The Day I Had To Talk With The President

The University President wanted to see me in his office. What did I do? Nothing, really. But in my sophomore year I became head of the Experimental College. This “college” was a volunteer effort where a few people taught some classes, usually in the evening, and students or staff could take any class they wanted to sign up for. One of the teachers in the French department taught astrology, the class president taught something (it wasn’t very clear what) at midnight on Fridays, I taught a class for the very beginning guitar players. When I took over in the fall of 1970, I wanted to give the Experimental College a clever name. So I came up with the Alternate Center for Education at Dayton, ACED. The idea was to pronounce it “acid” but our detractors like the arch-conservative kids in Y.A.F. (Young Americans for Freedom) called it “aced” which was accurate, I suppose. As names go, it was not as cool as the Free University of Central Kentucky.
But in that year, in our nicely printed catalog of courses, there was a class on nudity. As it happened, someone from the Dayton newspaper, the city paper not the campus paper, found a class named “Nudity” and it inspired a cartoon. Can you guess what it looked like? Sure, there were students naked listening to a naked teacher with some students raising their hands. It was cute. But the President didn’t like it one little bit. So there I was one-on-one with the priest who ran the whole show. I think I was courteous but not very reverential. I stuck to my principles of free speech and academic freedom. Nothing really came of this meeting and I’m not sure what could. On the other hand, I don’t know that Nudity caught on as a class. I went past the classroom one time to see if the class represented the cartoon. It didn’t. But I didn’t follow what happened to ACED after my year of leading it. I think Sue. G. took over the following year.
The year after I graduated I was a manager of a convenience store. My B.A. in Psychology didn’t lead to many other opportunities. One day a woman comes into my store and she pulls out the latest copy of Psychology Today. It features a naked torso except that it appears to be unzippable like a sweater. She says she doesn’t want her kids coming into my store if it is going to show pictures like that. My visit with the University President starts spinning in my head. I go into the same mode, courteous but stubborn. I refuse to remove the magazine and I guess her kids never came into the store again. I have no idea what her kids looked like so I wouldn’t know. But I put the Psychology Today magazines in the back of the rack. No sense looking for more trouble.
Does this story mean anything? Well, it shows that I’m simultaneously able to stand up for principles and wimpy enought to try hard to avoid confrontation. But these stories happened during the time where the phrase “sexual revolution” was rampant. Sometimes I hear people say that our generation seriously messed up on that one. As if our generation generated AIDS. But the sexual revolution was never about a body count or an orgasm count. It was about communication. That improvement in communication meant that even in the heart of the conservative Reagan era we could talk about AIDS. So it came to pass that about 15 years after I graduated, there was Barbara Walters on national TV in prime time discussing the most literal aspects of anal intercourse. Wow! We would never have thought the sexual revolution would make that kind of progress in such a short time.
The ability to talk about sex is taken granted these days but it wasn’t always that way. In 1973, my girlfriend and I took a class called marriage. Naturally, it was the only class I took at Dayton that was taught by a Marianist priest. It was also the first time that I heard a priest drop the “f” bomb. I think the whole class gasped. 25 years later I see this teacher at a class reunion. He says that more recently he is the one gasping.
Still, I think we survived everything. If the University was hurt by the class on nudity I don’t see how. AIDS is still with us but our ability to talk about it has kept the U.S. away from the same damage that other countries have seen. The magazine Psychology Today is still in business and that can’t be said of a lot of magazines. And I got married the day after I graduated from U.D. so I guess I was a non-combatant during the sexual revolution.

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