Press Releases | Freedom of Expression

Award for Sadomasochism Workshop Condemned for Undermining Academic Freedom

ACTA Challenges the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) for Honoring a College President for Sponsoring Sadomasochism Workshops
January 9, 1998

WASHINGTON, DC—The American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA) today challenged the decision by the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) to honor a college president for sponsoring sadomasochism workshops.

“It is a sad day when an organization founded to protect academic freedom treats it as an excuse for irresponsible behavior,” said ACTA vice president Anne D. Neal, a First Amendment attorney. “This confusion makes a mockery of true academic freedom.”

“The president’s support for promoting sadomasochism had nothing to do with free speech,” Neal said. “What is at issue is educational priorities. Rather than praising the college president, AAUP should be condemning him for spending education dollars on activities of poor quality and doubtful appropriateness.”

ACTA’s statement was in response to AAUP’s June 9 announcement that it will give the Alexander Meikeljohn Award for Academic Freedom to Roger Bowen, president of the State University of New York at New Paltz. Last fall, Bowen approved expenditure of taxpayer funds for an on-campus symposium entitled “Revolting Behavior: The Challenges of Women’s Sexual Freedom.” The conference included sessions on such topics as “Sex Toys for Women” and “Safe, Sane and Consensual S&M: An Alternate Way of Loving.”

“It is right for university trustees to question Bowen’s judgment,” Neal continued. “Boards should challenge administrators who allow shoddy personal agendas to masquerade under the name of education. Report after report indicates our college students are graduating without knowledge in the most basic subject. It is absolutely mind-boggling to honor an administrator who would rather spend his limited resources on sadomasochism than Shakespeare.”

The American Council of Trustees and Alumni is a nonprofit educational organization based in Washington, DC, devoted to academic freedom and excellence. It has members from over 200 colleges and universities.


Launched in 1995, we are the only organization that works with alumni, donors, trustees, and education leaders across the United States to support liberal arts education, uphold high academic standards, safeguard the free exchange of ideas on campus, and ensure that the next generation receives an intellectually rich, high-quality college education at an affordable price.

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