2022: To those readers coming to this link from the April 13, 2022 articles, published in various Jewish online periodicals, I wish to note that the author, Andrew Lapin, did not get my permission to link to this small, personal piece of mine nor did he contact me to obtain more details about IASHS.
I am concerned that in Lapin’s desire to excoriate a high profile person accused of sexual harrassment, he has used inflammatory language like “sex guru” in his headline and attempted to link Bat Sheva Marcus’ alleged wrongdoings to the quality of education gained from a (now defunct) private graduate school. (The institutions that trained Marcus as a licensed clinical social worker were not mentioned in the article, however. Why is that?)
IASHS–for all its faults and its spotty history–taught and trained hundreds of top-rated people in the area of human sexuality therapy and education. Other top people in the field came to IASHS to lecture, and some stayed on to become staff. IASHS graduates have made, and continue to make, major contributions to the field of human sexuality, written books, headed professional organizations, developed training programs, and of course, put in countless hours working to help people overcome sexual shame, guilt, and ignorance. To my knowledge, most IASHS graduates have not been accused of sexual harrassment.
The courses taught at IASHS met many, if not most, of the educational requirements of the professional credential processes for sex therapists, counselors, and educators, by AASECT (The American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists). So though IASHS was not approved by an academic accrediting agency in its final years, the coursework still had professional value and acceptance in the field.
So, no matter what the facts are regarding the case of Bat Sheva Marcus and the people who accuse her of wrong-doing, it seems disingenous and lazy for the writer, Lapin, to link the spotty (and at times grand) history of IASHS to a single graduate’s behavior, as if it were the explanation for her actions.
[Note the following was originally written in 2018. With some revisions in 2019, 2020.]
It’s a strange feeling when an important part of your life has been shaped by an institution which is suddenly (or not so suddenly) no more. Many of us who have been involved in the Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality (IASHS), lately of San Francisco, saw the long downhill slide and anticipated its demise. Still, it is a shock to have it gone. There have been times I’ve been inordinately proud of my time there, times I wanted to do my bit to “save” the crumbling pedagogical edifice, and other times when I wanted to burn my diplomas in front of the dreary tan exterior that made me call it “the sex school in the plain brown wrapper.”
I think most of my regret and anger come from witnessing the terrible waste and degeneration of what was once a unique beacon to people who wanted to understand human sexuality, and to work with credibility in the field of human sexuality. I won’t go into personal details except to say that I tend to observe and analyze things closely. I also tend to volunteer my talents and skills if I sense they could be helpful.
Now whatever work I put into that place is gone too. And the bound copies of my Ed.D. and DHS projects are — where? I would dearly love to have them. They cost me $80 each to have them bound and submitted to the IASHS library (as was required). I never did get a bound copy of my own Ed.D. project as my cash flow was tight at the time. (This was not a research dissertation but an educational project consisting of a comprehensive literature review resulting in the design of a 150-hour course to teach hypnosis for sexual concerns.) All said, however, I am glad I was there while they still had an academic dean, Dr. Howard Ruppel. Once he was gone, there was very little credibility left.
The Most Recent Troubled History of IASHS
Prior 2017, the California Bureau of Private Post-Secondary Education (BPPE) approved IASHS to grant degrees (Ph.D., Ed.D, D.H.S.) and certificates in human sexuality. In 2015, BPPE issued a fine and Order of Abatement to IASHS. In 2016, the BPPE (1) issued a second fine and Order of Abatement to IASHS and (2) the BPPE declined to renew the approval of IASHS to grant degrees and certificates. By October 2018, IASHS appeared to have closed. The website no longer exists.
It was clear that IASHS had reached its end times. There were several reasons for this, but most importantly, California’s SB 1247 had passed (Fall, 2014). IASHS was unable to meet the new mandated requirements to work with an accreditation agency. I spent a lot of time looking into various agencies but without substantial systems change, including transparency and revamping of the program, IASHS did not fit neatly into any category and no one would have us. It was clear to me that the “leadership” of the school was more interested in clinging to past glory than creating a strategic plan for the future.
Oddly, after I left, with quite a lot of hard feelings on my side, I ended up going to bat in a public way for IASHS one last time. Mainly, I felt that there were many sound reasons to issue harsh critiques of IASHS in its final years, but I wasn’t going to sit still for one which was inaccurate and unfair. Now, I am not sure why I bothered.
Disclosure: My Own History
From the internet’s “Wayback Machine,” I have captured three pages which are pertinent to documenting my participation at IASHS, prior to 2015.
• IASHS Academic and Professional Degrees – Explains the Ed.D. and DHS programs.
• IASHS Certificate Programs – Shows my Sexological Hypnotism course.
• IASHS Faculty and Administration – I am listed as Dean of Students and also on the faculty. I served about six months as Dean and resigned in 2015.
Stumbled upon this and as a fellow graduate I couldn’t agree more with your assessment. I have a real love/hate relationship with my memories of IASHS and really didn’t stay in contact with anyone but I’m sadly relieved others had the same feelings. Thank you.
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Thanks for reading this. Yes, it’s quite sad that we are all left with such feelings. Believe me, you are not alone!
Enjoyed your article Amy. I graduated from IASHS in 1978. When it was still on the incline. I have such warm and loving memories of the place and the people, yet even then, trouble of one kind or another was never far away. It sort of lived in it. Another fight with an authority or publication seemed to enliven it, give it extra purpose.
I lived only 3 blocks from it. I was there every day doing something, mainly helping Erwin Heberle organize the library or sitting around the common room table always exciting when Wardell or Ted was with us. It was my home.
What I want to say, is that it was a diamond. The people were dedicated, thoughtful, loving, and sincere. I’m sure most are gone now and if a heaven exists, they are all there.
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Thanks for writing! I wish I’d gone to IASHS in its healthier days. So many of us wanted to “save” it when it began its long downhill slide, but all efforts were thwarted. Thank you for giving me another way to remember it!