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Ridiculous SUNY Professor Gives Female or Shemale Quiz

After Professor David Sorbello gave a quiz requesting students to decipher between cisgender women and transgender women, SUNY Geneseo’s administration is looking into taking action against him. PHOTO/ CAS Geneseo – Flickr Creative Commons
After Professor David Sorbello gave a quiz requesting students to decipher between cisgender women and transgender women, SUNY Geneseo’s administration is looking into taking action against him. PHOTO/ CAS Geneseo – Flickr Creative Commons

By Adam Zaki

Published: October 25th, 2017

State University of New York (SUNY) Geneseo sociology professor David Sorbello’s recent lecture on social dimorphism was a cause for concern, when he gave his students a “female or shemale quiz” in which students were instructed to guess whether a pictured person was a female or transgender male to female. 

Geneseo’s administration is looking into whether or not Sorbello should face disciplinary action. Buzzfeed and The Daily News have already picked up this story, and students have been quoted criticizing the professor for his actions. In an email to students, Sorbello has permanently banned technology in the classroom. After stating his zero tolerance policy for mobile devices and computers to students via email, he said, “I apologize that at this time we are not able to integrate technology in the classroom.”

Before coming to Brooklyn College, I attended Geneseo. Beyond all else, Geneseo and its administration prided itself on its academic integrity and reputation, as well as being one of the most competitive and respected institutions in the SUNY system. It is surprising that what I interpreted as an extremely progressive school would be the place for a professor to do something like this. Sorbello had a lot of guts to pull this off. 

If Sorbello had a podcast or some kind of expressive format where he wanted to have individuals take this quiz, that would have been contextually justifiable and appropriate. If Sorbello’s intentions were political, he chose the wrong form to express them in an inappropriate setting, and is due a suspension from teaching. 

In an email to a student, Sorbello claims the quiz was an attempt at humor. Humor is heavily dependent on context, and an individual who has achieved a scholarly position about teaching the fundamentals and concepts of human society must’ve been at least generally aware of what kind of reaction this would have triggered—especially in context of Geneseo’s social setting and the political makeup of the students that go there.

If humor was the goal, Sorbello should at least have a meeting with his department chairs and administrators about what kind of humor isn’t appropriate for the classroom. Maybe sitting in on a lecture with another faculty member who has positive feedback from students would be a viable remedy.

Comedy is an amazing thing, as it provides the ultimate environment for maximum free speech along with entertainment for those who choose to take part. A classroom should not be a safe space from offensive ideas, but the expression of them needs to be appropriate for an academic setting. Sorbello’s sense of humor and whatever opinions he may have on transgender individuals should have no influence on his position at Geneseo—it is the approach of talking about those ideas that Sorbello disregarded all common sense with.

Whether or not Sorbello faces punishment from the school, this case is an example of bad attempts that lead to more censorship and limiting of free speech. Sorbello not only hurt his credibility in the academic community with this stunt, but completely dissociated himself from his students, creating a toxic and unproductive learning environment that the students in his class are paying for.

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2 comments

  1. Better to learn this in class than on the street. Picked up a prostitute on Copacabana Beach in January of 1982. She asked me if I was sure, should have been a tip-off but I was naïve. Only realized my mistake after getting handsy. She told me if I closed my eyes I wouldn’t know the difference. The cost; a service fee, one hotel room, a bottle of champagne and some grass.

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