Art final requiring students be 'naked' sparks controversy

'One can 'be' nude while being covered,' says department chair

University of California-San Diego officials are supporting an associate professor after controversy exploded surrounding his art class final that requires students to be emotionally or physically naked.

Ricardo Dominguez began teaching "Visual Arts 104A: Performing the Self" 11 years ago and says no one had complained about the final project, "The Erotic Self" ever before.

Along with Dominguez, students complete a "performance of self" in a candle-lit room for the final, a fact they are aware of from day one of class, he says.

"It's a standard canvas for performance art and body art. It is all very controlled. If they are uncomfortable with this gesture, they should not take the class," Dominguez says.

Jordan Crandall, chair of the institution's Visual Arts Department, clarified that nudity is not required to pass the class—nor is the class a graduation requirement.

"There are many ways to perform nudity or nakedness, summoning art history conventions of the nude or laying bare of one's 'traumatic' or most fragile and vulnerable self. One can 'be' nude while being covered," Crandall says.

The mother of an unidentified student told local ABC affiliate ABC 10News that Rodriguez forced her daughter to take off her clothes or possibly fail. Her daughter was not aware of the final's requirements, she says.

"There's a perversion going on here," the mother said. "The fact he is a professor and has control over these students, I think he's taking it way too far."

Just one student to ever take the class has chosen to be emotionally instead of physically naked, Amanda Fitzmorris, chair of the school's College Republicans, said on Fox and Friends.

"We're a publically funded institution, and I believe that the taxpayers should have a say of some sort over this kind of adult-themed course," she said. 

But administrators continue to back Dominguez, as do former students who spoke with ABC 10News.

They reiterated expectations regarding the final are in the syllabus and mentioned repeatedly throughout the course.

"Everyone's going to be naked," said art major Ricardo Ales. "She's not being singled out, she's not being abused, there's nothing sexual about it" (Strauss, "Answer Sheet," Washington Post, 5/12; "Fox and Friends," Fox News, 5/12; Mendes, ABC  10News, 5/11;  KABC/ABC7, 5/11).

The takeaway: University of California-San Diego administrators are supporting an associate professor following recent controversy surrounding his art course's final, which requires students to be emotionally or physically naked.

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