Title IX

Students Watched an Art Professor's Experimental Film. Then They Accused Him of Sexual Harassment.

"The people in that room all agreed that I had committed sexual harassment by showing my class this film."

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Notes
Screenshot from Notes After Long Silence

Saul Levine, a film professor at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design, claims that administrators are forcing him into early retirement for showing an experimental movie.

When Levine screened his 1989 film Notes After a Long Silence for a class, some students complained that it was too sexually explicit. College officials then met with Levine—a meeting he described as a "complete ambush" in a lengthy Facebook video.

"The people in that room all agreed that I had committed sexual harassment by showing my class this film," said Levine.

Neither Levine nor college officials immediately responded to a request for comment. MassArt President David Nelson declined to answer The Boston Globe's specific questions about Levine, citing employee confidentiality requirements.

The Globe notes that the film "contains images of Levine naked and having sex with his partner." This raised the ire of at least one former student:

Kim Keown, a former MassArt student who said she first saw the film years ago with no warning about its graphic content, said cautionary notice is the critical issue.

"Saul has bullied and abused other faculty and staff at MassArt for years," said Keown, who now works as a studio manager in the school's film area. "I have nothing against the film or this kind of artwork being made or shown, but with [no] warning [it] can make one uncomfortable and unsafe. I was his student; and I did not speak out. If I had, back then, I would have been ridiculed."…

Levine said he did not know how many students had complained. He said the school had previously defended him against claims he taught "gay pornography," but administrators berated him during the February meeting "about the safety of students, and why I was harming them."

I have watched the entire film. It's 18 minutes long, and you can see it here. It's a very disorienting piece of art, and it does include several brief shots of two people having sex. But it's absolutely impossible to tell who the people are—the camera is zoomed in too close for that. There's also a lingering shot of young girl in her underwear, though I gather the film is trying to make a point there about exploitation.

The claim that the film shows Levine himself naked and engaged in sexual intercourse is false, according to two people who wrote letters to The Globe. "At no point do we see the filmmaker on screen as a person having sex," writes Gerald Peary, a retired film professor. "A million mainstream Hollywood films, which anyone would screen in a class without a thought, have infinitely more sexual content than Levine's little film."

Ah, but mainstream Hollywood films are not subject to Title IX, the federal statute mandating gender equality in education, which often functions as a weapon in the arsenal of easily offended students. MassArt is already investigating one professor, the photographer Nicholas Nixon, of violating Title IX, which might have rendered administrators extra-sensitive to complaints of inappropriate sexual behavior.

Commenters on Levine's Facebook page had nothing but praise for the professor. "This is a devastating indictment of the mentality of MassArt's administration," writes one.

It seems to me that if you enroll in a prestigious art college and sign up for a class taught by an avant-garde artist who makes bizarre experimental films, you don't have much room to complain about some brief, blurry nudity. Levine's situation is a timely reminder of the threats to free speech posed by both the Title IX bureaucracy and hypersensitive students.

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143 responses to “Students Watched an Art Professor's Experimental Film. Then They Accused Him of Sexual Harassment.

  1. Every time a college student complains about a blurry image of dong, six hours of footage disappears from BUCS’s library of porns, and pretty soon it’s going to get to where it’s noticeable.

    1. This right here is a perfect example of the beauty of markets, and the power of the invisible hand.

      With no centralizing force, I’ve noticed that almost everyone has correctly begun referring to my “porns” (plural) to correctly identify the wide range of genres and types. Even though this is very unusual usage, it is correct and it spread.

      Beautiful.

      1. Well, in this case the hand is pretty visible I think…

        1. I’d hope it wasn’t too forceful either…

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  2. If articles on college PC insanity are Reason’s future, then, Lord, take me now.

    1. [puts on God-like beard, white robes, and sandals.]

  3. A professor using his own experimental short film as part of his class seems to be engaging in intellectual masturbation in front of a captive audience. It is rather tasteless, though there may be exceptions if the work is genuinely renowned

    1. Find me an art professor of any sort that doesn’t engage almost purely in intellectual masturbation in front of captive audiences and I’ll show you a unicorn.

