Dankprofessor’s Weblog

A weblog examining sexual politics in higher education and beyond.

UM professor and student consensual prostitution

The Ann Arbor News reports that a University of Michigan Professor of Near Eastern Studies and a UM law student have both plead no contest to a misdemeanor charge of using a computer to commit a crime.
 
Now the University of Michigan is investigating tenured Professor Yaron Eliev to determine if the professor paid the law student for sexual acts after meeting her online.
 
Both the professor and student were originally “charged with prostitution/accosting and solicitation, misdemeanors punishable by up to 93 days in jail.”
 
The encounter between the professor and the student came to the attention of the police when the student went to the police and reported she was assaulted by the professor after they met in a hotel room.

The student told police she was advertising sex acts online via Craigslist to help pay tuition costs. For an in-state student, U-M Law School tuition is $41,500 a year; out-of-state students pay $44,500.

The student told police she reluctantly agreed to allow Eliav to strike her buttocks with a belt, but got upset when he slapped her in the face twice, reports said. She said she suffered vision problems afterward, but did not have any lasting injuries.

The rarity of how the case began – with a law student showing up at the police department’s front desk to report she was assaulted while committing a crime herself – was not lost on investigators.

“Perhaps she should have cracked a legal textbook before coming in to the police station to talk about this,” Ann Arbor Detective Sgt. Richard Kinsey said.

Both she and Eliav told police they didn’t have intercourse, but engaged in other sex acts, and he paid her $300, according to police reports.

When he was interviewed by police, Eliav said he responded to the online ad because he was interested in experimenting sexually. He said he complied when she told him to stop certain activities and admitted to slapping her face, but said it was “like a game,” reports said.

Eliav also called the woman a willing participant and said they hugged at the end of the encounter, reports said.

It appears Eliav knew the woman was a law school student, but it not clear from the police reports whether he knew that going into the encounter. He told investigators the money he paid the woman was simply “a token,” and called her “a bored college student.”

The law school is also reviewing the matter, said UM spokesperson Kelly Cunningham, adding that student confidentiality rules prevent her from saying more.
Deputy Chief Assistant Prosecutor Steven Hiller said prosecutors didn’t charge Eliav with assault because they didn’t feel they could prove that crime.

“In order to prove a case of assault and battery, you have to prove (nonconsensual) physical contact beyond a reasonable doubt, and based on the circumstances, we did not feel we could prove that,” Hiller said.

Police reports also indicate the student admitted to arranging money-for-sex deals with about eight or nine men in April and May, saying she needed the money for tuition.

The student said she advertised online and got to her appointments using hourly rental cars available on campus through Zipcar, according to police reports.

This is a bizarre case but in part reflects the dominant university perspective that the privacy of a female student must always be protected in a sexually related case.  And the Ann Arbor News as well does not provide the identity of the student-prostitute.  Part of the bizarreness is that in cases involving prostitution the identity  of the prostitute becomes public but not that of the so-called john.  So it is fair to ask, why the Ann Arbor news protects the identity of the student-prostitute but not the john professor?

In any case, a key question is whether this case should fall under the purview of the University of Michigan.  The dankprofessor believes that such should not be the case if both parties did not use their university positions to facilitate the encounter.  However, the university can make their case for an investigation since the activities of the professor and student were criminal even though criminal charges are seldom brought against those involved in prostitution.  Note in the case of Eliot Spitzer, the call girl never faced a criminal charge.

So the university is operating in a rather gray area.  I do not think the university should be operating at all in this area since I do not think prostitution should be treated as a crime.  And, of course, if the university would find it very difficult to take any actions against this professor since he is tenured.  As to their taking actions against the student, the public will probably never know what the university does since she is shielded from being identified.

And the university cannot apply a consensual relationships policy to take actions against the professor since UM policy covers only situations where there is a supervisory relationship.

And regular dankprofessor blog readers should note that the University of New Mexico Linda Chavez case is of another genre since the off campus sex work of Professor Chavez was not illegal.

December 12, 2008 - Posted by | consensual relationships, ethics, higher education, prostitution, sex, sex work, sexual policing, sexual politics, sexual rights, University of Michigan

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