Machiavelli to masturbation

The University of Rhode Island class was supposed to deal with political philosophers from Plato to Machiavelli. Instead, students read Machiavelli’s The Prince and heard a lot about the professor’s sexual orientation and contempt for conservatives and Christians, writes Nathaniel Nelson, a conservative Christian student, in Front Page.

On the first day of class, Professor Michael Vocino announced, “I like dick,” and asked Nelson if he was “queer,” the student says. On the second day, Vocino asked Nelson if he was uncomfortable knowing the professor thought he was “hot.”

A few times during the semester instead of giving the usual educational assignments, Professor Vocino asked me, and a few other male members, to try “making out” with other males and tell the class how it felt. While observing an outside student walk by the classroom with baggy-style jeans on, he offered that he wished men would wear tighter pants because he liked “bums.” Often Professor Vocino would ask members of the class for hugs. In fact, he did an “experiment” to see how people reacted to the intrusion on their personal space. This “experiment” consisted of class members standing as close as they could to each other. He ended the “experiment” with students, again mostly male and including myself, standing as close to him as they felt comfortable.

Vocino frequently asked students about their sexual activities, “how much, with who and when,” Nelson writes.

It was a frequent occurrence for Professor Vocino to talk about “dick” and all of the actions that one can do with said body member. It should be noted that one entire class was devoted to the topic of masturbation.

After Nelson and another conservative student complained, Vocino, who is a tenured professor of film studies and library science, was suspended from teaching political science. I wonder if he got the ax for sexual and political harassment or for neglecting to teach Plato and Aristotle.

KelliPundit, who advises a conservative student group at URI, vouches for Nelson’s integrity.

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  1. I don’t consider myself “conservative” (along the political continuim), but this professor’s behavior is outrageous and inappropriate.

    I find it amazing that only one student complained. It wasn’t more than 3 years ago that I completed my masters studies, and I can tell you, my conservative and non-conservative classmates would have been offended…. and mad about the lack of academic rigor.

  2. Walter E. Wallis says:

    Sounds like sexual harassment to me, the kind that gets millions for put upon working women. I wonder what that school’s endowment is?

  3. ragnarok says:

    No, no, Walter, you’ve got it wrong. It’s harassment only if it’s the other way around – that is, straight hassling gay.

    BTW, a minor point, but Professor Vocino’s Web page says “michael vocino, ph.d.”. His CV, however, only says that he’s a Ph. D. candidate, i.e., he doesn’t have a Ph. D.

    Just curious, do poli-sci people routinely teach philosophy? His CV doesn’t show any degrees in Philosophy.

  4. According to his CV, he’s taught Political Theory: Plato to Machiavelli “multiple times.” Looks like Nelson goofed a bit by calling him a “philosophy professor” when Vocino was teaching a “political philosophy” course.

  5. I put “Vocino” into the URI search engine and came up with this fascinating post from one of their e-lists:

    The topic is “Bigots? Everywhere on this campus,” and the topic seems to be the ROTC and the military’s don’t ask-don’t tell policy. He writes, “Oh yes, gentlemen, this girl is very angry, and it will get even worse
    before this fight is over, so fasten your seatbelts, people, this is going
    to be a bumpy ride!”

  6. SuperSub says:

    This guy is a crackpot of the worst kind. First of all, from a practical I-can-make-lots-of-money angle, I’d sue him from now till the day he dies. Not that I condone that sort of thing, and I’m quite surprised no one has yet.
    Second, this guy’s hatred for ROTC is extreme. I was in ROTC in school and had to walk through an anti-ROTC protest while in uniform. The protest was in front of the student union, and I had to get to class. Luckily, I walked through it at the very beginning, before the leaders whipped them up into a violent frenzy causing them to throw things at people (mostly food).
    Where I went to school we had a mini-crisis due to ROTC removing two students the year before who revealed their homosexuality. These students lost their scholarship, and the school was in an uproar trying to get ROTC or the school itself to pay for their education (they were seniors). What wasn’t revealed to the campus was that the two students only complained to the university after ROTC said they were going to make them pay back the tuition (an established regulation in the contract we signed initially). While I did not speak with the two students, other students did confide in me that they thought the two intentionally “came out” as a ploy to get a free education without the required military service.

  7. I’d also sue this fool and URI–if a male prof announced to a class “I like pussy”, he’d be gone, tenure or not. Think Naomi Wolf will leap to this student’s cause?

    But how is it the URI is so hard up for teaching types that this guy teachs films studies, library science –why not Forestry and Modern Dance, too?

    But if you look at the worthy Prof.’s photo–he hasn’t had sex in decades.

  8. LibraryGryffon says:

    I find it even more disturbing that this man is the head of collection development for the URI library. I hope his biases don’t affect his purchasing decisions, though I don’t think I’d want to bet on it.

  9. One wonders why URI couldn’t get a real philosophy professor to teach political philosophy, rather than a Library Science and Film Studies?

    It’s not like there aren’t a surfeit of Philosophy PHDs who’ll take any teaching job they can get, and I’m sure most of them wouldn’t go on about their penises (or lack thereof) rather than teaching the material.

  10. Jack Tanner says:

    ‘“My name is Michael Vocino and I like dick.”’

    Apparently the diversity training seminar didn’t cover sensitivity towards those who are in school to learn.

  11. People go to school to learn?

  12. Bob Diethrich says:

    I am certain that if a straight male teacher walked into a class full of undergrad females and said, “I like firm titties and nice round asses” he would be treated the exact same way! I am certain of this.

    Here is why all these speech codes and special (extended) 1st Amendment rights for “oppressed groups” are a bad idea.

  13. Katherine C says:

    I don’t understand why so many of you think this has anything to do with the professor’s sexual orientation. Really, this would be horrible conduct coming from someone who was gay or straight. It’s also something that does happen from both people who are gay and who are straight. As for the idea that this professor was treated any differently then he would be if he were straight I don’t understand this. The student said he never filed an official report, even though the university discrimination office called him to tell him he was entitled to do so and that if he did an investigation would follow. This would be why more didn’t happen. It has nothing to do with sexual orientation.

  14. BadaBing says:

    Homosexuals are a protected group. If a white male heterosexual were to walk into class and say, “My name’s Jack Meaulph and I like pussy,” you know he’d be skewered in a nanosecond. Aparently, Vocino has been carrying on this way for years.

  15. Okay, I’m a scientist so maybe I’m out of the loop, but how does knowing a professor’s preference in sex partners or body parts contribute to one’s education?

    I’d’ve been aghast if this had happened when I was a student. And as a prof, I’d be aghast to think that my students would even want to know those kind of things about me.

    Free speech is great, but there’s also the concept of personal boundaries. Maybe I’m a prude, but I think common decency would make certain things off limits in the classroom.

    (and I’d definitely count a prof telling a student that they were “hot” as sexual harrassment, regardless of the combination of straight/gay, male/female)