Dankprofessor’s Weblog

A weblog examining sexual politics in higher education and beyond.

A view from Canada

U-news of Canada has a collection of recent essays, including one by the dankprofessor, on student professor relationships.  Most of the essays are indicative of the retarded thinking on this issue.   A close reading of the Dalhousie pamphlet on helping their professors and students could lead one to become diagnosed as paranoid.  Ultimately, it is fair to state that these policies are driven by a fear of sexuality.  Until said fears are overcome, the campus fear mongers will continue to rule the day with their cadre of campus police and lawyers.

January 29, 2009 Posted by | Canada, consensual relationships, Dalhousie University, ethics, higher education, outing students, privacy, sex, sexual harassment, sexual policing, sexual politics, sexual rights, student professor dating, Warwick University | Leave a comment

Meddling campus moralists

The University World News article “Ban sex between lecturers and students?” in the UK which I cited in my last post merits more attention from the dankprofessor.

The article cites Rob Briner, a professor of organisational psychology at Birkbeck University who bemoans the loss of the old Oxbridge ideal of meeting students for a glass of sherry at 11am.

“When I was a student, the lecturer would close the door for a tutorial but now lecturers are wary of doing things like that – most just wouldn’t do it,” Briner said. “Staff are aware of the need to keep away from situations where they might be accused of doing anything.”

Where they might be accused of doing anything?  How utterly sad that the passage of these fraternization rules has led to fear and paranoia on campus and the destruction of campus community.  Better to do nothing than anything.  Keep those doors open on the closed campuses?

British universities have become more wary of possible allegations of abuse on the one hand but have also in many cases come to accept they cannot prevent relationships taking place.

A survey by the Times Higher Education Supplement in 2005 found that 52 out of 102 institutions had developed policies on the issue with many, like Birkbeck, requiring that any such relationship be declared to the employee’s line manager.

“Like in a lot of other policy areas, the organisation is trying to acknowledge that it [sexual relations] is going on and then they can deal with it,” Briner said.

Most universities contacted by University World News were either reluctant or unable to give numbers of lecturers who had been forced to resign as a result of a sexual relationship with a student. In America – where many universities have an outright ban on student-lecturer relationships – the American Association of University Professors was unable to provide any statistics on the issue.

“Although we handle hundreds and even thousands of inquiries and complaints each year… there is no central source for statistics on the nature of those cases,” said Dr John Curtis, Director of Research and Public Policy at the AAUP.

Of course, there are no statistics on student professor consensual relationships due to the fact that they are consensual!   Are parties to a consensual relationship motivated to turn themselves in and thereby become part of a campus statistic? 

As for the inability of campuses to prevent consensual relationships,
why would any academic expect that there could be effective prevention?  Have same sex consensual relationships been prevented in the context of centuries of persecution?

What astounds the dankprofessor is that journalists almost always buy into the myth that consensual relationships between students and professors represent a danger to the university.  For example, I am not aware of any case in which a lawsuit has been brought against a university due to a consensual relationship between a student and a professor?  Yes, there have been many lawsuits regarding sexual harassment involving a student and a professor, but consensual relationships between a student and a professor are not a subpart of sexual harassment no matter how many times the two are confounded by journalists, academics and assorted ideologues.  And, yes, a consensual relationship can turn into a situation of sexual harassment, but the absurdity of banning consensual relationships due to a bad outcome becomes transparent if when using this logic one argues that consensual heterosexual relationships should be banned because they can result in situations of rape. 

Overall, though, it seems as if policies that require lecturers to reveal any intimate relationships they are having with students – now common in the UK and US – are likely to spread.

If they are likely to spread then academics who value privacy and autonomy and do not feel good about universities embracing an authoritarian corporate model, should fight the spread of these nefarious policies

In conclusion, the University World News cites Professor Manola Makhanya, Pro vice-chancellor of the University of South Africa who they stated was

certainly enthusiastically considering whether such specific policies could be applied in South Africa: “It is important to focus on this because my sense is that it will increase,” he said. “Clearly we have to come up with policies rather than sit back, be confronted with a situation and not know how to deal with it.”

