Dankprofessor’s Weblog

A weblog examining sexual politics in higher education and beyond.

Female student speaks of her relationship with a professor

Returning to the University of Southern Maine student newspaper story about student professor consensual sexual relationships, the story focused on the experiences of Rebecca, a student, who is in a four year relationship with a professor.

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“When I walked into class, it was like, ‘this guy is my teacher,’ and it’s different than outside,” she said. “He never gave me preference, and since I was very good at the subject anyway, I knew, and it was obvious to everyone else, that I earned my grades.”

Her relationship, which began four years ago, has gone unreported to anyone of supervisory power over the professor, because by the time their friendship had evolved into something bigger, the couple saw no need for the ‘mediation’ provided by the university’s policy-they had already established boundaries for themselves, and she was no longer his student.

While she says that the relationship is great, she still struggles, because she has been forced to lie about it for so long: “It sucks to connect something I’m so uncomfortable about to something that makes me happy.”

It has affected her friendships and family relationships, because she is never able to be fully open about her life – even her two best friends don’t know about it.

“My time with him and the rest of my life are completely separate realities,” she says, “When they cross, it’s really uncomfortable, and I get paranoid.” She has also come to realize the affect it has had on her college experience, removing her from the social situations that most students traditionally become a part of.

The secrets have been painful. Her friendships, old and potential, have suffered, and there’s a constant paranoia ­­– for his sake — that it will somehow come out.

“But at the same time,” she says, “I’ve had a blast! You think about it, he’s my boyfriend. I love him. And four years! That’s the longest relationship I’ve ever had.”

Rebecca puts a knuckle between her teeth and tugs at her collar with the other hand, looking at me with a sideways glance that is almost coy, “I was just sort of taken by him, his looks, and his intelligence – sometimes I think the bad outweighs the good, but, I’m still with him. I mean, he’s awesome, he’s the best!”

She pauses and smiles, straightening her neck. After a minute, she begins again, “The biggest thing is that I still have a lot of respect for professors – if anything, it has made me realize that really, they have the same issues everyone else has, they’re just people.”

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What the dankprofessor finds most disturbing about this relationship is the secrecy. Neither the professor nor the student feel they have the option of integrating this relationship into the rest of their lives. Possibly, they are misjudging the reactions of others. During my 35 year career as a professor I dated many students and former students, and I met many of these students’ parents and siblings. And never did I find that parents were not accepting of their daughter’s relationship with me. Such was the case even when there was a significant age differential. Not one parent objected to the fact that their daughter was dating a professor. In fact, the reaction was just the opposite to rejection, it was enthusiastic acceptance. The reality was that I often found myself dating a very interesting woman and befriending her very interesting parents. It was a plus plus situation.

But universities which have these problems are not interested in hearing about parental acceptance. Advocates of these relationships do not want them to exist and if they do, they want them to be in the closet.

At the University of Southern Maine, an administrative apparatus has been set up which investigates complaints relating to student professor dating. As reported in this article: “Any concerns about sexual harassment or preferential treatment stemming from student-faculty romance are taken to the Office of Campus Diversity and Equity, which investigates all discriminatory complaints at USM. For the past couple years, the office has not received any complaints of this nature. The 2004-05 school year saw three complaints, and in 2003-04 there was only one.”

Obviously the parties to these relationships do not report to the appropriate authorities since it is likely that both parties to these relationships do not feel they need administrative regulation and do not feel that the administration is their to help them navigate thru the terrain of university life.

However, USM administrator Daryl McIlwain disagrees with my analysis, according to him “probably most issues are not reported, for fear of the grade or because they don’t want to cause problems for the faculty member or draw embarrassing attention to themselves.”

However, the dankprofessor believes it is the fear of administrators such as Daryl McIlwain which leads couples not to report. And based on the input I have received from couples around the nation, I would advise couples never to report. Better to deny than to report to the campus authoritarians. I have heard too many stories of couples feeling utterly betrayed by the powers that be who end up violating the confidentiality of the relationship and often demean both the student and professor.

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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 dankprofessorTM
© Copyright 2008

February 14, 2008 Posted by | consensual relationships, ethics, fraternization, higher education, secrecy, sexual policing, sexual politics, student professor dating, student-prof dating, Uncategorized, University of Southern Maine | 3 Comments

THE HANDY HANDBOOK OF OFFICE LOVE*

The Sacramento Business Journal has THE solution; they know how to protect business owners, particularly small business owners,  from the pitfalls of intraoffice romance and sexual harassment lawsuits

Quoting from the business journal-

“Advisers to small businesses agree that a company can’t forbid romantic relationships in the workplace, but say they should consider policies that strongly discourage dating, especially between supervisors and subordinates. Experts also say companies should clearly outline policies on harassment and dating in an employee handbook — something many small businesses lack.

