Dankprofessor’s Weblog

A weblog examining sexual politics in higher education and beyond.

Marquette goes homophobic on dean hiring.

Following my commentary is an ABC NEWS report on Marquette University’s rescinding of a job offer as dean of their College of Arts and Sciences to Jodi O’Brien who had been Chair of the Seattle University’s sociology department.  Both Seattle and Marquette are Jesuit universities.  Their similarity in being Jesuit colleges apparently is in name only since Marquette’s reneging on O’Brien as Dean lacks any ethical underpinning.

The underpinning of their reneging relates to the fact the O’Brien is lesbian, and she is a lesbian who is not in the closet. Her sexual preference was known to Marquette from the getgo.  And O’Brien was not being hired as a lesbian; she was being hired as an outstanding scholar and an outstanding academic leader.   I know that such is the case for Jodi since I have been a long term admirer of her scholarship and her leadership as President of the Pacific Sociological Association.  And I also know that she helped to create a damn fine sociology department at Seattle.

Marquette denys firing O’Brien because she is gay-

“Officials at Marquette have said they withdrew the offer not because O’Brien was openly gay, but because of the nature of her published vignettes on lesbian sex and same-sex marriage”.

But apparently Marquette has not revealed which passages of her work they found lacking and why such was found to be lacking.   Professional etiquette would have been to bring up said work while Professor O’Brien was at Marquette and going thru their evaluating/vetting process.  Given that such did not occur and given that they now had some reservations about her published work, they could have had her return to campus and in person shared their concerns with her and given her a chance to respond, but such was not the case, no professional courtesies extended in the context of their unprofessional treatment of her.

The dankprofessor has no doubt that Maquette’s backtracking on the hiring of Professor O’Brien as based on her being lesbian.  They did a hatchet job on her.   If they so choose, members of hiring committees and academic administrators can find something or other in any applicant’s writing that they find to be questionable, and use as a basis to justify for not hiring while at the same time attempting to keep in the closet the real reasons for their decision.

I say to the Marquette administration- Shame on you for this outrageous decision.   I say to Seattle U, bravo for the support shown to Jodi O’Brien during this very difficult time for her.  And I say to Jodi that I hope this ultimately works out best for her, and that Seattle trumps Milwaukee as a place to live on just about every possible criterion.

Here’s the ABC News article-

A lesbian sociologist with sterling credentials and countless scholarly works is at the center of a social justice struggle that is playing out at two Catholic universities — one from the liberal Northwest and the other anchored in the conservative heartland.

Jodi O’Brien, a highly respected and openly gay professor at Seattle University, was appointed dean of the college of arts and sciences at Milwaukee’s Marquette University in April, but then on May 2, the offer was rescinded, in part, because of some of her academic writings were at odds with the church.

“I was stunned,” O’Brien, 50, said at the time in the Seattle University Spectator. “I had no idea this was in the works.”

The controversy has brought into sharp relief two Jesuit schools, 2000 miles apart, one where gay students and faculty feel accepted and the other where despite efforts, some students and faculty say anti-gay attitudes still prevail.

Monday, dozens of faculty from both Jesuit universities took out a full page ad in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, protesting Marquette’s decision to withdraw O’Brien’s appointment based on her sexual orientation.

They called on administrators to offer her the job again with an apology and condemned the Archdiocese of Milwaukee and “other outside influences” in the decision.

The reversal “puts academic freedom at risk at Marquette University,” said the ad. “We reject an intellectual ‘litmus test’ for our faculty, staff, and leaders in the administration.”

“We believe this action has caused significant harm to the reputation of Marquette University,” the statement said. “It threatens our credibility and integrity as a university. It has caused suffering among students, alumni, staff, and faculty, and it will cost Marquette considerably in terms of community relationships, research, and recruiting and retaining students and faculty.”

Officials at Marquette have said they withdrew the offer not because O’Brien was openly gay, but because of the nature of her published vignettes on lesbian sex and same-sex marriage.

O’Brien, who just ended her tenure as chair of Seattle’s sociology department and is not a Catholic, told ABCNews.com that she is no longer granting interviews.

