A Contracts Problem

Mars Hill professor resigns after student undresses in class

Mars Hill College has accepted the resignation of a longtime professor after he challenged students to disrobe in exchange for an A in his sociology class and one of them took him up on the offer.

College President Dan Lunsford said the professor didn’t expect the student would actually take off his clothes during the class last Thursday evening. The instructor’s offer was intended to illustrate cultural differences and that public nudity is unacceptable in American society, he said.

“He did not expect it to happen,” Lunsford said. “The professor realized that this had gone much beyond what he ever anticipated, and he was shocked and dismayed.”

Lunsford said he would not release the name of the professor or student because of privacy concerns. The student will not be punished, he said.

The incident has been the talk of the campus at this Madison County school affiliated with the Baptist Church. Senior Kat Marotta said it disturbed her.

“I feel a lot of the responsibility is on the professor in how he handles his classroom,” she said. “I’m very disappointed.

“People were very upset about it. It’s probably the juiciest thing that’s ever come out of this campus.”

But students such as senior Josh Dye do not believe it was that serious.

“As part of the classroom setting, I don’t think it should have been done, but it really didn’t affect me,” he said.

Lunsford said the professor, who has been with the college for more than 25 years, acted professionally by resigning. He has tenure and is eligible for retirement benefits.

“The professor has requested to activate his retirement, and it has been accepted with my expression of appreciation of his service to the college in the past,” he said. “I am concerned about the negative perception it may generate, and the professor was equally concerned in his conversation with me. However, it was a mistake.”

The professor apologized in an e-mail to students in the class. Lunsford said the student will not be punished because the incident would not have occurred if the teacher hadn’t issued the challenge. However, the student will not receive an A for accepting the offer, he said.

“In my view, in American society and in an academic environment, public nudity is not acceptable to illustrate a point,” he said.

Offer and acceptance?

[Original draft 2/21/2004. In preparation for my blog redesign, I found draft blog posts that somehow never made it to publication. This is one of them.]

2010: Link-rot has struck. Here’s the archive.org version. I imagine I didn’t run this because it seemed a little risqué somehow for around here and I felt sorry for the guy. And I suppose the contract is void on public policy grounds?

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2 Responses to A Contracts Problem

  1. Patrick (G) says:

    A couple of questions come to mind: 1. Who do you feel sorry for; the professor forced to resign or the student cheated of the grade he clearly earned per the terms specified by his professor? 2. Is this no longer considered as Risqué as it was 6 years ago?

  2. Just me says:

    Student was cheated. What are the public policy grounds that are so strong so as to defeat this contract? Were there minors in the room? Did the naked student make inappropriate physical contact with anyone?

    Its not as if the prof was offering A’s to people for getting naked for sexual reasons (i.e. “I like the way you look, take off your clothing and I’ll give you an A.”). If that were the case, I would agree about public policy defeating the contract.

    The student has clearly been wronged. Now he has to live with the embarrassment/stigma of being “the naked guy/girl” without the benefit of the A that induced his/her action.

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