A UC San Diego Art Class Final Involves Nudity, And People Are Not. Happy. About It
Between #FreeTheNipple, the Go Topless campaign, and Chelsea Handler's personal crusade to normalize nudity, attitudes toward nudity in America appear to be relaxing (and it's about time). That hasn't stopped one mother from being furious when she discovered that a UC San Diego art class requires students to stand naked in front of their professor in order to pass the final. In Associate Professor Ricardo Dominguez's Performing the Self, students perform a series of "gestures" throughout the semester, culminating in a final nude performance, KWCH 12 reports. Although he has taught the course for 11 years, it is only recently receiving widespread attention after a student's mother caught wind of the assignment and contacted local media. "To blanket say you must be naked in order to pass my class… It makes me sick to my stomach," she told ABC 10 News. The woman, who asked to remain anonymous, went on to claim that there was no mention of the assignment until right before the final.According to Dominguez, however, students are made aware of the requirements from the very beginning of the course — it's even in the syllabus. If they would rather remain clothed, they have the option of doing something "emotionally naked," Jezebel reports, although apparently most students end up in the buff. These are visual arts college seniors we're talking about here; they love this kind of thing.
<img alt="ryan gosling animated GIF " src="http://media3.giphy.com/media/hLX4TPp0m95S0/giphy.gif" class="article-body-image" title="Image: http://media3.giphy.com/media/hLX4TPp0m95S0/giphy.gif"/>The assignment in question asks students to "create a gesture that traces the outlines or speaks about your 'erotic self(s)," the New York Daily News reports. During the final, the professor strips down along with the students as they view each other's performances in a dark, candlelit room. In response to the mother's accusations of "perversity," Dominguez was hilariously blunt.
"If they are uncomfortable with this gesture, they should not take the course," he said, pointing out that it is an upper-level elective that is not required to graduate. The UCSD Chair of the Visual Arts Department, Dr. Jordan Crandall, appears to agree in the statement he provided to the media. From ABC 10 News:
Removing your clothes is not required in this class. The course is not required for graduation... Students are aware from the start of the class that it is a requirement, and that they can do the gesture in any number of ways without actually having to remove their clothes. There are many ways to perform nudity or nakedness... One can "be" nude while being covered.
The nuances of nudity as a vehicle for self-expression went over the heads of many Facebook commenters, however, who took to the news outlet's page to express their disgust. "Anyone that thinks this is appropriate at an educational institution is out of their mind," wrote one user. Another agreed that the class is "inappropriate for today's society... This isn't the Middle Ages."
There are, of course, approximately a million penis jokes as well, but I'll let you sift through those on your own. Not everyone has sided with the mother, either; many comments point out that it is an optional course for students over the age of 18. "It's college.... College. Read your syllabus," read one comment. Some also assert that the outrage erroneously equates nudity with sex, as American culture is so fond of doing. By the time visual art students get to be seniors in college, most have learned to separate the aesthetic from the erotic, and that's apparent in the attitudes former students have toward Dominguez's class. "It was uncomfortable for some of us but we were adults and knew what we were getting ourselves into from day one of the class," said one comment from someone who claimed to have taken the course.
As Dr. Crandall said in his statement, it's up to the students to decide if they're uncomfortable, or feel they are being exploited, and they seem to be fine. (The student whose mother kicked up all the fuss has not come forward so far.) It's college — I can think of three or four weirder assignments I had as an undergrad off the top of my head.
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