Professor's Swim Suit To Demonstrate Point On Aug. 25

Published: Aug. 20, 1997

On the first day of her fall semester class on deviance in American society, CU-Boulder Professor Patti Adler plans to wear a swim suit, Hawaiian sarong, beach towel and sunscreen.

In previous classes she has worn a man's suit, a cap and gown and flannel pajamas with bunny slippers.

It's all done to bring home a point about violating social norms in her popular Deviance in U.S. Society class. While her attire would be perfectly appropriate on the beach, Adler notes, it violates a social norm to wear such clothing while teaching a university class.

Adler's sociology class begins at 3 p.m. in room 140 of the Cristol Chemistry Building on Aug. 25, the first day of fall semester classes at CU-Boulder. The class ends at 3:50 p.m.

Deviance in U.S. Society is a lower division course for undergraduates that uses the topic of deviance to introduce key sociological concepts dealing with social order and identity. As part of the class, all students are assigned the task of breaking a social norm and then writing about the experience.

"The stronger the norm they violate the stronger the reaction they get," Adler says. In the past students have dressed up as the opposite gender, cut into lines of waiting people or pretended to be pregnant while ordering a drink at a bar.

Adler mandates that students do nothing illegal, that no one be hurt and that parents cannot be used as test subjects. Students are asked to analyze how people distance themselves from violations, how they impose stigma and how they interact in situations involving deviant behavior.

"What I like about (the exercise) is that it's experiential education and it takes things from the classroom and brings them into the outside world," Adler says. "It is not really about the breaking of norms. It's about how people react to the violations and how they try to enforce the norms."

For more information contact Adler at (303) 449-3021 (home) or 492-1177 (office). She will be unavailable until the morning of Aug. 25. Or call Peter Caughey in the CU-Boulder public relations office at 492-4007.