      1. Showing people your unicorn makes them feel unsafe.

        1. Or, in Tony’s case, your Javan rhino horn.

        2. That’s the joke. ^_^

        3. Did Tony make a joke? I actually laughed out loud. All the libertarian Nazis are slowly turning you.

      2. I’ve had really good professors who didn’t do that.

        1. Perhaps you went to a better school than I did, which seems likely since the art program I went into was at a State school. I left the program because of this type of thing, actually.

          1. You had the right to leave the program, and maybe it was better for you that you did, but did you leave it because of just one episode like Levine’s?

            1. No, it was literally the entire art department faculty after the sculpture professor quit. The other faculty thought they were too ‘blue collar’ for making wrought iron furniture on the side, even while she was building our cupola furnace by herself out of those funds for our foundry work.

    2. A professor using his own experimental short film as part of his class seems to be engaging in intellectual masturbation in front of a captive audience. It is rather tasteless, though there may be exceptions if the work is genuinely renowned

      It reminds me of this in a couple of dimensions.

    3. Enh, it’s no different from other professors who teach from the textbooks they wrote.

      1. Yeah, it feels weird but the professors are writing textbooks based on how they feel the subject should be taught. In that way it’s probably the best way a student will open in that class, barring a bad professor.

        In the same way, this film teacher probably wanted to showcase an aspect of films that he focused on and can accurately analyze in his own films.

        1. *a student will learn…

          Stupid phone.

    4. Ha ha, this is the most important point I took away too and was about to make the same comment. If I was in his class and he showed me that stupid shot film that was shot in the late 80s but looks like something made in the late 60s early 70s , I would be the wiseass in class laughing during the movie. I wouldnt feel harrassed. He would feel probably offended by me.

  4. When I studied in the UK, some group put on a show exploring Dada, and at the entrance to the theater was an older professor sitting on a toilet with no pants on. Just hanging in the breeze. Say what you will about Europeans, they are obviously more laid back about this kind of stuff.

    Don’t these kids know that gratuitous male nudity is what college is for??

    1. I don’t know what America’s deal with nudity is. Presumably Europe shares many of the same religious roots and values.

      Life drawing with nude models is a staple of art education. So is professors showing off their work.

      1. Europe treated its Puritans badly four centuries ago, so they crossed the Atlantic, established some colonies, and ultimately came to have a way outsized influence in the political and social development of this country.

        1. Plus we lacked nude Roman statuary laying around.

        2. That’s what comes of having no interesting distractions.

        3. Yeah, too bad the fucking Mayflower did not sink.

        4. The Puritans were less hung up on sex than the average C of E churchman back in the day. The purity part of Puritan referred to the doctrinal, not sexual or moral.

      2. Well Europe sent a lot of their really dedicated Protestants here.

        1. The intellectual, philosophical, and spiritual descendants of which are today’s proggies.

          1. Because conservatives are falling over each other demanding more gay sex movies in school.

            1. I know what you’re trying to say but, in reality, this statement says either, “I’m a retard.” or “You’re right.”

            2. Conservatives are Puritans too, of course, but Puritanism also heavily informed the Progressive movement via the Third Great Awakening and the Social Gospel. The Puritan impulse hasn’t been strictly religious in at least a century.

              1. And progressives haven’t been the sex police in almost that amount of time.

                1. If you think this, than you’re really narrow minded in terms of what ‘sex police’ means.

                  1. “You’re not having gay buttsex, check your privilege and go directly to reeducation camp!”

                    ??

                    1. Read the article, and note that these are Progressives attempting to censor a Professor for showing brief nudity in an art film.

                      How is that at all different from what you claim to rail against, again?

                    2. Well yeah now they are being weird. I’ve been in agreement on this for some time.

                2. And progressives haven’t been the sex police in almost that amount of time.

                  Again, you open your mouth to say something but the words and even possibly the very act of continuing to open your mouth demonstrate you to be wrong, a moron, or both.

