Dankprofessor’s Weblog

A weblog examining sexual politics in higher education and beyond.

Attacks continue on Lisa Chavez at UNM

The UNM Daily Lobo reports in an article of September 9 that the new director of UNM’s Creative Writing Program Julie Shigekuni attempted to do the right thing when she brought together the Creative Writing Faculty in order to get faculty beyond the politics that has divided them relating to the controversy of English Professor Lisa Chavez engaging in an online S&M performance.

Shigekuni emphasized that she was interested in the welfare of the department and not department politics.  She called upon the department to focus on the needs of the students.  She characterized the present situation of the program in the following terms.
“I think that situations such as the one that we’re in are harmful,” she said. “They harm the program. I think that it’s an unfortunate situation, but I also think that the program is harmed by people who do not want to be
here and are still here.”

Shigekuni’s comments were consistent with the UNM administration which has supported no retribution or sanctions being imposed on Chavez and urged faculty to focus on the needs and welfare of the students.

But it is to be expected that politics will trump reconciliation.  The Daily Lobo went to refer to resigned Creative Writing Director Sharon Warner who continued in her diatribe against Chavez-

Warner said the investigation was not sufficient because Chavez’s actions  after the Web site was discovered were not examined.

Chavez put a student’s career in jeopardy in an effort to protect her own, Warner said.

Warner said Chavez suspected her assistant Carrie Cutler knew about the  pictures posted on the Web site and told faculty members about them.

Warner said Chavez blamed Cutler for the investigation into her extracurricular activities.

“The first thing that Lisa did was to drop her as her dissertation advisee so that Carrie didn’t have a director any more,” Warner said.

Cutler declined to comment.

Chavez said she could not comment because she is still pursuing legal action against the University in response to the discrimination she experienced during what she called “the serious mishandling” of the case.

Of course, Warner’s comments are all about Warner in her crusade to get Chavez.  Absolutely no comments from Cutler; Warner is apparently her self- designated representative.

The Daily Lobo then went on to quote students who are less than friendly toward Chavez.

Micaela Seidel, a creative writing graduate student, said she and other graduate students are astounded by the shortcomings of the University’s investigation.

Seidel said it is inappropriate for the University to allow Chavez to continue teaching.

“A lot of people feel that it’s a little sketchy to have her teaching undergraduates who are the most vulnerable of all, especially 101 and 102 students who are just entering the University,” she said. “That seems
extremely inappropriate, since it seems that Lisa apparently doesn’t have good boundaries.”

Lucy DuPertuis, a teaching assistant for the English department, said the University is setting a dangerous precedent by ignoring the problems in the
creative writing department.

“Sending students back to that same level – when they didn’t have recourse, when they didn’t have defense against professors doing things that were
harmful to them both emotionally, physically and sexually – is wrong,” she said.

Valerie Santillanes, a graduate student in the creative writing program, said students have suffered because of the controversy.

“I feel very neglected,” she said. “I don’t feel like I’m getting the attention that I want and deserve and pay for in this program. I want the faculty to stop paying attention to Lisa Chavez and each other and start
paying attention to me – and maybe a few other students as well.”

Of course, Sharner Warner, et. al., have not presented one iota of evidence that any student has been harmed by Lisa Chavez.  If anyone knows of a person who has been harmed “both emotionally, physically and sexually” by Chavez said person should some forward and present their information to the UNM administration.

But no person wll come forward.  Since it has become quite apparent that if there has been hurt here it is in the context of Sharon Warner and some of her colleagues being offended.  And the dankprofessor sees the bottom line as being that professors have no right not be offended.

Warner, et. al., should get over it and get back to teaching.  The most irresponsible action in this whole scenario has been engaged in by Sharon Warner who resigned from her position as Creative Writing Director.  Such resignation was not a creative act, not an act in support of students but rather an act of a person who is self possessed and simply is unable to handle things unless one gets their own way.

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September 10, 2008 - Posted by | academic freedom, consensual relationships, ethics, feminism, higher education, lisa chavez, sadomasochism, sexual politics, University of New Mexico

1 Comment »

  1. As a student at UNM I would like to say that there is nothing wrong with faculty and student friendships. However, this is the tip of the iceberg in this situation. There is a particular group of people in this program who “party” together after school hours. What goes on at the parties IS illegal (underage drinking, drug use etc.) and many students, including undergraduates have been invited to these so called “get togethers.” Perhaps Warner (who I do not know personally) was simply trying to get to the heart of a bigger issue in this department. I say, good for her to take a stand on the issue and it is about time someone did. I also believe the universities reputation is at stake. This isn’t Yale or Harvard, we have to work three times as hard as other universities for funding, recognition and the like. I guess we’re getting recognized now. I just wish it was for scholastics. As for the actual pictures, who cares? What a teacher does outside of her classroom is her own business. But as a teacher myself, I say, shame on you. Teachers are public servants and they DO need to acknowledge that position, if not, maybe they are in the wrong field. I don’t morally disagree with Chavez’s picture, but since I know that isn’t all that is behind the story, I still think we need to ask why she knowingly CHOSE to create this situation and what other situations HAVE been created that may not be “above” board.

    Comment by mena | September 28, 2008 | Reply


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