University of California, San Diego visual arts class requires students to be naked for final exam

SAN DIEGO (KABC) -- A University of California, San Diego professor is requiring his students to be naked as part of the final exam for an advanced visual arts class.

Associate Professor Ricardo Dominguez has been teaching "Visual Arts 104A: Performing the Self" for 11 years. The project is entitled, "The Erotic Self."

"The class that focuses on the history of body art and performance art in relation to the question of the self or subjectivity," Dominguez described to KGTV, the ABC affiliate in San Diego.

He says students are also offered the option of being figuratively or emotionally naked instead. However, the mother of one of the students said her daughter was forced to perform nude for her final in the class or risk getting a failing grade.

"It bothers me. I'm not sending her to school for this," the mother, who wanted to remain anonymous, told KGTV.

"To blanket say you must be naked in order to pass my class - it makes me sick to my stomach," she added.

Dominguez is standing by his teaching method

"At the very end of the class, we've done several gestures, they have to nude gesture. The prompt is to speak about or do a gesture to create an installation that says, 'what is more you than you are,'" Dominguez said.

"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 added.

Dominguez said students know what's expected of them from the beginning. The student's mother said this was not true.

"Nothing was ever explained. Nothing was ever stipulated prior to Thursday," she said.

The 55-year-old professor said he has been lighting his classroom by candlelight and baring it all alongside his students for 11 years without any complaints.

Dr. Jordan Crandall, the chair of the Visual Arts Department, released the following statement on Monday to KGTV. In it, Crandall states that the class is not a requirement for graduation and that students are not required to be nude.

"The concerns of our students are our department's first priority, and I'd like to offer some contextual information that will help answer questions regarding the pedagogy of VIS 104A.

"Removing your clothes is not required in this class. The course is not required for graduation.

"VIS 104A is an upper division class that Professor Dominguez has taught for 11 years. It has a number of prompts for short performances called "gestures." These include "Your Life: With 3 Objects and 3 Sounds" and "Confessional Self," among others. Students are graded on the "Nude/Naked Self" gesture just like all the other gestures. Students are aware from the start of the class that it is a requirement, and that they can do the gesture in any number of ways without actually having to remove their clothes. Dominguez explains this - as does our advising team if concerns are raised with them. 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.

"There are many comments from former students that are visible online. These comments clarify the matter quite directly. It is important to listen to students who have actually taken the class. Again, the concerns of our students are our department's first priority."

KGTV contributed to this report.
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