                3. Tipper Gore called. She wants her Twisted Sister albums back.

                  1. The 90s were a strange time for us all.

      3. You clearly haven’t seen enough Americans in the nude – it is often a ghastly thing.

        1. Not to Americans who can’t see past their belly button. Nothing to see here.

    2. You’re taking me back to my days at Oxford.

      1. You’re taking me back to my time at Shameless Braggart U.

        1. I’m sorry, but your life in Oklahoma really isn’t my fault.

          1. Speaking of Oklahoma and universities with a lot of gay sex happening, ever heard of Oral Roberts?

            1. I tried the oral roberts once. Threw out my back and fractured my wife’s pelvis.

              1. Finish the story. Did you come or what?

    3. Don’t these kids know that gratuitous male nudity is what college is for??

      Whatever you say, Hitler.

    4. When I studied in the UK, some group put on a show exploring Dada, and at the entrance to the theater was an older professor sitting on a toilet with no pants on. Just hanging in the breeze. Say what you will about Europeans, they are obviously more laid back about this kind of stuff.

      Sorry to have to break this to you, but leftist sex-crazed London art students are not, in fact, representative of “Europeans”.

      1. Europeans – in general- ARE more laid back about this. If you ever get the chance to actually travel to the continent and turn on a tv in various nations, you will find that out quickly mark.

        http://www.spokesman.com/stori…..tting-far/

        1. Can you still see titties on page 3?

          1. No, that was dubbed “patriarchal hatecrime” years ago, around the time the UK and Iceland cracked down on internet porn.

            Also, apparently MaxSvenson hasn’t watched cable TV in the US, if he thinks naughty shows are unique to Europe.
            I don’t get it. You Americans produce more porn annually than the rest of the planet does in a decade, but somehow your the “moralists”

    5. Should have been exploring Moma.

  5. A private institution is responding to complaints from its customers by altering its product?

  6. I’m just gonna go out on a limb and say that if your film includes scenes that, if performed live in public, would have you arrested for indecent exposure, you should probably warn students before playing it.

    Whether his failure to do so warrants early retirement or not is another matter that frankly I don’t care enough about to ponder.

    1. I am rightly concerned with the former, but could care less about the latter. Good call.

      1. I am rightly concerned with the former, but could care less about the latter. Good call.

        They teach you that at Oxford?

  7. I think when you sign up for college you shouldn’t have to worry about being taught things you don’t already know or exposed to thoughts you don’t already think or opinions you don’t already hold. This professor should have warned the students they might see or hear things they hadn’t seen or heard before and there was a risk that this might cause them to think thoughts they hadn’t thought before. Being forced to think new thoughts is a traumatic experience to some people.

    On the other hand, this is an artiste, a fillum-maker showing his own experimental fillums in class as instructional material, which, if your name ain’t Spielberg or Coppola, I think makes you some kind of pretentious douchebag.

    1. This whole kerfuffle seems to consist almost exclusively of douchebags.

      1. Douchebag Kerfuffle was somebody’s nickname somewhere.

        1. It’s a pretty apt description of the entire commentariat, frankly.

          1. Ikea Bag Kerfuffle is another good description of us.

      2. It is a college film class, so…yeah.

        1. I can’t think of a bigger waste of time than college, when the major is film. If you financed it with a student loan, it’s a complete albatross. The Hollywood machine built in the 30s didn’t have that major even available to them. However… study history, psycholgy, music and art, and go work in the industry with the best you can find as soon as you can. Restaurants are a great template for this: I would take a lettuce washer from a 4 star over a head cook at a greasy spoon nine times out of ten because they’ve seen excellence in action, and know there is a higher bar regarding service and quality. I suspect there is a little of that perspective in Bill Gates experience too: he dropped college to get out and work because being ‘there’ is worth more than knowing where ‘there’ is as an academic exercise.


