Former human sexuality professor Michael Schaffer, who met with University officials Monday, said they told him he was dismissed because his course wasn’t “academically rigorous” enough for University standards.
Schaffer said Ruth Katz, dean of the School of Public Health and Health Services, told him school officials decided that his syllabus didn’t meet the academic threshold for a college class.
Last month Schaffer told The Hatchet he believed he wasn’t offered a contract to teach at GW this semester because a female student sharply criticized his class in a spring 2005 course evaluation. She threatened to file a sexual harassment lawsuit against him and called for his termination from the University, Schaffer said.
Schaffer said that there was little discussion about last semester’s negative course evaluation in Monday’s meeting, and that he believed Katz when she said the academic questions about his course were the reason for his termination.
“There’s a philosophical difference between the dean, the department and what I was teaching,” he said. “I think they were more concerned about the number of As I was giving rather then the (class’s) effect on students.”
Schaffer, who taught at GW for 17 years, said Katz told him four factors went into the decision not to renew his contract for the fall 2005 semester: end-of-the-semester course evaluations, informal course evaluations gathered by talking to students enrolled in the class, a course observation by a SPHHS official and the class’s academic standards.
In September, after his dismissal, Schaffer told The Hatchet he was never given a full reason for his dismissal, and when he asked Patricia Sullivan, acting chair of the department of exercise science, for a reason, she told him “to check your student evaluations.”
The scathing evaluation criticized the course’s candid discussions on human sexuality, including a class discussion on pubic hair and Schaffer’s practice of reading anonymous portions of students’ “extremely sexual” personal essays.
Schaffer said his teaching methods were more concerned with helping students apply class lessons to their daily lives than with academic scholarship.
Tracy Schario, GW’s director of media relations, described Monday’s meeting as a “cordial” event where Katz addressed all of Schaffer’s questions. She added that the details of the conversation between Katz and Schaffer remain confidential due to the University’s policy not to comment on personnel matters.
“The decision not to invite Mr. Schaffer to teach the human sexuality course was made first and foremost on the basis of scholarship,” Schario wrote in an e-mail this week.
But Schaffer said the University should have told him that was its rationale in the first place. Since The Hatchet first reported on Schaffer’s dismissal last month, several local and national media outlets have picked up the story.
“Had they been truthful with me at the very beginning, this whole thing wouldn’t have blown up to be as big as it is,” Schaffer said. “They didn’t have the common decency to be honest with me.”