Dankprofessor’s Weblog

A weblog examining sexual politics in higher education and beyond.

Sex Week at Yale: What’s missing?

(The dankprofessor got his dates wrong. Actually, the Yale Sex Week this post deals with was held last February.  I guess I should read my google alerts more closely.  In any case, irrespective of my being dated, my criticisms are still valid.)

Sex Week at Yale starts on February 10 and there will be some excellent speakers and sessions.  Of course, there are sessions dealing with pornography since the Yale Sex Week is partially sponsored by the largest porn producer in the world vivid.com, but there is also a partial Christian sponsorship by xxxchurch.com  And, as to be expected the so-called Christian participation is minimal with participation only occurring on February 15 in the context of the debate on porn.

The director of the Sex Week at Yale Joseph Citarrella states:

There is no ideology behind Sex Week. Its mission is simple: present students with a range of perspectives about sexuality to get them talking, so that they can begin to reconcile serious issues of love, sex, and relationships in their lives. Let the discussion begin.

But the dankprofessor has some difficulty with the assertion of no ideology.  If there is no ideology, why are there no sessions and no speakers on gays and lesbians as well as bisexuals and the transgendered?  If ideology was not relevant to the exclusion or omission, then one might conclude that similar to Iran there are no gays at Yale.  And certainly the creators of this Yale Sex Week could have concluded that some Yale students might have an interest in gay marriage.  Possibly some of the sessions include matters relating to homosexuality, but such is not explicitly stated.  However, looking at the sessions on porn, it is quite clear that there is nothing on gay porn. 

Matters relating to homosexuality and gender reflected the most major exclusion, but there are other major exclusions- S & M completely omitted, nothing on prostitution and no mention of the the most prevalent sexual behavior at Yale- masturbation.  Certainly, pornography generally ends up being about masturbation, but the dreaded M word is infrequently mentioned.  Masturbation  appears to be cloaked at the Sex Week at Yale under the rubric of “pure romance”.

On the positive side for the dankprofessor, there is no required sexual harassment training component, and nothing about how consensual student professor relationship “always” harming the student and the university.  In fact, there is absolutely nothing about consent in the whole program; such does not represent a positive since the mixing of sex and alcohol I trust is commonplace at Yale.  And without any mention of consent there is, of course, nothing on rape.

The entire schedule for Sex Week at Yale can be seen by clicking here.

November 30, 2008 Posted by | consensual relationships, ethics, gay marriage, higher education, homosexual, masturbation, prostitution, rape, sadomasochism, sex, sexual politics, student professor dating, Uncategorized, Yale University | Leave a comment

Second thoughts on due process at SIU

When the dankprofessor sees recommendations such as those put forth by the SIU Faculty Senate, a tendency may develop to initially screen out the bad. Such was the case on my prior posting on SIU. So after regaining my wits, I searched out the SIU policy on consensual relationships.  And it is bad and following are the key sections of the policy as well as my commentary.

Consensual amorous or sexual relationships between faculty and students or between a supervisor and an employee may result in claims of sexual harassment, even when both parties appear to have consented to the relationship. The power differential inherent in such relationships may compromise the subordinate’s free choice. When those in authority abuse or appear to abuse their power in a relationship, trust and respect in the University community are diminished. Moreover, others who believe they are treated/evaluated unfairly because of such a relationship may make claims of harassment.

Therefore, it is a violation of this policy if faculty members become involved in amorous or sexual relationships with students who are enrolled in their classes or subject to their supervision, even when both parties appear to have consented to the relationship. No faculty, staff, or graduate assistant shall become involved in an amorous relationship, consensual or otherwise, with a student for whom that person currently has any teaching responsibility, including counseling and advising, coaching, supervision of independent studies, research, theses, and dissertations. In all cases in which an amorous or sexual relationship exists or develops, it is the obligation of the faculty member, staff member, or graduate assistant whose University position carries the presumption of greater power to disclose the relationship immediately to the appropriate supervisor who will contact the Office of the Provost for assistance in avoiding an appearance of impropriety and a potential conflict of interest.

Really the THEREFORE of the second paragraph is a non-sequitur since not all those in authority abuse or appear to abuse.  SIU dropped the third category- those in authority who do not abuse and do not appear to abuse. 

Then in the second paragraph, SIU appears to throw in the towel on appearances since the violations remain “even when both parties appear to have consented to the relationship.”   Well, I said appears, and it “appears” to the dankprofessor that SIU is muddled or confused when it comes down to appearances and consensual relationships.