  8. Saul Levine, a film professor at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design…

    So, male and Jewish? Do we really need to read further to know that people are demanding they resign?


    1. Levine said he did not know how many students had complained. He said the school had previously defended him against claims he taught “gay pornography,” but administrators berated him during the February meeting “about the safety of students, and why I was harming them.”

      Ah, so he’s getting blasted from both sides…

      1. So to speak.

      2. Gay white males have lost their status as Marginalized People, so at this point, he’s just another Jew.


    2. It seems to me that if you enroll in a prestigious art college and sign up for a class taught by an avant-garde artist who makes bizarre experimental films, you don’t have much room to complain about some brief, blurry nudity.

      For once, Soave, we’re in complete agreement. I attended art school for a time, and if you’re not into nudity you need to get the fuck out of art today because it’s something like 90% of what you’re going to see. It’s like bitching about HBO because of the nudity, when you paid specifically for the nudity.

    3. Yeah, it’s not like he’s this Protestant woman.

      1. What school do or did you go to? I need to know where to file my Title IX complaint against you for exposing me to a Julia Roberts film.

  9. several brief shots of two piece having sex

    I guess that’s usually how it works, but sometimes there are more than two.

    1. I dunno, most of my having sex is one piece. Unless you count my gray gym sock as a separate piece.

      1. Since you probably fall asleep with the sock firmly stuck to your belly, an alien would mistake it as part of your body, no doubt.

  10. Of course they did.

  11. THIS ARTICLE MADE ME FEEL UNSAFE.

    1. If you were a cop, you could shoot it.

      1. At least 50 times before stopping to ask why.

  12. “The people in that room all agreed that I had committed sexual harassment by showing my class this film.”

    They “all” agreed? Geez, I’d rethink my career options at that point.

    1. And what “career options” could an aging professor of avant garde art possibly have?

      1. Well… *looks around nervously* once I read the actual article, it appears the administration gave him his career options.

      2. Chancellor of Germany?

  13. I dunno, I don’t think it’s particularly surprising that students don’t want to see a film of their teacher having sex

    That’s not avant garde, that’s creepy

    1. Exactly. Film students might be weird, but at least they aren’t psychopaths like English grad students.

    2. Except the bit where this was not the professor on screen. There are few things worse than Directors that star in their own films.

      1. You better make an exception for The Outlaw Josey Wales because dyin’ ain’t much of a livin’ boy.

    3. Things sure have changed.

      Back in the day if you were 21 you could drive to the wrong end of town, out past city limits, to the grungy bar, where you had to fork over a cover charge and order two “drinks” to see a girl dancing in pasties. If college was in a city, there might be an “Art Theatre” showing a “blue” movie. Or so I heard.

      I blame the internet. I bet the students emailed their complaint, then checked out PornHub.

  14. College officials than met with Levine?a meeting he described as a “complete ambush” in a lengthy Facebook video.

    “The people in that room all agreed that I had committed sexual harassment by showing my class this film,” said Levine.

    I’m trying to remember who it was that said that the professors are getting a bad rap, being accused as being part of the PC mafia, but they’re actually pretty cool. They said the real problem was there was a new ‘gang’ or ‘class’ which had heavily infiltrated the administrations of universities, and that’s where the problem was.

    Reading stuff like this makes me think there’s something to that.

    1. I absolutely believe that. Seems like we read articles on here about professors getting screwed by TItle IX as often as students. I think the kangaroo courts have given a certain kind of person an intoxicating authority over others’ lives. It’s like a hysterical modern-day witch hunt.

    2. Yeah and he’s probably been showing that same film to every class for the last 30 years without a peep of complaint.

      1. Yeah and he’s probably been showing that same film to every class for the last 30 years

        Junior year in college, toughest 30 years of my life!

        *rimshot*

    3. The students have surpassed the teachers. The PC is strong in them.

  15. What a terrible film. Vietnam, construction of a building it looks like, epileptic inducing scene changes, is that BB King? This film is an insult to Vietnam, construction works, blue music fans, and mostly to people who enjoy film.

