October 15, 2007
UConn Prof on "Leave of Absence" After Showing Offensive Film
Sometime contracts professor Robert Birmingham (left) and the University of Connecticut School of Law have mutually agreed that he’ll take a leave of absence for the rest of the semester, after he showed a "provocative" documentary in class. Birmingham used a clip from a film on prostitution, Really Really Pimpin’ in Da South, in his Remedies class. The clip featured an interview with "Sir Charles" Pipkins, the defendant in a RICO case that Birmingham’s class was studying. But the film also apparently included footage of scantily-clad exotic dancers, and when Birmingham paused the tape, the picture froze on a close-up of a dancer's thong. Some offended students apparently walked out of the class.
UConn dean Jeremy Paul -- who is apparently trying to find someone to take over the four classes Birmingham teaches this semester -- says that the issues involve balancing academic freedom with the need to foster "a welcoming, diverse and tolerant environment for students." The Hartford Courant came out in an editorial against Birmingham's actions, but the best take came from an anonymous commentator, who wrote, apropos the thong, "He was just showing his law students a picture [of] where to screw people; they are going to be lawyers, right?"
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