And last but not least the policy mandates that the faculty member disclose the relationship to an SIU supervisor.  Or to put it in an unvarnished dank manner, the policy mandates the faculty member out the student lover, the student is not entitled to privacy.   If the SIU had minimal concern for student rights and privacy, student consent would be basic and elementary.  So much for due process and fairness at SIU.

The dankprofessor hopes that the FreeU blog will recognize how the SIU consensual relationships policy tramples on freedom and due process.

November 26, 2008 Posted by | consensual relationships, ethics, fraternization, higher education, sex, sexual harassment, sexual policing, sexual politics, sexual rights, Southern Illinois University, student professor dating | Leave a comment

Southern Illinois University and sexual harassment

The FreeU Blog reports that the Faculty Senate of Southern Illinois University has recommended changes to a new SIU sexual harassment code that embraces the fundamentals of due process of law. The proposed faculty amendments are as follows-

1. Due process rights shall be afforded to all parties.
2. A Sexual Harassment Review Board shall be formed to work with the compliance officer.
3. A person shall be banned only if he or she poses an immediate threat.
4. Judicial Review board members may be appointed to the Sexual Harassment Panel for cases
involving faculty.
5. The accused shall be notified about the complaint within five working days.
6. The accused and complainant shall have access to a redacted version of the preliminary
investigative report.
7. The accused and complainant shall have the right to appeal and present their own cases.
8. The Sexual Harassment Panel shall submit a report to the chancellor.
9. Records of cases shall be kept under strict confidentiality.
10. The definition of sexual harassment shall be consistent with the Illinois Human Rights Act.

The dankprofessor enthusiastically endorses these recommended amendments, but with full knowledge that the university administration may choose to reject some or all of these recommendations.

The FreeU blog notes:

This is progress but the Faculty Senate only went halfway. The overly broad definition of “sexual” harassment still includes everything but the kitchen sink, and still intrudes on the classroom.

The new code expands the definition of “sexual” harassment and adds to the laundry list of possible infractions. This is precisely the kind of “chilling” approach that the Office for Civil Rights (U.S. Department of Education) rebuked several years ago. The code’s definition allows accusers to claim “hostile environment” in the face of innocent quips, humor, gestures, and “sexually-explicit” material that is “inappropriate.” It extends the code to on and off-campus activities. I went over this ground in my “Open Letter.”

What SIU needs to do as well as most other universities is to seek out the counsel of the FreeU blog on sexual harassment policy.  The FreeU blog has the dankprofessor’s seal of approval.

November 26, 2008 Posted by | ethics, higher education, litigation, sex, sexual harassment, sexual politics, Southern Illinois University | 1 Comment

Keith Olbermann on gay marriage and love

Click here to view Keith Olbermann’s impassioned commentary on the passage of Proposition 8.  This should  be required viewing for everyone.

November 24, 2008 Posted by | ethics, gay marriage, gay rights, homosexual, love, sex, sexual politics | Leave a comment

Suicide and its aftermath

After the suicide  this past August of  University of Iowa  political science professor Arthur Miller, the President of UI mandated sexual harassment training for all faculty.  In a sexually obsessed culture, such is to be expected.  What President Sally Mason should have considered is the mandating of suicide prevention training and the creation of campus suicide prevention hotlines.  If the University of Iowa had such a program in place, maybe the recent suicide of Professor Mark Weiger could have been prevented.

Of course, we will never know what could have been, but what we do know is that the University of Iowa administration valued suicide prevention training as having lesser value than sexual harassment training.
As reported by The Daily Iowan of November 19:

While more than 50 universities have received a federal grant to set up suicide-prevention training, the University of Iowa likely won’t apply for the funding because of a lack of time and resources.

The UI considered the grant in past years but hasn’t applied because of the extensive time commitment in the proposal process, said Sam Cochran, the director of University Counseling Service.

“We struggle to fulfill student demand for appointments on a daily basis,” he said. “That grant-proposal process would require a part-time or full-time position to [handle], which just can’t happen right now. Our priority is serving the students lining up at our door.”

Such is the case of the University of Iowa even though “…suicide is the second leading cause of death for college students in the United States. Ten percent of college students report having seriously considered killing themselves, according to the American College Health Association.”

No data or attention is given to the prevention of suicide by suicide prevention programs for university faculty.

The fact that the UI administration response to a faculty suicide was to order faculty sexual harassment training is surreal.  Someone at the UI needs to try to get the University of Iowa beyond its present sexual myopia.  In the dankprofessor’s opinion, a good starting point would be the resignation of UI President Sally Mason.

