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Professor/janitor who sought to point penises at theater audience dumped by Catholic college

Faculty at Saint Mary’s University in Minnesota, take note: Historical accuracy should take a backseat to religious sensitivities in the lesson plan.

The Catholic school’s refusal to renew a popular adjunct professor’s contract – after three years at the school – is being called retaliation for his attempt to be faithful to Roman culture in staging a play this fall, Inside Higher Ed reports.

David Hillman, who supplemented his $15,000 adjunct income with janitorial work at Saint Mary’s, was contracted to translate and serve as playwright for Saint Mary’s staging of Seneca’s Medea.

He suggested the cast members read their lines about corporate greed “while pointing fascina at the audience” – handheld phalluses used by actors in ancient stagings to shame the audience for its corruption.

Though the administration denies claims by Hillman and director Judy Myers, a tenured theater professor, that Arts Dean Michael Charron told them to drop the phalluses, another official nixed an op-ed that Myers was planning to submit to The Cardinal explaining the play, including the phallic props.

Vice President of Academic Affairs Donna Aronson wrote to Myers:

I do not think that this article is appropriate for The Cardinal. It may be incendiary and while at the end there is a comment about the challenges regarding age-appropriate attendance, it may stir up more response than we need. In fact it could alarm the conservative Catholic community.

The crew eventually replaced the phalluses with props resembling “big bananas.”

Just three weeks ago, Hillman was notified of “vague sexual harassment claims” against him by a student in the play, Inside Higher Ed says, apparently because he told dancers to “move their bodies sensually” like a snake; had himself whipped to show the cast that getting whipped wouldn’t hurt; and talked about “gynomorphs, bigendered entities mentioned in the play.”

Saint Mary’s refuses to talk about the results of its sexual harassment investigation, which unlike other claims at the school is “not vetted by a faculty body,” the report says:

That’s contrary to a widely-followed policy recommended by the American Association of University Professors, which says that if a grievance officer is unable to informally effect a mutually acceptable resolution, the complaint is to be submitted to a faculty committee.


Despite its zipped lips about what allegedly happened with the phalluses, the school is pointing to its “artistic expression policy” to defend the censorship of Medea:

Saint Mary’s University recognizes the integrity of artistic expressions, while reserving the right not to exhibit artistic expressions judged to be obscene, sacrilegious or racist, which promote ethnic or religious hatred, or which, for the purpose of advocacy only, promote values in clear contradiction of the university’s mission.

Read the story, which goes into much greater detail.

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About the Author
Associate Editor
Greg Piper served as associate editor of The College Fix from 2014 to 2021.