    1. Right

      And you, as a female, were offended by the sexual nature of the film?

      No! I’m offended both as a student who has to study this bullshit and person with eyes!

  16. Annnnnd evangelical conservatives just learned the language they need to use to shut down college gay art projects.

    1. Aren’t all art projects gay?

      1. Art and college are both gay.

  17. Do we have clarity on what the class is/was?

    If it’s Film Appreciation 101 for Non-Majors I could see how it may quite reasonably be inappropriate. Not necessarily on Title IX grounds, whatever they are, but certainly from a personal-taste vs. educational benefit perspective. Even for graduate level news and documentary-style film making I could see how it might be inappropriate.

    Also, “OH NOEZ! NOT EARLY THE RETIREMENTS!” Seems like they ought to be able to do that to the guy even without Title IX.

    1. In the article it talks about a senior thesis class but it doesn’t say if that’s this class or not.

  18. How do I begin
    To tell the story of
    The life of Saul Levine ….

    1. How about patterning it after Acts 9:1-5 Like a deer in headlights Saul was knocked off his high horse, then lectured about how unproductive it is to “kick against the pricks.”

  19. It’s really hard to resist not laughing aloud as another one of the crowd that brought this shit onto campuses watches it turned against them.

  20. Maybe he misunderstood and they really all agreed it was *sensual* harassment. Because I just watched it and my senses are sore and bruised and they just want to take a shower and forget the whole thing happened.

  21. I have watched the entire film. It’s 18 minutes long, and you can see it here. It’s a very disorienting piece of art, and it does include several brief shots of two people having sex.

    It’s got third act problems. Could have used an editor.

    1. I watched abt a minute of it. It made Nasim Aghdam’s vids look good by comparison.

    2. I watched abt a minute of it. It made Nasim Aghdam’s vids look good by comparison.

  22. “It’s 18 minutes long, and you can see it here.”

    Oh, you said *minutes.*

    1. It’s 15 minutes and that is exactly 14:59 too long for such a lazy piece of shit film. Total waste of celluloid and (for the unfortunate viewers) tuition and moments on this precious Earth.

  23. See? Attempts to smuggle “children’s rights” grenades into the LP platform back in the 80s were triggers for this exact sort of reaction. Recall that at the time Oneida-style utopian collectivists had been busted in Chile for what the media called child abuse. There were also rosary-wrapped white knuckles over an East German photo book showing toyless naked kids in that looter utopia. Let this schoolteacher’s self-destruction be a reminder to the LP platform committee that minors don’t vote. There is nothing to gain by pretending otherwise.

    1. And, once again, Hank knocks one out of the park while the rest of us are watching a movie.

  24. It’s a good thing he didn’t show Pink Flamingos

  25. I remember an art prof screening his film on campus (special showing at night in a theater) way back in the 70s. It featured almost the entire time his naked girlfriend running around. Some of the film ran backwards (woah, how cool!). Later I went to his house and when we opened a door his girlfriend was dancing naked, so i guess his film was a documentary.
    It is now a landmine to be an art or literature teacher since those subjects frequently encounter sex and nudity.

  26. The film itself is crap. That said, how can you take any art course without seeing nudes? In this particular film I did not get that far but if there are people having sex it would be hard to tell WHAT you are seeing it is so jumbled.

  27. When I was in art school it was the students making those kinds of videos and showing them in class.

  28. Reason journalism: A reporter telling us what he read in the Boston Globe padded out with personal opinions. Not even the effort to pick up the phone to try to talk with those involved.

    1. Give Rico a break, willya? That coif of his doesn’t just happen.

  29. Would it be sexual harassment if he just dropped his pants in class, without bothering to get it on film?

    -jcr

    1. That might depend on if he had any underwear on.

    2. If he dropped his pants and revealed his vagina, their poor little heads would explode as they simultaneously gasped and applauded.

