Dankprofessor’s Weblog

A weblog examining sexual politics in higher education and beyond.

Some notes on power and secrecy

The notion that differential power precludes consent has been a core concept in the movement to ban student professor consensual relationships.  In essence, differential power precludes consent has framed the issue.  Such a framing communicates that the banning movement is about decreasing power over others so that people can freely consent to whatever.  Or, in other terms, equality replaces differential power and obtaining the goal of equality is a worthy goal.  The problem is that the banning movement does not abolish or minimize power; the movement does not replace differential power with equality.  Differential power is in effect affirmed by providing institutional power to university administrators to regulate the private sexual lives of both students and professors.  So-called consensual policies are about the legitimization of  the power exerted by administrators to coerce professors and students to follow a mandated sexual script.  And it generally disempowers students more than professors since these policies often mandate that the professor report oneself and the involved student to university authorities.  Note that the student has no part to play in this scenario.  The enforcing administrators do not give any option to a student to report or not to report; consent in this context is considered to be irrelevant.
   Unfortunately, nothing is new here.  Power is taken away and given to powerful others so they can work their will on others.  No one gains any power except those at the top of the hierarchy.  If the power game is successful, then enforcement becomes a police function.  Such is true for the current Bush administration that in the name of protection and security trashes just about all constitutional protections, and attempts to conduct its police function in secret.  The Bush people have learned from the prior Nixon administration not to leave around any damning tapes.  The challenge is always the same for those seeking the truth and this is the piercing of the veil of secrecy.  And secrecy in the university world under the guise of “personnel matters” is extremely difficult to pierce.  In this area of student professor
consensual relationships policy and its enforcement, such will continue to prevail as long as secrecy prevails. Just as  was the case for gays in the the U.S., no significant change occurred until the closet was broken down, and in time with many gays out of the closet, the dominant society gave little deference to those who argued that they were offended by those who “flaunted” their gayness, and argued that such acceptance represented the end of Western civilization.  Such arguments no longer flourish unhindered  but in the university world they are applied to student professor relationships and flourish unhindered.
  The love that dare not speaks its name will remain ensconced in university land until…
 —–
If you wish, you can write to me directly at dankprofessor@msn.com
Guest commentaries should also be submitted for consideration to the same email address.
Barry M. Dank aka the dankprofessor™
© Copyright 2008

January 1, 2008 Posted by | coercing women, consensual relationships, fraternization, higher education, homosexual, secrecy, sexual policing, sexual politics, sexual rights, student professor dating, the closet | Leave a comment

   

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