“I have not yet had an official conversation with Seattle University about returning, but colleagues and administrators there have been very gracious and supportive during this time,” she said.

Kathleen La Voy, who worked with O’Brien for 15 years and who wrote her recommendation for the Marquette job, said she was “amazed” at the appointment reversal.

“Jodi has always embraced Catholic values,” said La Voy, chairman of the psychology department and associate dean of the college of arts and sciences at Seattle. “She has upheld the values of the church on a personal level and is able to honor what a Catholic believes.”

“She is great working with people, a great advocate for students and a fair-handed and outstanding administrator,” said La Voy, who signed the protest ad.

Earlier this month, about 100 students protested the action, carrying signs demanding an official four-pronged apology: to O’Brien, to the search committee, and to the Marquette and the LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender] communities.

“We just had a meeting with the president and there’s no apology yet,” said Desiree Valentine, 22, who graduated on Sunday and was part of the protest.

Marquette Not so Welcoming for LGBT Students

“I wouldn’t say this is a comfortable place on the whole for LGBT students,” said Valentine, a gender studies major who was told she could not bring a transgender speaker to campus.

“I feel like the people on campus are very supportive,” she said, “but it gets more difficult on an institutional level.”

“Marquette was moving in the right direction in the area of diversity, especially LGBT issues, but when this broke, it was a huge set back,” said Valentine. “I appreciate my Jesuit education, but my great love comes with great disappointment.”

O’Brien was hired by Seattle in 1995 to teach sociology, anthropology and women’s studies. Since 2002, she has been chair of its sociology department.

According to an interview with The Advocate, O’Brien said Marquette had recruited her in 2008 and after she made the short list, she withdrew her name. Again in 2009, she was a finalist and accepted the post in mid-April.

The Rev. Robert A. Wild said the school changed its mind about O’Brien after reading a sociological study of lesbian sex she wrote.

“We found some strongly negative statements about marriage and family,” he told The New York Times.

Julie Wolf, a spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, said Archbishop Jerome Listecki had been “very vocal” and “transparent” in discussions with Wild, but does not interfere with hiring at Marquette, which is under the Jesuit Order.

His objections “had nothing to do with her sexuality,” said Wolf. “It was some of her writings.”

Marquette spokeswoman Mary Pat Pfiel referred press to a prepared statement that said the university “remains steadfast in its opposition to any and all forms of discrimination, as reflected in our Statement on Human Dignity and Diversity. In rescinding the employment offer to a recent candidate, the university was aware that there would be those who opposed the decision, and Marquette President Robert A. Wild, S.J., has acknowledged that the search process requires review.

“This was a substantive decision, even if a difficult one, that Father Wild made based on what he believes to be in the best interests of Marquette University and its mission of excellence, faith, leadership and service. It was certainly not a decision based on fear, outside pressure or, as has unfortunately been alleged, on discrimination because of sexual orientation. Nor does this decision challenge a faculty member’s right to academic freedom.”

Some community members had suggested that there may have been interference from other conservative decision makers at the school.

“We hear opinions and viewpoints from multiple people and from various constituencies,” said Pfiel, who said although the university was autonomous when it comes to hiring faculty, O’Brien was a “leadership hire.”

Marquette has also pledged to have an “ongoing dialogue next year with students, faculty and staff about academic freedom, our Catholic identity and the needs of the LGBT community.”

Pfiel said the university was a “welcoming community,” but some faculty and students said that was not the case.

“It’s OK,” said Nancy Snow, 51, who is a professor of psychology and one of about five gay faculty members on campus. She was asked to show O’Brien and her partner around the campus in mid-April before the offer was rescinded.

Snow called the university’s reversal, “a public disgrace and an embarrassment.” She said Marquette officials were “absolutely” aware that O’Brien was gay.

“[O'Brien] was very distinguished, a full professor with an 11-page CV and 17 edited books,” said Snow. “She is an amazing scholar and highly qualified.”

Anti-Gay Remarks at Marquette

“I think the [atmosphere] here is still kind of uncomfortable,” said Snow, though she said attitudes toward gays had improved in her 20 years at the university.