November 23, 2008 Posted by | ethics, higher education, sex, sexual harassment, sexual politics, suicide, University of Iowa | Leave a comment

Chuck Norris and the chucking of the constitution

If democracy doesn’t work, try anarchy, such is the gay baiting chant of Chuck Norris.
 
Norris doesn’t get why so many Californian gays are upset with the passage of Prop 8 invalidating the California State Supreme Court decision legally affirming the right of same sex marriage.
 
Maybe Chuck Norris would get it if there was a democratically imposed fiat that took away his right to marry.  In all probability, Norris takes it for granted that he has a fundamental right to marry.
 
The dankprofessor believes that if a bunch of persons claiming to be religious fundamentalists took away his right to marry he would be damn angry and maybe even engage in some karate ideations.  Presently he is angry that the gay married and those wishing to marry persons of the same sex are angry.  He bemoans the actions of some protesters who revealed the identities of some of those who financially supported Prop 8 as well as bemoaning the actions of protestors who disturbed the tranquility of some who were partaking in church marriage ceremonies and exercising their rights to engage in marital rites.
 
Norris states that he is disturbed by

“the obvious inability of the minority to accept the will of the majority. Californians have spoken twice, through the elections in 2000 and 2008.

Nearly every county across the state (including Los Angeles County) voted to amend the state constitution in favor of traditional marriage.

Nevertheless, bitter activists simply cannot accept the outcome as being truly reflective of the general public.”

He then invokes “Chuck Colson, who wrote: “This is an outrage. What hypocrisy from those who spend all of their time preaching tolerance to the rest of us! How dare they threaten and attack political opponents? We live a democratic country, not a banana republic ruled by thugs.”

In Norris’s terms: “Political protests are one thing, but when old-fashioned bullying techniques are used that restrict voting liberties and even prompt fear of safety, activists have crossed a line.”

And he concludes on the following note: “Like it or not, it’s the law now. The people have spoken.”
 
Of course, no where in this diatribe does Norris provide any recognition of the fact that our democracy is a limited democracy, limited by constitutional guarantees.   He does in passing invoke liberties as in “voting liberties”, but just cannot understand that there are also liberties involving freedom of association and the freedom to marry.
 
For Norris and all too many of his confreres, democracy, the will of the voting majority, trumps the constitution, trumps any civil liberties.  In a sense the constitution should function to protect the citizenry from the thuggery of those using the democratic process to pummel the rights of others.
 
For the dankprofessor, it doesn’t matter if Norris’s perspective is a result of naivete, of arrogance, of religious zealotry, or all of the aforementioned.  The bottom line is that so-called democrats who do not recognize civil liberties all too often end up as authoritarians who righteously demean and degrade and often jail others as they invoke the good of the people, and affirm their superiority, albeit it a racial or sexual or marital superiority.
 
The California Supreme Court correctly cited the prior court decisions which nullified laws criminalizing interracial marriage.  No matter that invalidating interracial bans went against the prejudices of many Americans.  The right to marry then and now remains a fundamental right.  And such is why the dankprofessor holds that California Supreme Court should and will invalidate Proposition 8.

November 23, 2008 Posted by | consensual relationships, ethics, gay marriage, gay rights, homosexual, sexual politics, sexual rights | Leave a comment

Rooting out the problem at the University of Iowa

I greatly appreciated the UI professor’s willingness to have his/her comments published anonymously
in the dankprofessor post- Shame and suicide at the University of Iowa.

The professor noted that the Weiger sexual harassment suit may have represented a situation of hostile environment sexual harassment.  The Inside Higher Ed article presented this case in the following manner-

A former student and teaching assistant’s lawsuit, filed in federal court against Weiger and the university, charged that he had a romantic relationship with another student, engaged in repeated classroom banter and touching of an inappropriate nature, and created a sexually hostile environment

The dankprofessor speculates that the suit against Mark Weiger evolved out of a consensual student professor relationship that ended up being framed as sexual harassment and most likely as hostile environment sexual harassment.   Such may have occurred in the context of sexual jealousy and rivalry as experienced by a spurned student.  Such escalation and conflation is more likely to occur in a culture where reputation is of paramount importance.  And according to the UI professor this represented the dominant culture at the University of Iowa.

Approximately one year ago on November 24, 2007 I published a post entitled  “Fear and Loathing at the University of Iowa” which was on the consensual relationships policy at UI.  A review of this policy demonstrates that UI did not simply ban these relationships, but viewed them in totally demeaning and dehumanizing terms.  A professor who was very sensitive concerning his public status and reputation could very well have been psychologically traumatized by having himself publicly presented as a sexual predator/harasser.

