- Professor of film and media studies and political science at the University of Rhode Island
- Sexually harassed his male students
- Equates support for ROTC with anti-gay "bigotry"
- Intrudes his sexual obsessions into his classes
Michael Vocino is a long-term chief librarian on the University of Rhode Island (URI) campus, where he is also a tenured, full professor of Film and Media Studies, Library Science and Political Science. Vocino does not have a doctorate in any of the fields he is tasked with teaching -- although he does have a “certificate” in film and television studies from the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands.
An enthusiast of the off-color cable series South Park, Vocino has made this cartoon the subject of his uncompleted dissertation, which, as of 2006, was tentatively entitled “‘They’ve Killed Kenny!’ Popular Culture, Public Ethics and the Televisual.”
Vocino’s scholarly work is most notable for its absence. Aside from a short book on ethics for public administrators (1996), he has practically no original work to his name. Most of his publications are simply descriptive bibliographies of journals and newspapers already available in libraries -– i.e., they are lists. His work in Film Studies consists of a 1998 conference paper on the film The Titanic. With his glaring paucity of both graduate training and independent scholarly achievement, Vocino does not even qualify for the position of an assistant professor, let alone associate professor with tenure rank, let alone a full professor.
That has not prevented Vocino from posturing as an expert in all the many fields he teaches -- which run the gamut from “Film Theory” and “Film History,” to “Political Ideologies,” to ”Political Philosophy: Plato to Machiavelli,” to “The American Presidency,” to “Contemporary Italian Politics.” Vocino teaches all these courses -- although he is essentially a librarian with a Master's Degree.
Vocino is a militant gay activist who describes himself as “firmly on the deep left politically.” His course “Film Theory” is billed as “an introduction to the basics of film theory and film criticism.” In practice, the course indulges Vocino’s preferences for “Queer Theory,” as well as “Gay and Lesbian Criticism.” The course also includes a section called “Marxism and Film,” for which students are required to watch the cinematic adaptation of the Motorcycle Diaries of Che Guevara.
Vocino elaborated on his criteria for excellence in film in a June 2004 posting on URI’s academic list serve. In it, he praised leftwing provocateur Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 911. Applauding the distinction bestowed on the film at the Cannes Film festival, Vocino wrote: “Now we all know that i [sic] am not the brightest apple on the tree, something i [sic] know myself, but if only through osmosis, i [sic] did pick up enough substance in many courses and seminars during that time in Amsterdam to firmly assert that Moore deserved to win the coveted Cannes best film award for this production.”
A student named Nathaniel Nelson, who took Professor Vocino’s class, “Political Philosophy: Plato to Machiavelli,” was struck in 2003 by the professor’s aggressive disregard for professional standards of conduct. According to the student, Vocino entered the classroom on the first day of the semester and announced, “My name is Michael Vocino and I like dick.” Vocino next asked Nelson, “Are you queer?” On another occasion, Vocino, cognizant that Nelson was a Christian, demanded to know why Christians “hate fags.”
Besides sexually harassing his male students -- he informed one that he thought him “hot” -- Vocino has urged them on occasion to try “making out” with other males and to then describe their experiences for the class. Vocino has also been known to use the university email system to inform his colleagues of his acquisition of new pornographic material for the university library.
According to Nelson, Vocino once devoted an entire class period of his Political Philosophy course to a discussion of masturbation; another class session centered on whether President Bush’s decision to deploy troops in Iraq made him a “serial killer.” Nelson also reports that Vocino had referred to fundamentalist Christians as “idiots” who were ruining America by promoting beliefs and were “wrong,” “crazy,” and “nuts.”
Vocino has used his influence as a professor to become one of URI's most fervent opponents of the Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC). A critic of the military's policies toward gays, Vocino believes that to allow the ROTC on campus is to make the university a haven for anti-gay bigotry. According to Vocino, "to stop pushing for rotc [sic] to be off campus would mean that persecution of gays, mostly gay students, will continue. the [sic.] gays will still be marched off to the camps." Of the university's support for the ROTC, Vocino has said: "As far as I am concerned the University is bigoted against gays, and act [sic.] on that bigotry."