My advice to Professor Makanya is that it is better to do nothing.  Better to reject the American university model of the meddling moralistic authoritarians.  In fact, I am sure that the good professor knows that the American electorate just got rid of its number one meddler after a history of eight years meddling in the affairs of just about everybody.

January 27, 2009 Posted by | consensual relationships, ethics, fraternization, higher education, privacy, sex, sexual harassment, sexual politics, sexual rights, student professor dating, United Kingdom | Leave a comment

Outing students

The dankprofessor has repeatedly argued  but to no avail that university regulations that require a professor who is in a sexual relationship with a student to report said relationship to the appropriate university administrator is a gross violation of the student’s privacy.  In terms of this policy, there is no requirement that the student must give permission to the professor to report their relationship to the University. 

My advice to professors who are in such a situation is to not report unless there is student consent.  More generally my advice is that if the professor does report to the administration, the probability is that said relationship will become known to the university community.  In effect, the professor will be outing both himself or herself and the student.

In terms of the Warwick case, the outing of the student was disastrous for the student.  She has framed it in the following manner-

“To be frank, this story has never been newsworthy and should never have come to light. Aside from the fact that the details disclosed have been of a deeply personal nature, the widespread disclosure of this has proved very upsetting. It really has.”

And the University World News has reported the following:

When Professor Istvan Pogany, 57, began a consensual relationship with one of his students at Britain’s University of Warwick, he did what many would consider ‘good practice’ and informed his line manager. But the student, who is in her 30s, then fell pregnant and her subsequent anguished decision to have an abortion led to lurid headlines that raised the question again whether intimate relationships between academics and students should be more strongly discouraged, or even prohibited.

Of course, the University World News didn’t get it quite right.  The Warwick case raises the question as to whether professors should be forced to report on their students and their intimate relationships.  If privacy had been respected at Warwick, there is little likelihood that this would have become a media story.  Laissez faire in terms of intimate relationships between adults may at times be problematic, but it is far better than forcible intrusion by government authorities and university administrators into the sex lives of those who they consider to be their subjects.

January 27, 2009 Posted by | consensual relationships, ethics, higher education, outing students, privacy, sex, sexual policing, sexual politics, sexual rights, student professor dating, Uncategorized, Warwick University | Leave a comment

False prior posting

Prior posting about the death of a Warwick University student was not true.  To put it bluntly the dankprofessor was bamboozled by unknown person or persons who sent me a fraudulent news release and also had said press release posted on the web.  My apologies to the student and to others who had read this posting.

January 26, 2009 Posted by | ethics, higher education, Warwick University | 3 Comments

Sexual hell at the MLA meetings

An attendee at the recent meetings of the Modern Language Association (MLA) has set the dankprofessor straight about the dankprofessor’s belief that the MLA has no sexual harassment policy.  In fact, every registered attendee at the MLA meetings was given a copy of the MLA sexual harassment policy.  I gather that members did not receive a copy of the MLA sh policy before the meetings; if they did, attendance at the meetings may have precipitously declined. 

And interestingly enough, the MLA sh policy could not be found online, at least the dankprofessor could not find it.  But the dankprofessor’s readers should be pleased since a copy of the policy received by the members has been emailed  to the dankprofessor.  Key excerpts follow; those persons wishing to read the whole policy, email me your request and I will forward it to you.

THE MODERN LANGUAGE ASSSOCIATION (MLA) is committed to providing a convention environment that promotes equal opportunity and treats all persons with respect.  Discriminatory practices, including sexual harassment are prohibited.  Sexual harassment, whether verbal, physical or environmental and whether at the convention site or premises off-site is unacceptable and and will not be tolerated.

Sexual harassment is defined as unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature when …  (3) such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with the person’s performance or of creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive convention environment.

Sexual harassment includes, but is not limited to, between persons of the opposite or same sex.


. sexual jokes, flirtations, or innuendos

. display of sexually suggestive objects or pictures.

…If you believe you have been the victim of sexual  harassment in  any guise or have witnessed an act or acts of sexual harassment, you are urged, encouraged, and expected to discuss the incident promptly with a representative of the offender’s educational institution or company who is present at the convention.  If no such person is present, you are encouraged and urged to report the incident immediately to the institution or company.