  30. The New Puritans are taking over.

    1. Similar things have happened in the past. One of the reasons for the demise of the original Hippie movement in the seventies was young women realizing that Free Love was a lousy deal for them.

  31. As Groucho said “well art is art isn’t it? Then again east is east and west is west” we all know the rest.

    Creative arts is something to be kept free of government interference. No matter how silly it gets.

    If your professor shows you a crappy film and calls it a lesson then the smarter students just learned something.

  32. Words have meanings, damnit!

    I am tired of hearing “unsafe” used in place of “disturbing.”

    If the professor had barricaded all the fire exits, that would be unsafe. If the floor joists were dawn through or badly decomposed so that the classroom could collapse into the floor below, that would be unsafe.

    But showing a group of adults (18+) a film, even with full-on nudity or gay images or whatever: it might be disturbing for some, it might be tasteless, it might even be mildly upsetting. But unless the projector has an electrical short and is catching fire, it ain’t unsafe!

  33. The complaints were probably from people with a grudge against the professor. Rules and policies get weaponized.

  34. Their “Social Emergency Response Center” is coming just in time to deal with this crisis.

    https://www.campusreform.org/?ID=10723

  35. The problem here is the situation isn’t simple art: money changed hands based on a declared content, and if curriculum hasn’t been properly disclosed, people have been taken advantage of. That said… some art is offensive, and describing it ahead of time alters the impact value. For example, I saw Blue Velvet years ago when it first came out, knowing zero about the film. Had anyone told me anything [or if I had read a review], the insanity unfolding on screen would not have been percieved the same way or achieved its full effect. I chose to see that movie blind, hence zero complaints. But I did wonder ‘wtf’ about the headspace of those who produced it.
    That said, Title IX has been a long standing affront to a large number of people, and it has metastasized into a cancer. When you have to force “diversity”, you don’t have actual diversity – you have a tyranny of the minority [thanks to a cabal of lawyers]. End Title IX… and alot of problems go away.

  36. “It seems to me that if you enroll in a prestigious art college and sign up for a class taught by an avant-garde artist who makes bizarre experimental films, you don’t have much room to complain about some brief, blurry nudity.”

    Oh, hell, you don’t have much grounds for complaining about being exposed to bestiality, coprophilia, and cannibalism. That’s how far ‘Art’ has sunk.

  37. For my college French class, we did a film where characters from The Little Prince, painted on my two nude girl pals’ bodies, would interact with each other.

    The French teacher gave it 50 out of 50 points but said that from now on she’ll have to tell students not to show nudity as it happens every year for the project!

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  39. “I have nothing against the film or this kind of artwork being made or shown, but with [no] warning [it] can make one uncomfortable and unsafe.”

    Well, there’s the fundamental cognitive defect right there. Just because something makes you feel uncomfortable does not mean you are “unsafe”.

    Not a trivial confusion. If we give any credence to people feeling unsafe, then it better damn well be true.

  40. I don’t agree with the students’ reasoning, but I agree that this “film” is smut, indecent, and not appropriate for anyone,

    1. I wouldn’t exactly call it smut, at least the first 6 minutes or so I could stand watching. But if I was told to watch that in a college class I’d probably complain too – not because of the sex, but because of the sheer pointlessness. (I’d probably complain in any other context as well, but it’s more offensive when you’re paying thousands of dollars in tuition for the privilege.)

      I don’t understand why someone would make such a film. For the money? There’s not much money in a film like that. To express a message? There aren’t many people who will see your message in a film like that, partially because hardly anyone would voluntarily see it, and partially because any message is so hidden that you’d probably need the professor on hand to explain it. For the instructional value? What’s the lesson for the students supposed to be, “if you jump from one thing to another too often, your audience will get a headache”?

      And by the way, if I were prone to seizures, that film would absolutely make me feel unsafe. Most of it seems to be cuts that last a small fraction of a second, often going back and forth between scenes with different amounts of lighting.

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