“There is a gay-straight alliance, but there are still problems with students being disrespectful and making offensive comments like, ‘That’s so gay,’ which is so hurtful,” she said. “There are some right-wing Catholics here who think being gay or a lesbian is sinful and satanic.

“The university is not vocally supportive of them,” she said. “The students are really the leaders here with the moral conscience.”

Rachel Stoll, a 22-year-old gender studies and anthropology double major who was proud of her eight years of Jesuit education in high school and in college, said many students have bonded over the O’Brien incident.

“The reason a lot of us took offense in terms of our Jesuit identity,” said Stoll, who graduated this week. “We were raised to believe in social justice and working toward equality for all people and for human dignity. We saw this as an affront to our core Jesuit values.”

Stoll, though she is not gay, said she has faced “gender-based” bias as a woman on campus.

“Every year, we try to do the ‘Vagina Monologues’ to raise money for charity, but they never let us do it on campus,” she said. The administration often gives “vague answers or don’t answer the question asked,” she said.

But Paul Milakovich, Marquette’s associate vice president for university advancement and an openly gay man, said the university has been a “very comfortable place to work.”

“I am completely out and they knew when they hired me,” he said. “My partner attends basketball games with me and everyone is very accepting.”

Milakovich sees no contradiction between Catholic teachings and his own sexuality.

“I would be offended by the idea of discriminating against [O'Brien],” he said.

As for the differences between Jesuit universities like Seattle and Marquette, he said, “Schools take on their own culture and how the teachings of the Catholic Church are understood.”

Seattle University, on the other hand, has rehired O’Brien after she resigned in anticipation of the dean’s post at Marquette.

“We welcomed her back, of course,” said Seattle spokeswoman Laura Paskin.

There, the university has recently embraced Eve Ensler’s “Vagina Monologues,” an annual feminist tradition at many American colleges.

“I certainly don’t know about Marquette, I have never worked there, but the environment at Seattle has always been very open and accepting for everyone, whether it’s race or ethnicity or gender or sexual orientation,” said O’Brien’s colleague La Voy.

“I’ve taught human sexuality in psychology department panels, about gay pride and the transgendered, on and on, and it always been open and accepting,” she said. “Our gay-straight alliance is a strong group and not some people hiding in a corner somewhere in the university.

“Jesuits have always been very open,” La Voy said. “Really, social justice is the bottom line around here and they live it.”

May 28, 2010 Posted by | ethics, higher education, homosexual, lesbian, Marquette University, Seattle university, sexual politics | Leave a comment

University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Consensual Relationships Policy

The sexual regulations beat goes on in university land; it is everywhere  and nowhere.  Seldom commented on and tacitly accepted.
So the dankprofessor now goes to Oklahoma, the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences.  Here is their policy along with my comments.
CONSENSUAL SEXUAL RELATIONSHIPS POLICY
Rationale
The University’s educational mission is promoted by professionalism in faculty-student relationships. Professionalism is fostered by an atmosphere of mutual trust and respect.
Now the dankprofessor can relate to this- professionalism fostered by mutual trust and respect. Only if such were the case.  Mutual trust and respect is an oxymoron as to what now follows.
Actions of faculty members and students that harm this atmosphere undermine professionalism and hinder fulfillment of the University’s educational mission. Trust and respect are diminished when those in positions of authority abuse, or appear to abuse, their power. Those who abuse, or appear to abuse, their power in such a context violate their duty to the University community.
Of course abusers do violate their duty to the university community.  The problem is that the people who create and promulgate these policies are abusers since they systematically violate the autonomy and privacy of students, professors and staff.
Faculty members exercise power over students, whether in giving them praise or criticism, evaluating them, making recommendations for further studies or their future employment, or conferring any other benefits on them. Amorous relationships between faculty members and students are wrong when the faculty member has professional responsibility for the student. Such situations greatly increase the chances that the faculty member will abuse his or her power and sexually exploit the student. Voluntary consent by the student in such a relationship is suspect, given the fundamentally asymmetric nature of the relationship.
Axiomatic here, ignore what students say; they can’t consent so their input is of no value re consent.
Moreover, other students and faculty may be affected by such unprofessional behavior because it places the faculty member in a position to favor or advance one student’s interest at the expense of others and implicitly makes obtaining benefits contingent on amorous or sexual favors.
Implicitly is the keyword here.  But nothing elaborated on about implicitly.  What I think it means is when an administrator or whomever believes such is the case, it is the case.  No need to prove anything; this is what a person(s) believes.  Now if the student and the prof make it explicit
that there were no illicit benefits; such does not count; can’t take the student seriously.  Now, is this mutual trust and respect?
Therefore, the University will view it as unethical if faculty members engage in amorous relations with students enrolled in their classes or subject to their supervision, even when both parties appear to have consented to the relationship.

