunately for Royce, waivers aren’t always interpreted in court as the drafters intended them to be, and this “Acknowledgement” may not be as insulating as the college hopes – especially considering the circumstances of how blindsided by the course content the complaint claims that Royce was.

Regardless of the outcome of this lawsuit, I’m certainly left wondering how Kubistant academically (and ethically) justifies his classroom practices.

After all, the thought of him collecting and privately reading the sexual confessions of several dozen 18 to 19-year-olds doesn’t exactly paint a picture of a scholarly professor.