Conspicuous consumption: College takes field trip to brothel

When I attended Cal State Fullerton, I can’t recall taking a field trip to anywhere, let alone one to visit Alicia the Prostitute and her loyal cat Meow-Meow. Randolph College apparently believes in the broadening experience of higher education, as its American Studies program sponsored a trip to the Chicken Ranch, a legal brothel about an hour outside of Las Vegas. What was the point? A study of “the ideas that consume us”:

The brothel tour was a natural fit for a class that tells students “don’t just study America — live it,” said Julio Rodriguez, the director of the college’s American Culture Program.

Each semester the course examines a strain of American culture and ends with a class trip. Past destinations included post-Katrina New Orleans, Walt Disney World and the Civil Rights Memorial Center in Montgomery, Ala.

This year’s focus on Nevada started with a professor’s interest in water rights and conservation. It grew to include discussions of the wedding and entertainment industries and, inevitably, prostitution.

I took a number of political-science classes at Fullerton State in 1981-82, which would make that progression a lot more obvious than water rights as a source. Let’s play Six Degrees of Ashley Dupre on this: political science leads to policy formation, which leads to Congress, which leads to earmarks, which leads, inevitably, to prostitution. Or, political science leads to the creation of laws, which leads to their enforcement, which leads to Eliot Spitzer. Your pick.

There’s nothing terribly objectionable about this field trip, but there’s nothing rather edifying about it, either. The attendees are all adults, not children, and can make their own decisions about whether to do in-depth research into prostitution on their own. Most people would agree that there are other expressions of American life a little more deserving of focus for college students than the legal bordellos of Nevada, though, and that may include the parents footing the bill for the education that Randolph College is supposed to provide their sons and daughters. Randolph’s own Virginia environs gives it access to hundreds of sites critical to American history and far worthier of consideration than hookers 2,500 miles away.

Randolph College is one of the most expensive institutions in the nation. According to Peterson’s, it costs each student almost $35,000 per year, including room and board. The part-time tuition fee of $1,060 per semester hour probably matches that of Alicia, sans Meow-Meow.

Perhaps in the future, Randolph should stick to places like post-Katrina New Orleans and the Civil Rights Memorial Center, or perhaps Gettysburg and Yorktown. If the faculty finds itself obsessed with thoughts of brothels after studying water management, then perhaps Randolph needs to find ways to get their professors out of the classrooms in more productive efforts, too.