Again, no iota of mutual trust or respect.  Everyone, almost everyone, is suspect, except of course the administrators enforcing the policy.

May 28, 2010 Posted by | consensual relationships, higher education, sex, sexual politics, student-prof dating | 1 Comment

Case Western Reserve policy on consensual relationships

Case Western Reserve has developed a rather detailed consensual relationships policy for students, faculty and staff.  It is essentially of the boilerplate genre, but it does include a couple of patently “absurd” statements; examples follow and then the dankprofessor comments.
Faculty, staff, and students may not use, in a sexual
harassment proceeding, a defense based upon
consent when the facts establish that a real and/or
implied supervisory power differential existed within
the relationship.
Wow! Consent is impossible in power differentiated relationships.  Case has
bought into the hardcore feminist position that differential power precludes consent, no exceptions. Ideologues rule here.
Compliance
It is expected that all members of the university
community comply with the Consensual Relationship
Policy. When relationships covered by this policy develop,
responsibility for reporting the relationship falls to the
person with greater supervisory authority. Relationships
covered by this policy that go unreported will be
investigated by the Faculty Diversity Office, Employee
Relations, and/or the Office of Student Affairs.
Now this one beyond the fringe, so to speak.  How can relationships that go unreported be investigated?   Will the university have undercover persons on campus who will forward secretly info on suspected couples, but such will not be reported?  The dankprofessor confesses to be totally baffled by this one.

May 28, 2010 Posted by | consensual relationships, higher education, sex, sexual harassment, sexual politics, student-prof dating | 1 Comment

Lynch mobs love Polanski

It took Gloria Allred, the queen of muckraking lawyers, to effectively bring the media and legal lynch mobs together in Los Angeles.  It occurred in the context of  her hosting former actress Charlotte Lewis at a Hollywood news conference so that Lewis could announce that she had been sexually assaulted by Roman Polanski in France in the 1980s.  Why such was announced at  this time was not made clear?  And Gloria Allred would not allow her to entertain any questions so clarity could not be pursued.  Of course, why Allred would not allow her to take questions was also not clear?  And even why Allred was there representing Lewis was also not clear?  And why Lewis ended up in Los Angeles and not in Paris to make her announcement was also not clear?  If she was interested in pursuing justice in terms of what Polanski supposedly did to her, shouldn’t she be in Paris talking to the relevant French authorities.  But instead she ends up talking to LA District attorney Steve Cooley who is spending much of his time attempting to prosecute and persecute Roman Polanski while running for the Attorney General of California.

But Allred and Lewis and possibly Cooley apparently accomplished their goal of having the media in tens of thousands of news sources repeat Lewis’s unsupported assertions over and over again that Polanski is a recividistic sexual predator.   As for Cooley’s goals, such a media circus might help to persuade the Swiss authorities to send Polanski back to Hollywood with a Hollywood ending orchestrated by Cooley.

Even though Lewis’s staged performance in LA is now over and Lewis’s drama coach Allred is temporarily on the sidelines, there is little doubt that  their beat will go on; the court of public opinion continues to be open for the unrestrained trashing of Polanski.  However, if one looks carefully enough one can find voices of temperance and sanity in this deluge, check out an article in the Guardian by Robert Harris and a blog post by Novalis Lore.  They are not of the Allred genre but they are of the genre that will not contribute to the feeding frenzies and public degradation ceremonies that are so predominant in today’s mediated world.

May 19, 2010 Posted by | celebrities, rape, Roman Polanski, sex, sexual politics, Uncategorized | 1,027 Comments

Fellatio and bats at Irish university.