OK, in this MLA nightmare vision of convention sexual hell, the dankprofessor’s alter ego was in attendance at the MLA meetings in the city by the bay and imbibing and bantering over dinner with six other alcohol fueled MLA attendees.  And much to my dismay I heard a comment that was directed by one of the diners to another diner that “I not only have a hunger for dinner, but I also have a hunger to get to know you better”.  Obviously, such represents a thinly disguised sexual innuendo, even the dankprofessor’s alter ego got it.  But no one at the dinner, no one to my knowledge, has reported this incident to the powers that be.  I couldn’t report it since I could not remember who made the comment and to whom it was made, nor could I remember the sex of the commentator or of the recipient. 

Of course, what anyone in attendance at the dinner should have done was to immediately take out the MLA sexual harassment policy and read it to those in immediate attendance.   But there were no readers. We all just wanted to eat and drink and drink.  And no matter there was no MLA drinking policy.  We all could  drink to that and we did over and over again.

But, of course, the MLA wants its sexual harassment policy to be taken seriously.  In all probability the policy was written by persons who are hardly ever taken seriously by anyone and now they had the opportunity to get back at those who never hear or see them and are hardly ever the subject of sexual innuendos. 

But if the MLA wants to be taken seriously and get the attention it does not deserve, it needs the following additions to its sexual harassment policy. 

. Require all members who register for the MLA meeting to go thru a MLA approved sexual harassment module.
. Have MLA approved town criers read the MLA sexual harassment policy throughout the meetings and at nearby dining venues.
. Require all registered attendees to adhere to an MLA approved dress code.
. Attendees be prohibited from consuming spirits of any kind during the MLA meetings.

OK, that’s it for now.  But, of course, there must and will be more.

Anti-sexual crusaders are never satisfied; they know there is always so much more they can do.  Now that they have their policies in place at the MLA, they can believe they can have them in place at any place, at any time, even at Sarah’s Alaska place.

So I hope I have not offended any MLA members, at least not offended those who are in good standing; good standing meaning those who know they have not violated MLA policies.  Go ahead stand up and be counted.

January 8, 2009 Posted by | conference sex, ethics, higher education, MLA, sex, sexual harassment, sexual policing, sexual politics, sexual rights | Leave a comment

Conference sex “explained”

Inside Higher Education reports on a Modern Language Association (MLA) conference panel on conference sex.  Conference sex is, of course, sex which occurs at academic conferences.  Actually there was no sex of any kind at the conference sex panel although at least one panelist seemed prepared for such an eventuality since she was dressed in a bathrobe.  Of course, being dressed in a bathrobe can also indicate that one is about to go to sleep; such might very well represent a practical wardrobe since many presentations at academic conferences do facilitate sleeping behavior.

So what was this panel all about? 

Jennifer Drouin, an assistant professor of English and women’s studies at Allegheny College, argued that there are eight forms of conference sex (although she noted that some may count additional forms for each of the eight when the partners cross disciplinary, institutional or tenure-track/non-tenure track, or superstar/average academic boundaries).

The categories:

“Conference quickies” for gay male scholars to meet gay men at local bars.
“Down low” sex by closeted academics taking advantage of being away from home and in a big city.
“Bi-curious” experimentation by “nerdy academics trying to be more hip” (at least at the MLA, where queer studies is hip). This “increases one’s subversiveness” without much risk, she said.
The “conference sex get out of jail free” card that attendees (figuratively) trade with academic partners, permitting each to be free at their respective meetings. This freedom tends to take place at large conferences like the MLA, which are “more conducive” to anonymous encounters, Drouin said.
“Ongoing flirtations over a series of conferences, possibly over several years” that turn into conference sex. Drouin said this is more common in sub-field conferences, where academics are more certain of seeing one another from year to year if their meetings are “must attend” conferences.
“Conference sex as social networking,” where academics are introduced to other academics at receptions and one thing leads to another.
“Career building sex,” which generally crosses lines of academic rank. While Drouin said that this form of sex “may be ethically questionable,” she quipped that this type of sex “can lead to increased publication possibilities” or simply a higher profile as the less famous partner tags along to receptions.
And last but not least — and this was the surprise of the list: “monogamous sex among academic couples.” Drouin noted that the academic job market is so tight these days that many academics can’t live in the same cities with their partners. While many colleges try to help dual career couples, this isn’t always possible, and is particularly difficult for gay and lesbian couples, since not every college will even take their couple status seriously enough to try to find jobs for partners. So these long distance academic couples, gay and straight, tenured and adjuncts, must take the best academic positions they can, and unite at academic conferences. “The very fucked-upness of the profession leads to conference fucking,” Drouin said.