And if one takes the policy statements of UI seriously, ultimately there is little differentiation in terms of the seriousness of the charge of sexual harassment versus the seriousness of being charged with violation of the consensual relationship policy; in both instances the professor so charged de facto becomes a sexual predator.

UI President Sally Mason in a recent communication to students and faculty stated that now is not the time to speculate as to the causes of the recent campus suicides.  The dankprofessor holds that this is an example of the UI President engaging in avoidance and denial.

November 19, 2008 Posted by | consensual relationships, ethics, higher education, litigation, sex, sexual harassment, sexual policing, sexual politics, shame, suicide, University of Iowa | Leave a comment

Solving the sexual harassment problem via video

The following comment in the Iowa City Press-Citizen on the University of Iowa recent sexual harassment problems caught the dankprofessor’s attention. 

guyinic1 wrote:
It’s a sad day when faculty need to have any interactions with students videotaped but if that is what it takes, then so be it. And maybe departments should provide a conference room adjacent to the department offices so that everyone can see the interaction of the student and teacher. Again, this is so sad that a student can’t just stop by a teacher’s room and chat!
I also think that the policy needs to be very explicit not only with faculty but also students, telling them that if any sort of accusation is made, it will be investigated publically and since it is a public investigation, they will be named and will also be subject to laws regarding slander and liable if their allegations are false. College students who make allegations are not children, they are adults and I’m tired of them hiding behind the excuse of being intimidated by a person in authority. Too much is at stake here for both the accusors and the accused!

The dankprofessor admits that he has never given consideration to the possibility of having video cameras in  faculty offices and even in classrooms since classrooms are often the scene of hostile environment harassment. 

Such may represent an effective way of controlling/preventing sexual harassment events from occurring.  Of course, videotaping will not eliminate sexual harassment, but would likely lead to a decrease of these suits. 

No matter that there will no longer be privacy regarding student prof interactions.  Privacy rights and other rights become irrelevant if institutions are to have effective
control of students and professors.  And control becomes key as universities are gradually transformed into quasi police states.  If control mechanisms are not implemented we could end up with a complete abolition of university campuses which would be replaced, of course, by online education.

November 19, 2008 Posted by | higher education, privacy, sex, sexual harassment, sexual policing, sexual politics, sexual rights, suicide, University of Iowa | Leave a comment

Shame and suicide at the University of Iowa

I have had communications from some UI faculty as to the situation of the recent faculty suicides in the context of sexual harassment charges.  I present below one of those communications and I do so without any name attached which is at the request of the writer.

I think that it can’t be dumb coincidence that the UI should have an epidemic of suicidal professors within a single semester. It defies plausibility. And on the rule that if one person asks a question, ten people have the same question, then presumably there are a lot more people in the same situation we simply don’t know about. So what about the University of Iowa in particular makes it epidemically miserable, when virtually all universities have comparable anti- harassment and anti-fraternization policies?

 

I have an hypothesis to which I think I can lend a certain amount of evidence and plausibility. It’s a perception that the UI (being an Upper Midwestern institution heavily servicing angst-ridden Germanic populations) is more of a shame culture than a guilt culture, although of course we have formal “guilt culture” institutional mechanisms of social control such as policies, procedures, investigations, and sanctions. People here will be influenced much more by self-policing (shame, fear of social stigma, etc.) long before they will be influenced by fear of formal reprisals, and will tend to police their actions to a greater extent than any policy actually stipulates – for instance, if it’s wrong to harass, then we will interpret it as wrong to talk about sex at all; or, if it is wrong to go out on a date, we will ban conversations in coffee shops; etc. and so forth. The result will be a culture in which almost any informal interaction (even of the innocent sort) between students and faculty will be so massively stigmatized that it is unlikely that any such interactions can occur without all parties (both concerned and unconcerned) believing they are inappropriate, and pro-actively signaling avoidance and/or disapproval.

 

I think I can lend plausibility to this. If you look at the first comment on the “Inside Higher Ed” article, you will see that it came from a student of the University of Iowa probably circa the 80s (it references a certain Professor Forell, who was head of the department of religious studies). It shows that a certain complex of attitudes about fraternization – a sense of its obvious impropriety combined with smug self-satisfaction about this prudery – was an element of the culture long predating the institution of formal mechanisms of social control. (And is it a coincidence that the UI has the first formal mechanism of this kind ever imposed in US higher education? No – what you appear to have is a perfect storm of Upper Midwestern shame culture/repression of sexuality combined with the elements you have everywhere else too, like fear of sexual harassment lawsuits and the usual neo-feminist academic Puritanism). The difference is that we have the usual academic Puritanism, but in the context of a shame culture. When do the people involved kill themselves? When they are outed – exposed to massive social shame – before any institutional finding of wrong-doing has actually been made. No one is afraid of what the institution may do to them formally, at least not to the extent of suicide. They are afraid of social stigma.