The president of the University of College Cork has becomes uncorked re a sexual harassment charge relating to fellatio and bats.  Read the story as presented below.  Absurdity knows no limits when it comes to how universities handle sexual matters.

London, May 18 (ANI): An academic at the University College Cork in Ireland found himself at the centre of a sexual harassment scandal after he discussed a scientific paper, titled ‘Fellatio in fruit bats prolongs copulation time’ with a female colleague.

Dylan Evans, a psychologist at the university’s school of medicine, has been saddled with a two-year period of intensive monitoring and counselling after discussing the paper with a colleague.

And now his university is coming under international pressure to lift the punishment meted out to Dylan.

As part of what he says was an ongoing discussion on human uniqueness, Evans showed a copy of the fellatio paper to a female colleague in the school of medicine.

“There was not a shred of a sign of offence taken at the time. She asked for a copy of the article,” New Scientist quoted Evans as saying.

A week later he got a letter informing him that he was being accused of sexual harassment.

Evans said that the whole case is “utterly bizarre”.

The complainant’s side of the argument is that she was “hurt and disgusted”, and asked Evans to leave a copy of the paper with her as way of cutting short the meeting.

Apparently, there was more to the grievance between Evans and the complainant than the fellatio paper incident, but an independent investigation found that Evans was not guilty of sexual harassment.

The investigation stated that it was reasonable for the colleague to have been offended and that showing the paper was a joke with a sexual innuendo, but that it was not Evans’ intention to cause offence.

Nevertheless, the university’s president, Michael Murphy, imposed a censure, which Evans says has prevented him getting tenure.

An online petition calling on the university authorities to back down has been set up and has been signed by high-profile academics including philosopher Daniel Dennett of Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts, and Steven Pinker of Harvard University.

Dennett called the punishment “an outrageous violation of academic freedom” and Pinker says the “absurd and shameful” judgment “runs contrary to the principle of intellectual freedom and freedom of speech, to say nothing of common sense”.

The paper, which was carried out by many popular journals, had a certain prurient interest, which was only heightened by an explicit video that went with itMovie Camera.

The Irish Federation of University Teachers has written to Murphy asking him to rescind the two-year period of monitoring. (ANI)

May 18, 2010 Posted by | higher education, sex, sexual harassment, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Duke University and Moral Repugnance

I recently blogged on the new Duke University policy which regulates in detail Duke University students sexual behavior.  The major rationale given for such intrusion into the private lives of Duke students is that the policy attempts to insure that all sexual interaction between students is ‘absolutely’ consensual.

What the dankprofessor finds bemusing is that Duke does not apply this policy to faculty, staff or administrators.  Shouldn’t Duke be concerned that all the sexual behavior engaged in by their employees is absolutely consensual?  The dankprofessor thought it would be of interest to see how Duke handles student professor relationships and if said policy is consistent with their coercively administered sexual code.

Their 2002 policy begins with the following statement-

Duke University is committed to maintaining learning and work environments as free as possible from conflicts of interest, exploitation, and favoritism.

Where a party uses a position of authority to induce another person to enter into a non-consensual relationship, the harm both to that person and to the institution is clear.

Note that the person inducing is the person in authority; the person not in authority cannot induce.  We shall see that the rest of their policy is consistent with this since students are hardly ever seen as being agents of their own behavior.

The policy continues-

Even where the relationship is consensual, there is significant potential for harm when there is an institutional power difference between the parties involved, as is the case, for example, between supervisor and employee, faculty and student, or academic advisor and advisee.

But even when there is no power differential there is risk of harm.  On the other hand, there is also the potentiality of good- romance, love and marriage and children.  But the Duke administration can never entertain that sexual behavior is good.  They embrace the notion that sexuality is intrinsically bad EXCEPT when there is regulation from above.  Only the powers that be can protect Duke students from such evil consequences; such is why Duke passed the draconian policy regulating sexual behavior of students.