Milton Wendland of the University of Kansas linked the jargon and exchanges of academic papers to academic conference sex. The best papers, he said, “shock us, piss us off, connect two things” that haven’t previously been connected. “We mess around with ideas. We present work that is still germinating,” he said. So too, he said, a conference is “a place to fuck around physically,” and “not as a side activity, but as a form of work making within the space of the conference.”

At a conference, he said, “a collegial discussion of methodology becomes foreplay,” and the finger that may be moved in the air to illuminate a point during a panel presentation (he demonstrated while talking) can later become the finger touching another’s skin for the first time in the hotel room, “where we lose our cap and gown.”

And Israel Reyes, of Dartmouth College

devoted most of his paper to a critique of Jane Gallop’s 1997 book, Feminist Accused of Sexual Harassment (Duke University Press), which recounts accusations that Gallop harassed two graduate students. Gallop has written frankly of her sexual relations with her professors and students. The University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee, where she teaches, cleared her of the harassment charges, but found that in one case, her relationship with a graduate student was inappropriate.

The charges against Gallop, Reyes noted, came out of an incident that included banter and kissing at … an academic conference, and this is no coincidence, he argued. Generally, Reyes praised Gallop for questioning some widely accepted definitions of harassment, but he said she was “less perceptive” when writing about herself, and the reasons that may have led the graduate students to complain about her.

OK, here’s the rub according to the dankprofessor.  Academic conferences are one of the few places left where the sexual harassment advocates have not made a play.  The MLA and the myriad of other academic associations have no sexual harassment policy.  This is fertile ground for the sexual harassment industry.  All it will take is for one sexual harassment lawyer to get one conference attendee to testify that she was subject to repeated unwanted sexual attention or was offended by some sexually tinged remarks made at a panel presentation, and we will have a whole new ballgame.  If such ends up being the case, then academic conferences will become boring ad nauseam.

And then there is the matter of student professor sexual dalliances and alliances at academic conferences.  No mention of this at the MLA panel.  Academic meetings are one of the few remaining places that student/professor couples can come out of the closet to some degree.  They have a little breathing room.  I can testify that such is not the product of a dank imagination.  When will the campus sexual puritans become the conference anti-sexual zealots and crack down on this space?

I guess I should also note that the MLA meeting was in San Francisco.

January 2, 2009 Posted by | conference sex, consensual relationships, ethics, higher education, MLA, sex, sexual harassment, sexual politics, student professor dating, the closet | 2 Comments

Dealing with sexual intruders from the UK to the USA

The Independent of London has taken a strong stand against unnecessary and intrusive laws which regulate the sexual lives of the denizens of the UK.

What the Independent is concerned about is the continuing attempt in the UK  to ban extreme pornography.  Most immediately The Independent is concerned about the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act of 2008 which takes effect in less than a month.  Section 63 of this law prohibits pictures on the internet of someone having sex with a corpse as well as images of bestiality.

The Independent points out that-

The usual problems with such legislation are that in the first place the law is adopted in a mad hurry and is thus vague and unclear and, second, a set of general principles is wrongly deduced from truly exceptional circumstances.

With this law, the evidence of haste and a knee-jerk response to a specific event can be seen from the imprecise wording. As a result, the viewing of images of a number of practices that are legal, and which most people would consider acceptable if not exactly desirable behaviour between consenting adults, will become as illegal as viewing images of bestiality and necrophilia. All such viewers will have the same potential to be caught under the same dragnet.

