The Washington Post reports that Pine brought her baby to work after the child woke up one morning with a fever and there were no other child-care alternatives. Pine had to take a paper clip out of the baby's mouth during class and steer it away from electrical outlets. A teaching assistant is also known to have rocked the baby at multiple points, and when that didn't work, Pine breast-fed the child.
According to the Post, some students found the breast-feeding unseemly for the classroom and the university issued a statement Tuesday that questioned Pine's decision for health reasons.
"For the sake of the child and the public health of the campus community, when faced with the challenge of caring for a sick child in the case where backup childcare is not available, a faculty member should take earned leave and arrange for someone else to cover the class, not bring a sick child into the classroom," university spokeswoman Camille Lepre said in an email to the Washington Post.
"I don't think anyone was too distracted," one student in the class told WJLA, the local ABC affiliate. "I think she handled it in the most professional way she could."
Not everyone agreed.
"I think what's inappropriate is that she brought her child to class in the first place," another student told WJLA. "It's very distracting to a lot of students."
Pine later wrote in a blog post on CounterPunch.org that she found it irritating when the student newspaper at American University, The Eagle, contacted her for a story on the controversy.
"I was shocked and annoyed that this would be considered newsworthy, and at the anti-woman implications in the email's tone," Pine wrote. "If I considered feeding my child to be a 'delicate' or sensitive act, I would not have done it in front of my students. Nor would I have spent the previous year doing it on buses, trains and airplanes; on busy sidewalks and nice restaurants; in television studios and while giving plenary lectures to large conferences."
Another teacher at the school said she had breast-fed her children in class but made sure her students felt comfortable with it first.
American University told the Washington Post that the school doesn't have any rules specifically allowing or prohibiting breast-feeding.