The policy continues-

…the student–teacher relationship represents a special case, because the integrity of this relationship is of such fundamental importance to the central mission of the university. Students look to their professors for guidance and depend upon them for assessment, advancement, and advice. Faculty–student consensual relationships create obvious dangers for abuse of authority and conflict of interest actual, potential, and apparent. Especially problematic is such a relationship between a faculty member and a graduate student who is particularly dependent upon him or her for access to research opportunities, supervision of thesis or dissertation work, and assistance in pursuing job opportunities.

Interesting is their assertion that relationships between grad students and faculty are “especially problematic”.  Interesting since Yale in its newly revised policy only applied blanket bans to undergraduates.  Graduate students were given more leeway since they were seen as more mature.

Duke University has adopted a consensual relationship policy for the following reasons: to avoid the types of problems outlined above, to protect people from the kind of injury that either a subordinate or superior party to such a relationship can suffer, and to provide information and guidance to members of the Duke community. Most of all, this policy seeks to help ensure that each member of the Duke community is treated with dignity and without regard to any factors that are not relevant to that person’s work.

The last sentence brings us into the land of the absurd- policy insures each member of the Duke community is treated with dignity.  Is attempting to control the sexual decision making of others dignified?  Can outright coercion of others insure the dignity of others?  This policy as formulated may help the policy enforcers to feel more dignified, and facilitate their work of attempting to take dignity away form others.

The policy continues-

No faculty member should enter into a consensual relationship with a student actually under that faculty member’s authority. Situations of authority include, but are not limited to, teaching, formal mentoring, supervision of research, and employment of a student as a research or teaching assistant; and exercising substantial responsibility for grades, honors, or degrees; and considering disciplinary action involving the student.

No faculty member should accept authority over a student with whom he or she has or has had a consensual relationship without agreement with the appropriate dean. Specifically, the faculty member should not, absent such agreement, allow the student to enroll for credit in a course which the faculty member is teaching or supervising; direct the student’s independent study, thesis, or dissertation; employ the student as a teaching or research assistant; participate in decisions pertaining to a student’s grades, honors, degrees; or consider disciplinary action involving the student.

Students and faculty alike should be aware that entering into a consensual relationship will limit the faculty member’s ability to teach and mentor, direct work, employ, and promote the career of a student involved with him or her in a consensual relationship, and that the relationship should be disclosed in any letter of recommendation the faculty member may write on the student’s behalf. Furthermore, should the faculty member be the only supervisor available in a particular area of study or research, the student may be compelled to avoid or change the special area of his or her study or research.

If nevertheless a consensual relationship exists or develops between a faculty member and a student involving any situation of authority, that situation of authority must be terminated. Termination includes, but is not limited to, the student withdrawing from a course taught by the faculty member; transfer of the student to another course or section, or assumption of the position of authority by a qualified alternative faculty member or teaching assistant; the student selecting or being assigned to another academic advisor and/or thesis or dissertation advisor; and changing the supervision of the student’s teaching or research assistantship. In order for these changes to be made and ratified appropriately, the faculty must disclose the consensual relationship to his or her superior, normally the chair, division head, or dean, and reach an agreement for remediation. In case of failure to reach agreement, the supervisor shall terminate the situation of authority.

What the dankprofessor finds to be most degrading in regards to students is that the faculty member must disclose the consensual relationship to his or her superior.  What about the consent of the student re disclosure?  What about the student’s right to privacy?  And as for a faculty member unilaterally disclosing this relationship to a so-called superior, such behavior is damning.  The faculty member who ends up as being an informant should have grownup and had the ability to say no to arbitrary authority who refer to themselves as “superiors”.

Of course, there are ethical issues involved here.  But ethics are too important to be left to an authority which imposes its will on non-consenting others.  Ethical engagement should always be at the core of university life.  But the Duke student policy and student professor sexual relationships policy do not promote ethics.  The ethic they promote is one of force; is one of authoritarianism.  Consenting sexuality of adults is too important, too private to be controlled by university administrators, no matter how superior they consider themselves to be.  The dankprofessor feels that university administrators who end up being part of a sexual police are utterly morally repugnant.

May 16, 2010 Posted by | consensual relationships, Duke University, ethics, higher education, privacy, sexual policing, sexual politics, sexual rights, student-prof dating, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

   

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