 

And the Weiger situation is doubly bad. If you look at the Inside Higher Ed article’s summary of the lawsuit, apparently a major part of the aggrieved student’s strategy to show hostile environment sexual harassment is that some sexual banter happened and that there was a consensual relationship between Weiger (who was single) and a student. It is not clear that the student is claiming actual, personal harassment, as opposed to having to endure an environment where fraternization could occur. Surely these aren’t the same thing.

November 19, 2008 Posted by | consensual relationships, ethics, higher education, sex, sexual harassment, sexual politics, shame, suicide, Uncategorized, University of Iowa | 1 Comment

University of Iowa avoidance and denial in faculty suicides

The University of Iowa is attempting to come up with some new ideas as to how to prevent faculty suicides which occur in the context of sexual harassment charges lodged against faculty members.

One idea that is being emphasized is the involvement of the UI Ombudsman Office.  The following was reported on the Ombuds Blog-

A UI professor accused of sexual harassment apparently committed suicide Wednesday afternoon, prompting university officials to reiterate the availability of resources to avoid such incidents. UI spokesperson Steve Parrott said faculty accused of misconduct can go to the Office of the Ombudsperson and have confidential conversations to determine how to protect their reputation and resolve the problem. Coincidentally, the UI Ombuds Office made a presentation to the Graduate Student Senate the same afternoon as the professor’s death.

The dankprofessor considers this proposal to be surreal and leads to avoidance and denial when it comes to basic and elementary steps that UI could have taken and can still take in cases such as that of Professor Mark Weiger.

Simply stated the UI can do the same things they do for professors that they already do for students and others who allege sexual harassment.  In the case of the accuser, the accuser’s identity is confidential and is shielded from public view.  If such was applied to the accused, the reputation of the accused is protected and the accused is not subject to a public stigmatization.  Such does not mean that the accused cannot be suspended with pay.  But what this does mean is that the university attempts to minimize punishment without trial and honor the presumption of innocence.

As a result of the Duke University lacrosse team fiasco, university administrations throughout the nation know of the possible dangerous consequences of  the rush to judgment.  By not rushing to judgment and protecting the confidentiality of the accused, universities such as the University of Iowa could save lives.  But universities such as UI are unlikely to implement these sorts of polices.  The dankprofessor asks why is this the case.

November 16, 2008 Posted by | ethics, higher education, rape, secrecy, sex, sexual harassment, sexual politics, suicide, University of Iowa, victimization | Leave a comment

Pulp Fiction at the University of New Mexico

Congratulations to Joy Harjo for being awarded a United States Artists $50,000 fellowship.  Such was announced by the USA on November 10 shortly thereafter followed by her melodramatic resignation from the University of New Mexico creative writing program in a so-called protest of UNM continuing to employ Lisa Chavez in the creative writing program.  Of course, Ms. Harjo has the right to engage in whatever melodrama she desires. It is too bad that her not so creative pulp fiction has to be in the form of an attack on a fellow UNM professor.

November 15, 2008 Posted by | ethics, higher education, lisa chavez, sadomasochism, sex, sexual politics, University of New Mexico | Leave a comment

Victims and victimization at the University of Iowa

The University of Iowa student newspaper the Daily Iowan reported on the campus reaction on the suicide of Professor Weiger.  One of the more bizarre and insensitive reactions was by Karla Miller, director of the Rape-Victim Advocacy Program.

Karla Miller…declined to comment specifically about Weiger, but she said after such apparent suicides, it could emotionally affect the victim who reported the harassment.

“It would be only natural to wonder why an individual would do this,” she said. “Unfortunately, what can happen is the response that some people make is to blame the victims, and that’s inappropriate.

“The victims are never to blame.”

A right-on response to this comment was by the False Rape Society blog; their letter to the editor of the Daily Iowan follows-

In your story, “Accused U. Iowa music professor victim of apparent suicide” (Nov. 13), you report on the tragic death of Professor Mark Weiger from an apparent suicide following an accusation of sexual harassment. One of the persons you interviewed properly noted that “sexual-harassment lawsuits frequently result from false accusations.”

However, you also quote Karla Miller, the director of the Rape-Victim Advocacy Program, who refused to speak about Prof. Weiger specifically but used the occasion of his tragic death to implicitly assume the guilt of every person accused of sexual harassment. Specifically, she said that the suicide of a person so accused “could emotionally affect the victim who reported the harassment.” She makes sure to add that after such a suicide, “some people . . . blame the victims, and that’s inappropriate. The victims are never to blame.”

