Next year, no more ‘Porn’?

Future “Porn in the Morn” classes may not carry a science credit — and as a result, the course may not be offered at all.

The Yale College Science Council has determined that “Biology of Gender and Human Sexuality” — a Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies class popularly referred to as “Porn in the Morn” — does not currently meet the requirements to carry a science distributional credit, William Summers, the course’s professor and founder, said Tuesday. While the Council has suggested particular changes that Summers could make to the course, Summers told the News that rather than change the class, he will likely not teach it after this semester.

Professor William Summers delivers the last ‘Porn in the Morn’ lecture of the year.
Esther Zuckerman
Professor William Summers delivers the last ‘Porn in the Morn’ lecture of the year.

“I see it as a science course, and they don’t see it as a science course,” Summers said. “There’s a fundamental difference between what we think.”

William Segraves, associate dean for science education and a member of the science council, confirmed Tuesday that the course is being examined as part of a routine review of courses given the science distributional designation but declined to discuss the case in more detail. He added that before making a final decision on whether a course merits the science designation, professors are offered the opportunity to make suggested changes.

Summers said the council told him that the course focused too much on the process of approaching science and did not discuss scientific facts in sufficient depth. Because about a third of the course material deals with fields such as psychology and epidemiology, he said, the council believes the course should be classified as a social science and not as a science.

“I think an introduction to science class has to do with the process, but [the council] thinks it has to do more with facts,” Summers said.

Summers, a professor in the Yale School of Medicine’s Therapeutic Radiology Department, founded the course in spring 2005 and has taught it once a year since, drawing hundreds of students each semester.

This semester, 357 students are enrolled in the class, more than half of whom are freshmen or sophomores, according to the registrar’s office. Enrollment was at its highest in spring 2005, with 546 students taking the course.

Of the eight students interviewed taking the class, five said they think the course should remain unchanged.

“How do you define science?” Kristina Tremonti ’11 said. “It is very subjective. Do you define science as hands-on research in the laboratory or as research methods that you’ve never thought about for sociology topics?”

While six of the students interviewed said they had chosen to enroll primarily to earn a science distributional credit, others said the subject matter itself interested them apart from the need to earn a science credit.

Victoria Gordon ’11, a pre-med student who has already fulfilled her science requirements, said she chose to take the course in order to learn more about the science behind human sexuality, a topic often considered taboo in more informal settings. The course pertains more to real life than learning about atomic structures, she added.

The skills the course teaches are valuable apart from the material studied, said Michael Seringhaus GRD ’07 LAW ’10, who has been a teaching fellow for course three times. Summers’s emphasis on contextualizing the results of studies in terms of the questions asked and the sample chosen will ultimately prove more useful to the students taking the class than memorizing facts, he said.

“If the Council is saying that students need to learn x, y or z specific factoids to learn science, then I disagree,” Seringhaus said. “Science is an approach. Perhaps the most valuable lesson students can learn here is the limits of that approach.”

“Sex, Evolution and Human Nature,” a survey course offered by the Psychology Department that also drew hundreds of students when it fulfilled science distributional requirements, is being offered this spring without the science designation.

Comments

  • Anonymous

    Good course it may be, but it is unfortunate that enrollment will drop because people consider it an "easy" science credit. Perhaps students will be inspired to grow a pair and take tougher science classes--you know, the ones that actually harm your GPA.

  • Yale '11

    It's a joke of a science class. There are other science classes suitable for humanities majors. Yes, they're tougher, but they actually teach more than basic high school biology. This class is nothing that one can't pick up from information given by DUH or high school. It certainly doesn't deserve the science credit.

  • Interested

    @#1 makes two interesting points: 1) the common assumption that "science" has to be "hard" and not "easy", and 2) that it is a gendered/sexual activity, i.e., masculine. Both points warrant serious investigation (note that asserting point #2 was contributory to the recent demise of a Harvard president).

  • Anonymous

    Nope!

  • New Havener

    Good riddance.

  • y09

    this is the worst class i have taken at yale. it does not even remotely resemble science. it is filled with generalities about PC gender/sex differences and even worse, is capriciously graded…
    this should not even be a class, nevermind a SC credit
    yale should be ashamed

  • Yale 08

    Hopefully this means that Yale is reviewing grading and assessment policies in the college's other lackluster departments as well.

  • Anabel bionnaire

    #3, science SHOULD be hard, not easy. So should all classes at Yale. (As for the gendering of academic disciplines, you're right that it deserves investigation--but being flippant about it is not going to convince anyone.)

  • Toucan 13

    #3, also note that letting one of the most popular Sc guts be a WGSS class only perpetuates the stereotype that hard science is a masculine activity.

