One day late last month at American University, Adrienne Pine was in a jam. The assistant anthropology professor was scheduled to begin her course “Sex, Gender & Culture.” But her baby daughter woke up with a fever, and the single mother worried that she had no good child-care options.

So Pine brought her sick baby to class.

The baby, in a blue onesie, crawled on the floor when she wasn’t strapped onto Pine’s back. The mother extracted a paper clip from the girl’s mouth at one point and shooed her away from an electrical outlet.

When the baby grew restless during the 75-minute afternoon session with 40 students, according to the professor’s account, Pine breast-fed her while continuing to lecture and review the syllabus. A teaching assistant also held and rocked the child.

At the conclusion of her lecture, Pine figured that was the end of it. But word of the unusual opening-day class was spreading via Twitter and Facebook.

When a reporter for the student newspaper asked her about what happened, Pine grew incensed.

She decided to get in the first word with an online essay, “The Dialectics of Breastfeeding on Campus: Exposeing my Breasts on the Internet.” In it, Pine wrote that she was “shocked and annoyed that this would be considered newsworthy.”

As a result of the queries, she wrote, her workplace had become “a hostile environment.”

Now the campus community and others who have been following Pine’s story are debating whether the professor did the right thing by bringing her sick baby to the Aug. 28 class and breast-feeding her. They also are questioning her response, when she publicly upbraided student journalists and asserted that the tone of a reporter’s questions implied an “anti-woman” view.

On Tuesday, university officials issued a statement that appeared to convey disapproval.

“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,” the statement said.

The statement, emailed by Camille Lepre, a spokeswoman, indicated that the university follows federal and District of Columbia law for nursing mothers.

“A faculty member’s conduct in the classroom must be professional,” the statement said. “Faculty may maintain a focus on professional responsibilities in the classroom by taking advantage of the options the university provides, including reasonable break times, private areas for nursing mothers to express milk, and leave in the case of a sick child.”

The university also said Pine’s essay “does not reflect professional conduct,” as officials took issue with her characterizations of students at the university.

Pine, in her fourth year of teaching at AU, continues to teach, Lepre said.

Pine, via email, referred questions to Lepre on Monday and Tuesday.