Did you get that? Before a single scrap of evidence is admitted at trial, the person who reported the sex offense is declared the “victim” who is “never” to blame for a tragedy such as Prof. Weiger’s suicide — the facts, the evidence, and due process itself be damned. While Ms. Miller’s comments were not directed specifically at Prof. Weiger, it is difficult to see how he could not be included in her rush to judgment that improperly assumes the guilt of every person accused of a sex offense.

The dankprofessor gets it.  The dankprofessor also gets the fact that the sexual harassment training ordered by UI in response to these so-called harassment suicide cases probably does not communicate anything about due process and presumption of innocence.  And if such material is included in their training, it apparently has had no effect on Karla Miller.  Unquestionably Miller is in need of some training, and it is in the areas of sensitivity and legal due process training.

November 14, 2008 Posted by | ethics, higher education, rape, sex, sexual harassment, sexual politics, suicide, University of Iowa, victimization | Leave a comment

Suicide and sexual harassment at the University of Iowa

Inside Higher Education reports that University of Iowa music professor Mark Weiger has killed himself one week after he was accused of sexual harassment in a lawsuit.

A former student and teaching assistant’s lawsuit, filed in federal court against Weiger and the university, charged that he had a romantic relationship with another student, engaged in repeated classroom banter and touching of an inappropriate nature, and created a sexually hostile environment. According to the suit, the university conducted its own investigation of the situation last year, found Weiger had violated policies against sexual harassment, and then resolved the issue “informally.” He was found in his car, dead from carbon monoxide poisoning, with the garage door at his home closed. Authorities said he left a note.

This was not the first suicide by a UI professor who had been accused of sexual harassment.  “This past August UI professor Arthur H. Miller “was arrested on bribery charges and accused of telling female students that he would give them higher grades if they let him fondle their breasts. In one case, he is alleged to have grabbed and sucked on a student’s breast and then sent her an e-mail telling her that she had earned an A+. He then shot himself in a local park”.

Michael W. O’Hara, president of the Faculty Senate at Iowa and a professor of psychology, called the two deaths “a horrible coincidence.” He added that “sometimes in the great big wide world, events converge that are totally coincidental yet you begin to wonder if there is a pattern, and my view is that this is like having our 500-year flood. It seems inexplicable but it happened.”

When Miller was arrested in August the university announced that all faculty members would undergo sexual harassment training.  Such appeared to be a rather draconian move by the university targeting all professors in the context of only one professor being involved in the Miller sexual harassment case.

What concerned and perplexed the dankprofessor occurred when the University of Iowa did not order mandatory suicide prevention training for all of the UI faculty after Miller’s suicide.  Now that another professor has committed suicide in the context of a sexual harassment charges, the University of Iowa administration remains silent as to the need of suicide prevention training for its faculty.

If the UI administration is truly concerned about the well being of its faculty and believes that sexual harassment training will diminish that problem for its faculty, I think it is fair to ask why the administration does not order suicide prevention training for its faculty which ideally would function to diminish a problem that is a much more lethal problem than sexual harassment

However the university did do something as a consequence of the Weiger suicide when “Sally Mason, president of the university, on Thursday issued a statement expressing condolences to Weiger’s family and friends, and letting people know of the availability of counseling services. She also urged people “to refrain from speculation about this event, but to support all who need assistance.”

But the dankprofessor must ask why would President Mason assume that faculty have the ability to determine which faculty are in need of assistance?  Advocates of mandatory sexual harassment training argue that those trained become skilled in determining when sexual harassment has occurred or is likely to occur and therefore the trained are more likely to report to the appropriate campus authorities the existence of sexual harassers and potential sexual harassers.

Obviously, there is a double standard here, and it is the dankprofessor’s opinion that the double standard is related to the fact that sexual harassment involves sex and and American universities are well known for being sexphobic and then, of course, there is the money issue.  Faculty mandated sexual harassment training functions to diminish the probability of sexual harassment lawsuits being successfully promulgated against universities, at least such is the belief of many university administrators.  

And, of course, such does not mean that sexual harassment training is effective in diminishing sexual harassment on campus.  The dankprofessor believes that almost all faculty and university administrators know this.  And almost all academics know this and go along with the myth that sexual harassment training functions to prevent or diminish sexual harassment on campus.  And when a faculty member refuses to go along with this charade, and attempts to undermine the notion that sexual harassment training is effective, he or she is threatened with sanctions, as in the case of UCI professor Alexander McPherson.

