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Students back WNC instructor; regent wants

Teri Vance
tvance@nevadaappeal.com

While students are speaking out in defense of the adjunct professor targeted in a complaint to Western Nevada College, at least one regent is looking more closely at the allegations.

Reactions have been mixed after student Karen Royce filed a formal complaint with the college last month, saying Human Sexuality professor Tom Kubistant crossed boundaries in the class, including a directive to increase their masturbation habits and to draw their orgasms.

Ron Knecht, who represents Carson City on the Nevada System of Higher Education’s Board of Regents, said Tuesday that he has two concerns with Kubistant’s Human Sexuality class, which can fulfill a core requirement.

“For me, the key issues are academic quality, and making the necessary distinction between academic work and therapy practice,” Knecht said in an earlier email to system Chancellor Dan Klaich. Knecht asked for copies of the class syllabus, course description and other documents.

“At bottom, my main concern here is academic quality, rigor and accountability in the essentials of education,” Knecht wrote. “I want to know that we have a meaningful core social science requirement in practice, not just on paper, and that folks cannot circumvent it by taking some outre elective that is not even administered according to the course description.”

Kubistant has not responded to messages seeking comment.

An independent investigator for the college determined that Royce’s complaints were unfounded, and the case was dismissed early this month.

Royce said she was disillusioned by the process and felt vilified for speaking out.

“I just don’t trust the system,” she said last week. “I’m so skeptical now. I feel like the Lone Ranger out there for justice.”

Other students, however, say it is Kubistant who has suffered the injustice. Eight current and former students spoke out in a meeting recently with the Nevada Appeal, which they requested in response to the original story outlining Royce’s complaint.

“This class is so great,” said Briana Broussard, 19, who is enrolled in the class this semester. “There’s middle-schoolers getting pregnant, and nobody’s talking about sex. He debunks all the myths we’ve learned since the eighth grade.”

Ashley de Rosa, 21, said the midterm exam for the class was one of the most academically challenging tests she’s ever taken, covering everything from anatomy to sexually transmitted diseases.

She added that she has never felt compelled to divulge personal sexual details, writing in her class journals about the pressures of working in student government, her thoughts on 9/11 and her reactions to magazine articles.

“I have no time for a sex life,” she said. “There’s never been any pressure on me for that. And I’m getting a good grade in the class.”

Outside of class, she’s worked with Kubistant, a certified public speaker, in student government training and other workshops.

“This class is just one fraction of what he means to the college as a professor, as a person,” she said.

Students argued that they were never assigned to masturbate, rather it was a recommendation from the instructor.

Broussard agreed that she had not been coerced into sharing her sexual experiences, but said she has done so voluntarily. She said Kubistant allows students to ask questions in their journals that they’re not comfortable discussing in class.

“I feel like I can open up to him and tell him anything,” she said. “I have complete trust in him. I know he won’t judge me.”

David Fatino, 26, described himself as “shy and reluctant.” He said he has struggled with relationships in the past, but the class has helped him learn how to sustain the one he is in now with his girlfriend, who is also enrolled in the course.

“It’s helped my communication so much,” he said. “I was so reluctant with a lot of things. This class has helped me open up sexually.”

Knecht is concerned that those types of interactions may cross the boundaries.

“Have we crossed the line from something that is an appropriate undergraduate credit to something that is more in the realm of therapy?” Knecht asked. “There should be a distinction made between the two realms.”

Royce said she is considering an appeal of her complaint to the Nevada System of Higher Education.