Regrettably, the Government will probably get away with it. In these “on-message” days, no politician wants to be seen as the spokesperson for sexual freaks. A reputation for a partiality to bondage is not the way to boost the career of a junior minister or rising backbencher. And so a few more of our civil liberties are done away with – and the opportunities for police surveillance increased.

Ministers may even think they are on to a winner, by giving unpopular Sixties-style liberals a good drubbing – and a good dose of New Labour Puritanism at the same time. Well, perhaps so. It’s also possible that the Government’s obsession with regulating every aspect of peoples lives will rebound on it. We can only hope so, for the Government should beware of poking its long nose into people’s sex lives, and when it is far from clear that such intervention is necessary.

The tactics used in the UK are not unique and are rather simple.  Get some significant percentage of the public riled up about some sexual behavior which almost all persons agree is disgusting and obnoxious and then pass a law that goes way beyond the behaviors that led to the hysteria.  In essence this is what happened in California with the passage of proposition 8.  Make gay marriage illegal since if we have gay marriage then in some way this will facilitate the predatory sex crimes against children.  Or as Rick Warren does, associate homosexuality with child abuse and incest.

And what is most germane to this blog, use cases of relationships between students and professors which involve coercion and harassment to ban all consenting sexual relationships between students and professors.  And then present as a taken for granted assumption that such relationships undermine the integrity of the university.  And, of course, once these rules are in effect, consenting student professor couples are unlikely to come forward to challenge these rules since they would then become subject to being penalized by the powers that be.

And what becomes most galling to the dankprofessor is that the belief comes into being that the laws have been successful since student professor couples have scant visibility on campus.  Of course, they are not visible since they have been forced into the closet.  As gays have come out of the closet on campus, student professor couples now occupy that closet.  The campus moral entrepreneurs  and zealots have carried the day with barely a peep from the liberty advocating professoriate.  Of course, it is fear that carries the day on campus; with or without tenure, almost all faculty will not speak up for their colleagues, colleagues who only want the basic right of sexual privacy and to be left alone.

And when it comes to this blog, I know that fear prevents many professors and students from posting comments.  In 2008 I received many emails sent directly to me from students who have found these campus fraternization laws to be oppressive and hurtful.  I have done my best to write helpful responses to these students.  And I have done the same for a much smaller number of professors.  So even though there are few comments on the dankprofessor blog from students and professors, I do believe that I am getting the dank word out. And the dankprofesssor will continue to blog.

I greatly appreciate the support of my readers in 2008 and am looking forward to the dankprofessor blog doing more good in 2009.

January 1, 2009 Posted by | 2008, blogs, censorship, consensual relationships, ethics, fraternization, gay marriage, higher education, pornography, privacy, sadomasochism, sex, sexual harassment, sexual policing, sexual politics, sexual rights, student professor dating, the closet, United Kingdom | Leave a comment

2008 dankprofessor blog review and awards

Here are the five 2008 posts which received the most views along with the number of views. 
                                                                                         
 
Harvard coeds to go nude                                                            5,106
University students engage in public sex                                  2,652
A passionate defense of student professor relationships       2,210
UNM Prof Lisa Chavez speaks out                                             1,991
Sadomasochistic posing professor found fit to teach             1,761

And the story that received the most views was Lisa Chavez and the University of New Mexico- 7,754

And the dankprofessor awards for 2008

to the university having the worst record in dealing with sexual civil liberties issues- the University of Iowa and UC, Irvine

to the university demonstrating the best record in protecting the sexual rights of students and professors- the University of New Mexico

to the professor demonstrating the greatest fortitude in the context of sexual intrusion and the attempted diminution of ones sexual rights- Lisa Chavez of the University of New Mexico

to the academic who most consistently and vehemently attacked the sexual rights and privacy of a fellow academic- Professor Sharon Warner of the University of New Mexico

and to the person in the popular culture who most impressed the dankprofessor in terms of speaking out for sexual rights- Keith Olbermann of MS-NBC

January 1, 2009 Posted by | 2008, awards, UC Irvine, University of Iowa, University of New Mexico | Leave a comment

   

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