Unfortunately, most universities have become money making playgrounds for those associated with the sexual harassment industry, including sexual harassment chasing lawyers.  

For most universities in both good and bad economic times, universities are predominantly interested in saving money rather than in spending money to save faculty lives.

So the end result in most American universities is that faculty problems relating to matters such as suicide receive only incidental attention, e.g., condolences are sent to the family of the suicide victim.  And as far as sexual harassment is concerned, the response of sexual harassment training is a money draining charade.  The dankprofessor is suggesting that this is not simply his opinion, but is the opinion of 99.9% of those who are knowledgeable about said training.  Such of course excludes those people and organizations that profit from the sexual harassment industry.

November 14, 2008 Posted by | ethics, higher education, litigation, sex, sexual harassment, sexual politics, suicide, UC Irvine, University of Iowa | 1 Comment

UNM prima donna professor resigns

In my last posting on the Lisa Chavez controversy at the University Of New Mexico and the resignation of the nationally recognized Native American poet Joy Harjo from the UNM as a protest against the UNM continued employment of Lisa Chavez as a professor in good standing, the dankprofessor believes he was not hard enough on Joy Harjo for her precipitous resignation.

Harjo said she could not continue to work in a program “that has been so deeply compromised” and that she didn’t “trust the University to uphold the rights of its students and faculty.”  But Harjo never spells out what are the rights of students and faculty that the UNM administration were not upholding.  If these rights violations were so serious as to lead Harjo to not provide her expertise and creativity to UNM students, then it certainly should behoove Harjo to spell out in detail the nature of these rights violations.

Harjo did state the following-

“The Chavez-and-students sex-site debacle was mishandled.  Because of this, the creative writing program lost face and credibility locally and nationally. Those of us – a majority of the creative writing program – who pushed for a proper ethics investigation based on policies already in place were retaliated against for speaking up. This whole situation could have been handled in a way that was respectful to all parties.  As it is, only the rights of one person was considered.”

If the UNM creative writing program “lost face and credibility nationally and locally”, such does not represent a violation of the rights of UNM students and faculty.  The academic status game never remains static; the rules of the status game are ambiguous and ever changing.  Today’s academic star may very well end up being tomorrow’s academic embarrassment.

For a department or academic program or academic to lose credibility, does not represent a violation of the so-called rights of the academic program or academic.  If Joy Harjo had a true commitment to the status and prestige of the UNM creative writing program she would have devoted more of her time and energy to said program.  She would have given paramount importance to continuing to teach the students of the UNM creative writing program.  Rather than having any devotion to these students, she bemoans that these students rights are somehow being violated and then she deserts these same students.  If one cares to look at this situation in a dispassionate manner, the dankprofessor believes one should conclude that Harjo resigned because she was primarily concerned with her own status and prestige needs.

Harjo’s statement that  “I have no plans at this time to join any other University. In the spirit of the teachings of the Mvskoke people, I will continue forward and carry with me only that which nourishes”, is further evidence of her own self-absorption.  No concern here about UNM students or colleagues; her own nourishment is the only thing that counts.  Such represents the orientation of an academic prima donna; prima donnas are not concerned with others or being team players or the prestige of the greater entity.  They are concerned about self, doing their own thing and going their own way.

But Harjo had more to add to her melodrama.   She also asserts that she and other professors who spoke up against the UNM position were “retaliated against for speaking up”.  But, of course, she does not outline the specifics of the alleged retaliations.  It is easy to say that retaliatory behavior should not be tolerated at UNM but it would be a whole lot more responsible to present the specifics of the retaliatory behavior; certainly such is more responsible than simply leaving the university and ones colleagues who have been subject to the alleged retaliatory behavior.

The fact is that the UNM administration has acted responsibly throughout this controversy.  They have acted in a responsible and conciliatory manner and they should be applauded by academics who believe in academic freedom and responsibility, even when it is “only” the rights of one person that are considered.

November 13, 2008 Posted by | academic freedom, ethics, higher education, lisa chavez, sadomasochism, sex, sex work, sexual policing, sexual politics, sexual rights, University of New Mexico | 2 Comments

University of New Mexico Pummeled by Lisa Chavez foes

There have been no new revelations about aspects of University of New Mexico Creative Writing Professor
Lisa Chavez’s involvement with a student in an S&M scenario which appeared on the internet.   It has been reported on this blog and elsewhere that an investigation by the UNM administration determined that Chavez had violated no university policy and she remains in good standing as a professor at UNM.