  • wow

    There goes my chances at an easy science….:( I can't believe this is happening.

  • Recent Alum

    Is this article from the YDN or the Onion? There really was a debate over whether this sort of class should carry on a science credit (not that any of the other classes offered by that particular major are legitimate)?

  • Science Major

    On the one hand, Summers is correct — a good science class teaches method and critical thinking through scientific method, and not merely a collection of facts. On the other, thinking scientifically is not equivalent to a general statement about understanding bias, etc., or creating controls.

    That is why social science adopted the "science" post-fix: because it decided to try and use a scientific method. Thus the class could potentially be a wonderful introduction to the scientific method, without meeting the natural science course requirement. Yale specifically wants people to think critically in both the context of natural sciences and social sciences, and from what I gather, Porn in the Morn approaches biology from a social science point of view, evolutionary pschology, etc.

    Other students who have taken it can be much more harsh, I merely suggest that it could potentially be a good class and still not meet the goals of a Sc credit.

    p.s. To #3 (Interested): I appreciate your concern and problematization of the gendered remark of #1, but your concerns have little to do with the content of #1 remaks — just his flip way of saying it.

    No, science should not be gendered, and the disparities in faculty and students can only be recitfied by consciouss acknowledgment of them.

    But as to whether science classes should be "hard": of course! All classes at Yale should be hard; all classes should push us out of our comfort zones intellectually, and this includes the ability to think quantitatively, which some people may find hard.

  • booknoise

    "It's subjective…" No, it's not. That's the point.

  • #1

    Actually, I've noticed more women in my science classes than men. btw: I was just using an expression--not trying engender anything.

  • sciencealum

    As someone who is both a physicist and a proud feminist, I heartily support the remarks of #1. The language may be hyper-masculine, but the message transcends gender! Yay science!

    I also agree with #12. Science *should* push comfort levels. In fact, I think one of the excellent side effects of taking "hard" science classes is the ego-reducing element. A combination of hard fact and rigorous empiricism make it pretty much impossible to BS one's way through a class. You actually, well, need to learn stuff!! The difficulty reflects reality, too. Speaking as someone now in grad school, science *IS* hard.

  • '12

    This was the most embarrassing class to be given the science designation that I can think of--it was just a bunch of pseudo-science mumbo jumbo. With a few scientific graphs thrown in. The early lectures were 8th grade health class. All the later lectures were an incoherent, space-filling ramble about variations in sexuality.

    I don't doubt Summer's intention of bringing in more people to the art of thinking like a scientist. But in no way does this class teach you to do this.

  • Anonymous

    Why is the Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies still a major at Yale?

  • jeff g

    this sounds like a class memphis would offer its basketball recruits. whats the hecks going on at yale?

  • Anonymous

    I'll be thrilled when Porn in the Morn is no longer a science class (or when it's no longer offered, whichever comes first). For many Yale students, it's the only WGSS class they take, and it's a terrible way to be introduced to the discipline. Porn in the Morn is a joke, and by having it as part of WGSS, people internalize that WGSS is also a joke. Porn in the Morn was a good idea that was poorly carried out. Good riddance, I say.

  • Anonymous

    Capitalization, for one.

  • michael wysolmerski

    I'm michael! I take chemistry! I'M smart! I went to choate! VAIL '09 4EVA!!$$

  • porncansuckit

    if only i had taken a REAL science.

  • yale 08

    WGSS IS A JOKE!!!

  • to 'sciencealum'

    Yo Sciencealum,

    I think your comment about science's potential as an ego-reducer is spot on. But, I also think science itself can only bring objectivity to a certain level, and then at higher eschelons even it must concede to some degree of subjectivity. Also, grad school at a place like Yale is pretty hard no matter what discipline.

  • interested

    This class had both lectures AND reading.. take a look at the syllabus. While the lectures may have been general and intended as an overview, the readings, which should be the heart of any course, were all from the "hard" peer-reviewed scientific literature… yes, biochemistry, genetics, brain research, physiology, and (ok) some psychology. Is it too much to ask Yalies to READ and maybe even learn from that reading?

  • David Taylor

    Very interesting subjects there at Yale 322 as im a seat spectator from Australia who has an interest in english/american history and the first 7 confederate presidents should not be dismissed as John Hanson being the first black president in 1781-82 and by the time Washington came along he was the 8th of the 1st under the Westminster constitution not the United States Constitution as you dearly know it. Apologies if that info came out of the blue but a true story of american history being forgotten in time. Your subject that may not be renewed the Biology of Gender and Human Sexuality so what if it is not renewed as a subject next year, it has to be causing both sexes to be sex mad in a pagan sense of the word.