Love can bloom between coworkers at any time. Companies small and large would be wise to make sure an employee handbook is in place and policies on relationships are included, said Panda Morgan, director of the Greater Sacramento Small Business Development Center.

An employee handbook might seem like a trivial aspect of business, but it can be an important tool when relationships turn sour and harassment complaints or wrongful termination claims are made.

“The problem with small businesses is most don’t have employee handbooks because they don’t really see a need until something happens, and they realize their hands are tied and they can’t do anything about it,” Morgan said.”

After reading this article, The dankprofessor went out into the field in search of the handbook.  He found one entitled THE HANDY HANDBOOK OF OFFICE LOVE which was revised from the pioneer HANDY HANDBOOK ON UNIVERSITY LOVE*.  No date or publisher listed.  The dankprofessor will summarize the core handbook rules-

HANDS OFF

NO HANDS IN POCKETS

HANDS ON THE TABLE

HANDS UP

NO HANDY MEN

HANDLE WITH CARE

NO SHAKY HANDS

NO HANDSOME MEN

HANDS TIED

and if all else fails- KEEP HANDS CUFFED AT ALL TIMES.

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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

February 14, 2008 Posted by | consensual relationships, corporate dating bans, dating, love, office romance, Uncategorized, workplace | Leave a comment

Office romance in full bloom on Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s day this year at the office may very well be better than the Valentine’s days of the recent past. According to many, romance in the office is flourishing.

Yesterday psychologist Susan Pinker reported that “surveys on office love affairs reveal they’re incredibly common, with about 10 million consensual romances developing between co-workers each year in the U.S. That’s the equivalent of the population of a small European nation meeting at the photocopier, year after year…In fact, studies designed to probe the private lives of executives, and managers by such august groups as the Society of Human Resource Management and the U.S. Bureau of National Affairs simply document the obvious: Now that we’re spending most of our time at the office, that’s the place to meet prospects, with a third of all romances starting out in the workplace.”

Workers aren’t just interested in dating their peers. PR News Wire reports “that twenty-seven percent of workers admit they have dated someone with a higher position in their organization; female workers more so than males, at 37 percent and 20 percent, respectively. Ninety-eight percent of workers said their relationship with someone at work did nothing to progress their career.”

Pinker goes on to report that “half of the romantic relationships that begin at work last, resulting in marriage or a long term relationship, while only 5 per cent provoke formal complaints…Let’s face it: offices are “natural theatres” for social and sexual interaction, a phrase coined by sociologist Arlie Hochschild. As such, there’s great potential for drama, but also for applause…If the new couple has even a chance to be happy, the team should back off and just let these folks be.”

 Unfortunately it’s that 5 per cent that gets upset when love is seen as blooming in the workplace. And they have at their disposal lawyers who are at their call and become united with the Linda Tripps of the world in their love of money.

But in any case, Pinker gets it right. If only we could “just let these folks be”. Or in the words of the Beatles, “Let It Be”.

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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 dankprofessorTM
© Copyright 2008

February 14, 2008 Posted by | dating, love, office romance, workplace | 1 Comment

1.5 million spanking verdict overturned

A California Appeals Court has overturned a 1.5 million award to a female employee who as part of her employment as a sales person for a residential alarm company was subjected to “team building” spankings. Spankings were employed for both male and female employees “as a form of penance for not meeting sales quotas” .Employees were paddled with rival companies’ yard signs as part of a contest that pitted sales teams against one another. The winners poked fun at the losers, throwing pies at them, feeding them baby food, making them wear diapers and swatting their buttocks.

The appeals court overturned the claimant’s appeal in part “‘because of sex element’ is alive and well and must be satisfied in order for plaintiff to prevail on a sexual harassment cause of action. The jury should have been instructed that it could find for [the employee] on the sexual harassment cause of action only if it found that [the employee] was subjected to the harassing conduct because she was female,” the court said.”

The dankprofessor finds this practice to be somewhat alarming since sexual harassment law in California has been interpreted to find workplace spanking to be OK and not subject to litigation if both female and male employees are spanked.

I am sure that the complexity of this case is greater than has been presented. For example, is spanking OK if the spanker is in a higher power position than the female and male employees who are spanked? Does differential power preclude spanking? Certainly, employers should now consider hiring specially certified spanking trainers.

—–
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 dankprofessorTM
© Copyright 2008

February 14, 2008 Posted by | litigation, sexual harassment, workplace | Leave a comment

   

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