However, there does continue to be new distressing revelations concerning some of the creative writing colleagues of Professor Chavez.  It turns out that some significant percentage of faculty of the Creative Writing Program just can’t get over the fact that Chavez remains a professor in good standing given her admitted involvement in S&M activities  and even given that the activities were consensual and that no student or anyone else has charged Chavez with sexual harassment.  Chavez has violated no rule, no New Mexico statute and no Federal law. 

What she has done is engage in “sexual deviance” which has inspired some faculty at UNM to go on a moral crusade to get rid of Chavez or in the dankprofessor’s terms to bound and gag the bad professor.  During all of these shenanigans Chavez has continued to do her professorial work and not engage in any angry responses.

 In a recent letter to the faculty of the English Department, UNM President David Schmidley wrote:
“The university is, first and foremost, a place where students, faculty and administrators alike constantly engage in learning. It’s now time for all of us to learn anew the lessons of repentance, forgiveness and reconciliation.”

But the anti-Chavez crusaders refuse to engage in any form of repentance, forgiveness and reconciliation.
Rather they engage in various forms of symbolic protest which in the extreme represent a form of self-flagellation.  First, Sharon Warner, the head of the Creative Writing program, a person who had been well known for her devotion to the creative writing program resigns as Director of the program but retains her tenured position.  Warner’s resignation was not a creative act, not an act in support of students or faculty but rather an act of a person who is self possessed and simply is unable to handle things unless one gets their own way.

Of course, Warner’s resignation did not bring reconciliation and peace to the program.  The UNM administration replaced Warner with as new director Julie Shigekuni.  Upon assuming this position, Shigekuni emphasized that she was interested in the welfare of the department and not department politics.  She characterized the situation of the program in the following terms-

“I think that situations such as the one that we’re in are harmful.  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.”

Well, Warner did not heed the advice of Shigekuni and conflict in the program remained.

And now as reported in the Daily Lobo of November 11,  “creative writing professor Joy Harjo has resigned amid rumors that strife between the department’s faculty and senior administrators cannot be resolved.”

Harjo who had previously spoken out publicly against the UNM retention of Lisa Chavez made it clear that this was the reason for her resignation.

Faculty colleagues affirmed that Harjo’s resignation was a major loss for the University of New Mexico.
Harjo was the university ‘s only Joseph Russo Endowed Professor.

Diane Thiel, associate professor in the English department, said Harjo’s resignation is an incalculable loss to the University.   She stated that “Faculty and students have resigned and left UNM over this and will likely continue to. The recent resignation of Joy Harjo, arguably the most well-known Native American poet in the world, highlights the seriousness of the situation, many details of which have yet to be reported to the media.”

Harjo said she could not continue to work in a program “that has been so deeply compromised” and that she didn’t trust the University to uphold the rights of its students and faculty.”

“The Chavez-and-students sex-site debacle was mishandled,” Harjo said. “Because of this, the creative writing program lost face and credibility locally and nationally. Those of us – a majority of the creative writing program – who pushed for a proper ethics investigation based on policies already in place were retaliated against for speaking up. This whole situation could have been handled in a way that was respectful to all parties.  As it is, only the rights of one person was considered.”

Sharon Warner said Harjo’s resignation will leave a huge dent in the already crumbling infrastructure of the department, no matter who is selected to take her place.

Harjo also stated:

“I have no plans at this time to join any other University. In the spirit of the teachings of the Mvskoke people, I will continue forward and carry with me only that which nourishes. I’m suffering a great loss from losing this job. I’m suffering several years of loss.  She also said “It was a hard decision to make when you look at economic times and the strain of being an artist. They didn’t give me anything extra. That was nothing extra. That was the year that I was paid for.”

UNM Vice President Holder said the University had no plans to terminate or reinvestigate Chavez.

“Lisa Chavez remains an employee of the University and a professor of the English department where she has tenure, and the University is not planning to contest her tenure in any way, and if that was a part of Joy Harjo’s reason for resigning, I think we regret that,” Holder said. “I think we would like to say that we very much regret her loss. She was a valuable member of our faculty.”

Harjo bemoaned the fact that “only the rights of one person was considered” as if the rights of one person do not count.  In the dankprofessor’s opinion, the rights of Lisa Chavez do count and that Joy Harjo also has a right to resign in protest even if that resignation hurts the program as a whole and even if her resignation may very well represent an act of self-flagellation on her part. 

The University of New Mexico administration is to be congratulated for standing up to the university’s academic bullies who wish to pummel Lisa Chavez and who are now attempting to apply their pummeling to the university as a whole.

November 11, 2008 Posted by | academic freedom, consensual relationships, ethics, higher education, lisa chavez, sadomasochism, sex, sex work, sexual politics, sexual rights, University of New Mexico | 5 Comments

   

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